Reader Kim, on Wonder Woman Swimsuits and Finding Her Power

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Kim, a longtime reader, sent in an essay recently that….devastated me.  Her story, ultimately, has the happiest of endings, but it’s the kind of harrowing story that sends a chill down my spine, tears to my eyes, and brings out my protective Mama-bear.

I found myself wanting to fight the air, not breathe it.

Her story is about power.  The taking of power plays a role, but Kim’s story is really about getting her power back.

Motherhood taught me to see my body beyond stretch marks, cellulite, or scars. It taught me to see my body as the splendid casing for a ferocious joy that I willed into existence through dense clouds of bitterness.

Kim’s story will be all-too familiar to some.  If this is you, please know that I would fight the air for you.  For your once-little self.  Many of us would – we are Mama-bears; it’s what we do.  I am hoping Kim’s story, and the experiences shared will lighten the burden.

For the rest of us….I am both honored and humbled by Kim’s willingness to share her story.  It’s the kind…that lingers.

I was on the beach yesterday, building a sandcastle with Raines and Pax.  We didn’t have any buckets (too hard to carry on bikes), so I was down on my hands and knees, scooping up sand with a broken shell.  At some point, as I sat there, all sweaty and covered in sand, I looked down and saw my stomach – loose skin folding over my bikini bottom, etc. – and sighed.  It never fails to surprise me, this post-two kids, 40-year old stomach of mine.

And then I thought of Kim.  And of her essay, below.  And life – my real life – snapped sharply into focus.  On a beach, with the two greatest loves of my life, caught in a moment that will be all-too fleeting.  So instead of looking down….I looked up.

Kim, thank you for your fearlessness in sharing your heartbreakingly beautiful story.

Here’s Kim….

 

Dear TME team,

I loved the recent post about swimsuits. I look forward to your swim guide every year, and I wanted to write and tell you about the suit I bought this year.

Here in Chicago, swimsuit season lasts exactly eleven weeks before a bitter cold comes creeping back. For years, I’ve purchased swimsuits off the clearance rack at Target. When I was nursing, my breasts fluctuated in size so much it seemed silly to spend good money on something that would only fit for a brief time. My nursing days are over, now, so I wanted this year to be different. I decided to buy a custom swimsuit from the Etsy shop, Sew Classy Designs. I chose a Wonder Woman suit because motherhood makes me feel like a superhero. Diana believes in redemptive power of love. So do I.

Some may say that I am too old for such a suit, but I disagree. After all, people say a lot of things. They say that youth is wasted on the young, but the older I get, the more I appreciate my body, not for how it looks, but for what it does.

That hasn’t always been the case. I grew up in violently abusive family. The abuse I experienced defined my relationship with my body well into my twenties. The only appreciation I had for my young body was based on what it managed to survive. I started to learn this very, very young, in a hunting cabin in the woods. In a tiny bedroom with peeling paint and a rotting wooden floor, a person whose charge was to love and care for me violated my understanding of the world, as he violated my body.

A few years later, a different man sat on my bed and nestled himself between my adolescent thighs while I pretended to sleep. He stroked my body through the bedspread, feeling his way along my hips with his fingers, sometimes tugging on the edge of the material. If he got too close to my pelvis, I’d inhale deeply, and shift positions, still pretending to sleep. He’d quickly stand up and back away, then hover between the door and my dresser. He’d stare at me, sometimes for over an hour, and then he’d leave. He did this for over a decade.

Though I did not realize at the time, these were crimes of power. They were intimate invasions of my bodily autonomy that left a lasting impression of powerlessness.

It has been very difficult to get that power back.

As a younger woman, I would look in the mirror and ask myself, “Am I pretty? Am I sexy?” I had no answer, so I asked other people. Other men. When I started having sex, it was something that happened to me, not with me. I didn’t understand my body as anything more than a commodity, and certainly not a valuable one, so I gave it away for what I thought it was worth: nothing. After I was assaulted at a fraternity party my freshman year of college, I walked to Planned Parenthood where they treated me with compassion and respect. They gave me the morning after pill and tested me for sexually transmitted infections. When I got home, I laid on the floor, swore off men forever, and cried for two days.

Over the next several years, I did a lot of thinking. I did a lot of traveling, writing and, if I’m honest, running away…but it did not work. No matter how far away I went, my past followed me like a looming shadow in the evening sun. Ghosts whispered in my ears as I walked down crowded London streets, and phantom fingers grabbed me as I stood on sun-soaked avenues in Portugal. I hated wearing bathing suits. I felt so exposed, as if vulnerability was imprinted in my very skin.

Feelings of powerlessness and insufficiency tarnished every good thing in my life with self-doubt. I tried therapy. I tried prayer. But I found no peace until I started running as a means of reclaiming my own body. I’d never seen my body as anything but a canvas for other people’s desires, so I trained it to become a canvas for my own. I strengthened it. I tested it, and it prevailed when I ran a marathon. That finish line represented a lot more than physical endurance. It represented a chance to run back to myself: to race the clouds that shadowed my life and win.

My body served me again in growing and birthing two beautiful children. As due dates drew closer, I chose to birth without medication not because I think medication is unhealthy (it isn’t), but because I saw giving birth as a fundamental part of reclaiming my body for myself. These days, I reaffirm that claim when use my body to make love to my husband, embrace the people I love, and run through the sprinkler with the two beautiful children that I pushed into this marvelous and terrible world.

Motherhood taught me to see my body beyond stretch marks, cellulite, or scars. It taught me to see my body as the splendid casing for a ferocious joy that I willed into existence through dense clouds of bitterness.

So I have no patience for articles about what qualifies as an acceptable “beach body”. I waste no time worrying about what other people at the local pool may or may not think of my Wonder Woman bathing suit. I do not worry about whether or not my breasts are “too small”, or if my hips are “too wide”, or if the loose skin on my stomach hangs over the waistband of my bikini bottoms. I spent my youth understanding my body as valuable only when it was in the service of others and subjected to the desires of people more powerful than I.

I’m too old for that sh*t.

As a mother, my body serves one master: me.

 

And I say, “I am gorgeous.”

 

 

Kim, I stand in awe of your strength and grace.  Power looks amazing on you.

xo,

S

Kim works as a sex education teacher and community advocate for free sex education services specifically, she says, “because my experiences are common…and it is my life’s mission to change that.” She also offered her email address to our community for anyone who may want to reach out: ukhoffer@gmail.com.  To find similar services in your area, visit HealthFinder.gov.

You can read more from Kim on her website, Sex-Positive Parent.  It’s a seriously good resource for tips on how to have alllll the tough discussions (porn, masturbating, sexting) with your kids.

 

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About Author

Shana founded The Mom Edit in 2008. She lives with the love of her life (his name’s Mike) and their two crazy boys in downtown Philadelphia. She loves a good styling challenge (her engineering side shows eventually), appreciates kindness, and usually picks scotch over wine, sneakers over stilettos, and denim-underwear, always.

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32 Comments

  1. Kim is amazing. That suit look amazing on her. What a beautiful essay. Thanks to Kim and TME for sharing it.

  2. It’s posts like this that remind me why I love TME so much. Thank you for sharing this. Kim, I don’t think there is another swimsuit that would work for you-you found the perfect one.

    • Yes. Yes. And YES! And “my body as the splendid casing for a ferocious joy”, I am burning this in my brain as the answer to any doubts or self-consciousness, and as a reminder to celebrate who and what I am. LOVE!

  3. Kim- rock on! Thanks for sharing and for the work you are doing to give back to others. You’re a true super hero.

  4. The sexiest thing ever is confidence and self-love. Your vulnerability to share your story is courageous beyond measure. Thank you, Kim, for being a warrior! For being a tulip in a field if dasies. May your joy outshine the sun itself.

  5. Kim, you are amazing, and the type of superhero I would like my daughter to look up to! You are rocking that swimsuit too!

  6. Kim, you look amazing in that suit!!! Thank you for sharing your story – you are a superhero in every sense of the word!

  7. Thank you, Kim, for sharing your story. You deserve every inch of your superhero suit and your powerful and beautiful body (but you know that already). Also thanks to TME for posting.

  8. KIM. Thank you for sharing your story. Power does look amazing on you. Wow. And thanks for the work you do everyday. Strong. You have such strength. And you look amazing in that amazing suit. <3

  9. Kim, thank you for sharing your experiences with a wide audience yet again. You are so brave.

    Shana, I would really like to reach out to the TME team about this subject. I think you could get the word out about a very important issue and help a lot of folks. Will you contact me? thank you.

  10. Thank you for sharing this. This is by far the site I’ve read the longest. It’s no wonder with all of the amazing things you do and share. I’m thrilled you’re continuing to grow.

  11. Kim, you are awesome and powerful and inspiring. Those kids are so lucky to have a role model like you. Keep it up!!

  12. This is a very powerful essay, however I think it would be beneficial to many if you put a trigger warning at the top of the page, not just in the the URL, for those who might not be ready to read something like this.

  13. Also wanted to provide a resource for any folks who may have experienced similar traumatic experiences growing up. You can call 1-800-4A-CHILD (translators available), 24 hrs a day, 7 days a week to speak with someone. No personal information is taken, this is just someone to listen to you.

    Also 1-800-662-HELP for referral for substance abuse and mental health needs.

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