summer of the tankini

Last Friday, I shopped for a swimsuit. Nothing out of the ordinary, right, I mean, people do this every summer.

Yes, except that I hadn’t shopped for one in years because I had several to mix, match and rotate through.

Until none of them fit this year. Zero. Not one top. Not one bottom.

But let me back up.

Nine years ago, this was me.

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(I’m not sure if the scowl was “my nipples are cracked and bleeding” or “I’ve been up with a crying baby for daysss” or “is that REALLY breastmilk on my shirt?”)

Two years before that, here I am.

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And this one, taken somewhere in between the two daughter born three years apart.

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According to “they say”, (they being a panel of experts on the topic we currently need reinforcement for), I was a slightly above-average size woman.

I went through a divorce that crowned me single mother to two toddlers (ages four and one), and although I desperately needed one, I could not afford a therapist.

I joined a gym instead. Because I was crazy ya’ll. The bad kind.

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Day after day I took my anger, frustration, sadness, madness, gladness and the remaining roller coaster of emotions out on the weight room. I measured and weighed food meticulously. I wrote out workouts, monitored my weightlifting progress daily, and lived on that blasted scale.

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And yes, I am absolutely using this blog as an excuse to re-live my glory days AND to post hot pictures of myself.

People constantly wanted to see before and after pictures, dying to know the secret for my weight loss success, and their face dropped when I responded, “I just ate healthy and worked out.” Because saying, “I needed a free babysitter and I’m crazy” didn’t have the right ring to it.

At 34-years-old, I was in the BEST shape of my life. Not sans cellulite or stretch marks or loose skin, or anything else we women beat ourselves up over just in case our self-esteem actually blooms, but I mean, I was FIT!

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And although being strong and fit made me feel capable, I still felt chubby.

I.still.felt.chubby.

Here, in the middle of Central Park, having the best week of my life visiting my brother. I still.felt.chubby.

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(The caption on this picture, when I uploaded it to Facebook? I meant to stay on my diet, I really did.)

I enjoyed myself, of course, but multiple times daily I compared myself to stylish Manhattan women. I wore spanx under my summer dress for fear someone might spot my cellulite. I walked down the streets of Lower East Village on a HOT SUMMER DAY IN SPANX.

With my first trip to New York City still fresh in my dreams, I received a call from Mayor Mick Cornett’s office inquiring about my weight loss. One week later, I was on the phone with a producer from a national talk show. One month later, the Rachael Ray Show film crew was IN my living room with a custom-wrapped bus in my driveway.

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In just a few short months, I was back in New York City ON the Rachael Ray Show, sharing my weight loss success with the world.

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One guess what happened when it came time to be fitted in an adorable Jessica Simpson number for the show? (A size EIGHT for a woman who is 5’9 and makes Kim Kardashian look petite.)

Say it with me.

I.felt.chubby.

Sigh.

I missed living. Yes, that’s right. All those years of obsessing distracted me from making the most of my experiences.

When I look at pictures now, I see so much more than a girl feeling “chubby”. I see a week in (the most fabulous city) New York City with my baby brother, Justin, that I lost touch with over the years. We explored the city, ate incredible cuisine in dirty diners, and met the most beautiful people.

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(Donna from Turkey, and Wally, NYPD detective. I mean, I was safe in Brooklyn at 3 a.m. with a cop, right?)

My brother and I spent many afternoons talking and bonding on a blanket in Central Park.

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The subsequent trip to New York City, the opportunity of a lifetime that most people will never experience? The one that I kept reminding myself I was chubby? I took my first trip with my childhood best friend, Andi, and we frolicked in Soho and Little Italy for FREE.

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I had my hair styled by Ted Gibson from What Not to Wear, and he described me as “a ray of sunshine.”

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The next year, I hopped a plane to San Francisco to stay with an internet acquaintance I had never met in person. That weekend, was e p i c.

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So when I went swimsuit shopping Friday, and left devastated because I had to buy a tankini to cover up the last two years’ worth of skipped workouts and delicious food? I contemplated not taking my girls to White Water the next day.

I’ll just sit this summer out, I told myself. I’ll weigh and measure my food, schedule workouts and try again next summer.

I went through old pictures and then it hit me.

I wasn’t even chubby! Not even close! And even if I was, who cares other than me?

Am I so narcissistic that I think everyone else is obsessing over how I look?

Managing food and workout was once a way for me to retain some power when my life was spinning out of control, but I don’t need that anymore.

And anyway, who decides when one is chubby? Who decides a tankini is a negative? Who decides that delicious food and experiences aren’t worth extra pounds?

I do. I decide.

I decided that sunshine and fun and pools and camping are worth more to me.

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I decided that beautifully-crafted food and gathering experiences by the handfuls and exploring new places and making new friends are worth more to me.

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I decided that I wasted too many years speaking negative about myself.

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I decided that I respect everyone’s hustle, but mine isn’t consistently working out in a gym right now.

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I decided that I’m anything but average, even if I’m not rocking a bikini.

And I decided to stop talking about it, obsessing over it and simply choose peace..

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Disclaimer: Because I endure being a woman, I reserve the right to change my mind about anything at anytime, including but not limited to what I just wrote or might write in the future.

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6 thoughts on “summer of the tankini

  1. That has got to be the most incredible story I have ever read. The words, the pictures to go along with the story. It is an inspirational story to so many. You have got to turn that into a book.!!!!!!!! I know talent when I see it and you have it. It’s what I see as pure if that makes sense. I don’t know if your doing this as a hobby or what, you have a career laying on the table if you want to pursue it. I’m just totally blown away with it. If you have a passion & obviously you do I would like to set down with you & hear more if you want to do something with this. You are so talented. !!!!!!!

    Like

    • David, thank you so much. Once upon a time, I wrote for a living, but I’m not sure that’s in the cards for me again. It’s a hobby I adore, but I like not having specific rules to follow 🙂 Thanks for all the kind words.

      Like

  2. Billie, I love the way you look at life. You are a wonderful women and a great mom. Thanks for been so honest with yourself. Gloria and I are blessed to have you as a friend. Remember this: People who know you, Know You. People who don’t, Don’t matter.

    Like

    • Chester, you and Gloria are so special to the girls and I! You both just radiate positive energy and I love that. I LOVE “people who know you, know you. People who don’t, don’t matter.” I needed that today!

      Like

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