Yesterday, 19-year-old Holly shared a personal story on Proud2BMe, a really great website for young women about body-positivity and confidence. Her tale? About how she finally stopped hiding behind her beach towel at the pool. Her candor struck me–but what really hit home was the fact that I do this. We all do this. And I think it’s time we stop. This summer, let’s drop our beach towels.
Holly’s post–which everyone should go read immediately–brought my attention to a behavior that nearly all women exhibit at some point. Sitting on chairs around a pool, or walking to the restroom, or standing in line for a Popsicle, there we are, a herd of ghosts wrapped in terry cloth. My apartment overlooks an apartment with a rooftop pool, and nearly all the women that I can see are swaddled in their protective covering. It happens so often I didn’t even notice it…but it’s a problem with an easy solution.
Basically, the towel has become a real-life metaphor for body shame and snarking. And we can either wait for everyone else to stop judging us…or we can just drop the towel and work toward being OK with ourselves, even if it feels a little uncomfortable at first.
The beach towel, as Holly points out, is more than a way to protect wet skin from getting a chill after emerging from the pool or ocean–it is, as she puts it, “a shield.” And it is exactly that; it’s a way to both protect people from our female bodies, and a way to protect ourselves from potential judgement by others.
We, as women, are so conditioned to be modest, to guard the world from the sight of our nude skin, that we shield everyone else (at the pool, who are also in their swimsuits) from it. And we shield ourselves, too, from the possibility that some onlooker–who, again, is probably just as vulnerable, also in a swimsuit–may be looking at us and critiquing our bodies, which we’ve been convinced are flawed and far from perfect. But, in reality, no one is judging us as harshly as we judge ourselves–and if they are, who cares? Being “perfect” shouldn’t be a prerequisite for wearing a swimsuit. That’s insane…and it’s what we support, every time we hurry to cover up.
We spend a lot of time criticising the media for the damage it does to women’s self esteem–but we’re doing the towel-wrap to ourselves. We have control over that–so let’s take it.
When you’re at the beach or the pool this weekend, consider following Holly’s lead, and coming out from behind your shield. A big step toward embracing the differences in our bodies and how awesome they are is to not be afraid of our own.
Image: ChipPix via Shutterstock