Thursday, October 13, 2011

White Bikinis and Happiness

It was a beautiful summer's day, and I was at the swimming pool with my kids. Actually, we had finished swimming, and had even showered and dressed, but they still wanted to play for a while at the token by-the-pool playground. They were clearly exhausted from their afternoon of energetic splashing, and my own resources of patience and kindness were severely depleted. After two falls from playground equipment, one refusal to leave alone an abandoned half-empty juice box despite my five separate requests (crescendo-ing to all-out yelling and pulling away of small hands), not to mention a whole lot of whining, I snapped, “OK, that is ENOUGH. One more minute and we’re going!”

Then, suddenly, Emily said, “Look, there’s C’s mommy!” (C is a girl in her class at pre-school).

I looked where she was pointing and I saw C’s [single parent] mommy, and I tried not to let my jaw drop too obviously. She was wearing a very small, white bikini, and credit where credit’s due, she looked fantastic in it. She was spreading out her towel on the grass next to a stunningly attractive man – tall, tanned, sun-bleached blonde hair, white teeth… the full stereotype. She looked happy and relaxed and in love, and literally no more than 22 years old. I pictured myself – cheap and fairly unflattering sundress; hair pulled back under an old cap; flip-flops; flushed and sweaty from trailing my kids around the playground and yelling intermittently at them.

A feeling of intense jealousy hit me like a barb.

What I would have given, at that moment, to be feeling that young and loved-up. Out somewhere with a man who had eyes only for me. Out somewhere without my children and able to think of myself as a woman rather than a mom. Out somewhere just kicking back and lying in the sun — not running errands or doing housework and, for that moment, not responsible for any other person except myself. Wearing a WHITE BIKINI, for God’s sake, and not having to worry that my two-year-old might yank at it and give me a public wardrobe malfunction, or that I might distractedly perch my butt on a dirty spot while helping small people with sunscreen/swimsuits/towels/toys/snacks.

I didn’t say hello or try to catch her attention. She didn’t need to be brought back down to reality when she was quite clearly on cloud nine.

I did go home bad-tempered and irritable, feeling low for a couple of reasons. Keenly aware of the fact that, at that moment, I would have gratefully welcomed a break from my kids and all my other usual responsibilities, I felt selfish and guilty. Not only that, though — I felt low because I could see blissful happiness written all over C’s mom’s face, and I could not remember the last time I had felt like that.


  1. Ah motherhood. Isn't it amazing the power our thoughts have over our mood and self perception? That urge to compare ourselves has got to go. But I do it all the time. Sometimes I don't even realize I"m doing it. I suddenly am snippish and irritable and I don't know why. Then I go back in my mind and recall a conversation, or something I read about some successful, gifted person or other, or even a picture I saw in a magazine. Aha. That's it. I've allowed something extraneous to make me feel inadequate, again. Sigh. I'm with you. Now how do we get out?

  2. It's the worst, isn't it? - and it's just as you describe - it's like you inhale toxic air, and suddenly you are infected. I would like to believe that one day I will build up such a high level of self-confidence and level-headedness that I will become impervious to everything that has, up until now, made me feel inadequate. Let's just say that it hasn't happened yet...

  3. The great thing about that 'perfect picture' is that no one is living the life they present to be - least of all those 'fabulous' people. I have a gorgeous, intelligent, well-put-together girlfriend who has a fabulous job. Her kids are stunning to look at, perfectly behaved and her husband is like something out of a magazine. What no one else knows is that he is a raging alcoholic and their home life is the most miserable you can imagine.

    So when you go home feeling that someone has it better than you, try to remember that the picture is very rarely anything like the reality!

  4. What you say is so true. Honestly, when will I learn? I still find myself getting Facebook Depression and imagining that everyone else is happier/better adjusted/a more caring and dedicated wife and mother than I am. Maybe some of them are are :) but as you say, no doubt they still have their own issues! It frustrates me when I fall into a spiral of envy because it's just so unproductive. Have to learn to redirect that energy into positive self-talk!

  5. I cannot imagine ever wearing a white bikini. I did have a pink swim suit with white spots when I was about 13 though. I was mortified when I discovered it was see through when I went in the pool. Hope that didn't happen to your friend.

    Although I miss the carefree excitement of falling in love, I'd hate to be dating again. All that angst. It must be so hard when you've got children as well. That said I can understand totally how you felt and sure I'd have felt the same.

    Thanks for linking up by the way, it was lovely to have you round for tea and sympathy.

  6. Here come the girls, thanks for linking up! It was lovely to read your comment. I agree completely, by the way - I like being married and I wouldn't swap it for a return to the dating game - but the day I wrote this I was wallowing in the feeling of being frumpy and downtrodden and exhausted, not to mention sorry for myself in the extreme!
    Your poor teenage self with your pink spotted swimsuit... oh no, I can just imagine! My swimsuits have always been dark, and more often than not covered up by towels and big t-shirts!!