We’re Not Seriously Talking About Swimsuit Season Right Now, Are We?

swimsuit season swimsuit season

I am the undefeated champion of scrolling on Instagram well past bedtime. I am so here for the life hacks and the hilarious mom memes. I’m especially here for the uplifting content that tells women they are beautiful exactly the way they are. But this spring, something’s been changing in my newsfeed. I’m seeing #hotmomsummer everywhere, a message to us women to get our shit together because swimsuit season is on the way.

I’m curious, did these people read the room before they hit publish? Because I’m over here on the tail end of leading my family to survive a global pandemic, and I honestly cannot fathom why my girth or “summer body” readiness should be my concern right now, or anybody’s. I mean, I get it, this is nothing new, it’s just that I’m surprised that even now, given the immense struggle of the past pandemic year, we’re still loosely throwing around the term “self-care” to fit the same old agenda: be thin to be valued. Never before has it seemed so beside the point.

Reading these posts about finding peace with food through fasting and doubling up on workout routines to live one’s best life in size four bikinis and high rise short-shorts is the opposite of uplifting. Telling women like me who are obese, stressed out, and lacking in time and money to do any life overhaul is a pretty shitty way to be relatable to followers. But what truly gets under my skin is just how dismissive these posts are of the Herculean effort mothers have been making for the past year-plus to keep everyone safe and sane. Sorry, Leighah, but no, I’m not going to find time to do a plank challenge while my toddler reads The Great Gatsby to our twin Doodle dogs on our white shag carpet.

The last time I checked, my size 18 hips performed miracles. So, sit down Heather and Jessica. I will not be flapping my arms like a seagull 100 times after my fries to create ‘definition’ or to hiding my FUPA with some ugly 80s jeans. ‘Cause here’s the thing.

Over the past year, I dragged myself through my homeschooling, Zoom meeting, work-deadline-filled days and many sleepless nights, fearing that my kids would get sick. I watched as my friends and family got Covid and I saw the horrors of what not being able to breathe looks and sounds like in real-time. Our news feeds were terrifying — like life and death terrifying — and every single sniffle or minor fever that my kids got sent me into a tizzy. And don’t get me started on the mental exhaustion of watching that election cycle unfold in the middle of this hellscape year. I invented a two-course nacho recipe just for that particular news cycle, and I can point to my belly and tell you exactly how much queso turns into a warm winter blubber coat.

But it’s not just my physique. My long hair with grey roots? That’s life showing. That’s a marker that I lived through some intense shit without my beloved hairdresser this last year. I don’t plan to dye it. I’ll let my grey shine through as a concrete reminder that I can handle whatever comes my way, like when my whole family lost our health insurance during some of the scariest days of Covid. The same week that kids in the schools in my neighborhood started testing positive was the same week we lost our insurance. That type of condensed fear can give you the kind of highlights no salon can copy.

So, all of it: my grey roots and my stretched skin, my wide hips and flat pancake boobs, the new crows’ feet around my eyes, and the extra layer of fat that in the past year has turned my loose pants into skinny jeans… yes, I suppose I could see those as areas to fix. But I’m choosing to see them as features that I earned, and features that I don’t need to hide away in time for ‘Hot Mom Summer.’ Why? Because I’ll be so damn happy to even go to a beach and feel sunshine on my skin, to taste the salt in the air, and splash water with my kids that, for the first time, I don’t think I’m going to worry about how I measure up to anyone else. Or how I don’t.

The fact that I am healthy after living through a pandemic is miracle enough; I’m not letting other peoples’ body standards stop me from hitting the beach this summer. I will frolic like a child; I will make sand angels and sandcastles and do handstands and cartwheels in the surf. I will eat hotdogs and street tacos and sip fruity drinks with umbrellas, and I will most certainly do all of that in my size 18 bathing suit.

What other people think about me or how I look this summer doesn’t need to be my business. It took a damn pandemic for me to fully see the power of what a mother’s body can withstand, and I am not going to occupy another moment in my head slamming my failures. And honestly, I can’t think of anything hotter than that.

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Sarah Cottrell is a Maine-based freelance journalist and lifestyle writer. Her work has been featured on VICE Tonic, New York Magazine, Washington Post, and has been included in seven anthologies including the New York Times bestselling series, I Still Just Want to Pee Alone. sarahcottrellfreelance.com.