One of my favorite summer activities is spending a day at Water Country USA in Williamsburg, VA, although it seems harder and harder to coordinate into my schedule every summer. As we’re now only 2 weekends away from the end of the season, I thought I’d missed my chance. But with a bit of personal determination to ride a waterslide this summer and a friend who’s also a pass member, I actually made it to the park this past weekend!
Admittedly, since we’ve had such a rainy summer here in Virginia, I wasn’t the only one to take advantage of the gorgeous weekend to throw on a bathing suit and head to the park, but I didn’t let the masses deter me from having fun! My friend, Katherine, and I ended up only riding one waterslide – The Wild Thang (which is always surprisingly faster and wilder than I ever expect it to be) and then spending close to two and half hours just floating in the lazy river talking.
As a teen, I would worry a lot about what other people thought of the way I looked in a bathing suit while at the park. I spent an inordinate amount of time carefully selecting a suit that I thought would make me look the thinnest and weighing the pros and cons between a suit that might attract the boy’s attention (e.g. string bikinis and halter tops) and ones that were more guaranteed to stay on while riding water slides (because I’ve always been a hardcore slide enthusiast). As I’ve gotten older and my body’s changed in a myriad of ways, I still struggle with how I look in a bathing suit and what others might think about me. In 2014, I made a video on “How to Wear a Bathing Suit in Public” at the park, in part, to help combat my own feelings of self-consciousness.
And now, four years later, while I’m not concerned about attracting all the boys anymore (only time can give you the wisdom that you’re probably not going to find your soulmate at a water park), I do worry about general perceptions. Will people think I’m fat? Will people think I’m wearing this particular bathing suit because *I* think I’m fat? Do I look too old to enjoy these water slides without having a kid? And the thoughts spiral on.
But I noticed something different on this trip. Maybe it just comes from being older and wiser. Or maybe I’m less paranoid and anxious than I used to be. But no one was looking at me. No one was judging me. And if they were, it was certainly not in a way that made me feel uncomfortable or aware of it. Instead I was surrounded by a multitude of bodies in all shapes, sizes, and colors, wearing every kind of swimsuit imaginable. There were one pieces, two-pieces, tankinis, and bikinis. Strings and thick straps, zippers, boy shorts, and high waisted bottoms. There were big boobs and little boobs, perky boobs and saggy boobs. Soft tummies, flat abs, baby bellies, back fat, body hair, stretch marks and spider veins.
It was all out there on display as people splashed and screamed and laughed and swam. And just reveled in being human with a body that feels oh so light and cool when dunking itself in water during the hot and humid Virginia summer.
It was a good reminder that sometimes we worry too much about what everyone else is thinking and forget to just enjoy the body we’re in and experiences we can have in it, instead of picking apart every minuscule detail from a place of self-hate. Sure, seeing an ocean of bodies in all shapes and sizes doesn’t stop the bullies at your school or church or work who comment on your appearance with disdain because of their own insecurities and pain, but it does help me remember that we are all human and truthfully, no one body is more perfect than another. It makes me remember to appreciate and love the body I’ve been given.
Who would have thought? Water parks, the great equalizer.