My world was growing smaller as my fear of being body shamed grew larger.
I’m fat, and I wear a swimsuit… in public… all the time.
This probably doesn’t seem like a big deal to you, but for me, it’s huge!
My swimsuit phobia started in middle school — that breeding ground of body shame and fear.
One minute, I’m a kid excitedly putting on my pink two-piece and running into the ocean; the next, I’m avoiding any place where people are known to live in their swimsuits and I might be forced to wear one.
On my first day of swim class in 8th grade, I changed as quickly as I could into the ugly, school-issued black one-piece, sprinted through the locker room, and immediately jumped into the pool. I figured if I was fast enough, there wouldn’t be time for anyone to actually notice me.
The thing is, nobody looked good in that suit. The thickness of the fabric emphasized everything you could possibly feel self-conscious about as a pre-teen. If you had any kind of stomach, fleshy thighs, or developing breasts, the suit would highlight and magnify them.
I don’t know if it was specifically the swimsuit or puberty, because when I looked in the mirror I saw myself as fat, even though I wasn’t yet.
I managed to survive Swimming 101, but afterward, all swimsuits and bodies of water were my enemies. I promised myself that I’d never go through the humiliation of being out in public in a bathing suit again. My world was growing smaller as my fear of being body shamed grew larger.
There were incidents where kids were mean — but I was a bigger bully to myself than anyone else could ever be.
Throughout middle school, high school, and college, I declined every pool party, water slide park excursion, and trek from San Jose (where I lived) to Santa Cruz (the closest beach). If there was water involved, I wanted no part of it.
After I moved to Los Angeles as an adult, I never went to the beach, fearing that some kind of weight patrol would arrest me if I dared touch the sand with a sandaled foot and a fleshy body.