I’m looking at a very old photo of myself on the beach. I was three – chubby arms, puffy belly and all smiles. I wasn’t wondering whether my “Coppertone Girl” bikini flattered my figure. I didn’t care much if anyone noticed me at all. I was on a beach with my toes in the sand and the sun on my back, surrounded by family and that was all that mattered. What happened?
Now I am in my 40s, and it’s no longer referred to as “beach season,” it’s “swimsuit season.” I am no longer that little tot; living to build sandcastles, hoping my daddy will take a long walk with me so we can splash water at each other. Oh, I would love to walk the beach with dad this summer, but not without first donning my shape-tastic cover-up – designed to make me look “ten pounds thinner” but that only succeeds at making me look like I am desperately trying to look ten pounds thinner.
Forget about snapping a photo of me lying on the beach. Well, you can; but there are a few guidelines I will need you to follow. You may not take a photo from too low an angle because it makes my chin look like chins – you know, more than one chin. I have this pooch (or is it called a pouch?) No matter, it’s this thing that sort of sticks out from my mid-section. So for this photo, I will need to be holding a book or magazine large enough to hide my tummy. Oh, and I will need to pose with my arms bent at an 86-degree angle, so that you can’t see the flab.
Is this really what I want to look back on my life and remember – all of the times I “looked” thin or swimsuit ready? No! I want to remember the beach, the sandcastles, the sun, and how the water felt on my skin when dad splashed me. I want to look at pictures of me from my next vacation and see that little girl, the one still deep down inside, aglow with the joy of being alive and soaking up the sunshine.
I am all for being the best me I can be. I am all for being healthy and eating right and getting plenty of exercise … but not at the expense of living my life. None of the healthy habits will be worth the effort if I’m not feeling the joy of being alive.
So, I’m going to find a bucket and shovel and slip on my swimsuit, and I will hold my still-chubby arms up with pride, and I will not hold in my belly. And if you ask me really, really nicely, I’ll even let you snap a photo of me.
As Marilyn Monroe, one of the most revered-for-her beauty women who ever lived, once said, “We should all start to live before we get too old. Fear is stupid, so are regrets.” She was a size ten, by the way – and so am I, come to think of it. Works for me!
Love yourself. You are the only you there is.
Leslie Toldo has reported on healthcare and medical issues on Michigan TV sets for nearly 20 years. She grew up in Baton Rouge, LA and graduated from the University of Wyoming with a Communications degree. An avid runner, Leslie is also a member of the Board of Directors at the Humane Society of Genesee County. She lives in Linden with her husband and three big dogs: Daisy, Bear and Gus.