I vividly remember my first public, parental f- it moment. My daughter was about two, and we were at the mall, waiting for the valet to bring our car around. (Yes, in Los Angeles, they have valet parking at the mall. I know.) The valet area was packed with people, and my daughter started singing, and all of the strangers looked at her and smiled, because there is, of course, not much that’s cuter than a singing toddler. But then she asked me to sing with her. No, I said. You sing. You’re doing a great job all by yourself. But she shook her head and demanded that I sing, too. Now, I am not known for being able to carry a tune. In fact, at sleepaway camp, when I was eleven, I was cast in the role of The Princess Who Can’t Sing in the musical Once Upon a Mattress, and let me tell you, I did not disappoint. But anyway, I looked around at all of those people, and I thought to myself, f- it. I mean, I’ve exposed my vagina to a roomful of strangers while giving birth, so it’s not like there’s that much farther to fall on the public humiliation scale. And so I sang. Loudly. And very off key. And all of the people in the valet line looked at me, and judged me, and smiled at me, but not because they thought I was cute. But I didn’t really care. And you know something? It was fun, and liberating, and I promised myself that from that point on, I would never care again. But then cut to: a beach/pool, and suddenly, my not caring goes straight out the window.
Anyway, I bring this up because last week, we were on vacation in the Bahamas - a trip planned and paid for a year ago, back when we still had a discretionary income. It was an awesome trip. Our hotel had water slides and a lazy river with waves and rapids, and there were a million different pools spread out over what seemed like miles. But to get to all of these pools and slides, it required a lot of walking around, far from wherever your chairs were located. And, if you wanted to have any fun at all, you pretty much had no choice but to dunk your head, because every slide ended with you in a face plant in the pool. All of which meant one of two things: either you stayed on your chair and looked pretty while your kids went off and swam with daddy, or you succumbed to it and just walked around in your bathing suit with wet hair and no makeup, because it would have been too hard to schlep a cover up and a comb and lip gloss around with you all day and have nowhere to put it every time you went to a different pool. And so I did it. I had the ultimate f-it moment: I walked around, shamelessly, in a bikini. And do you know what? I had the time of my life. Yes, I could feel people judging my mom gut, and my ghost-colored legs, and my frizzy, tangled hair. But I didn’t care about any of it anymore. By the end of the week, I wasn’t even bothering to suck in my stomach.
However, I couldn’t help noticing how many moms stayed on their chairs, their bodies covered, their blowouts intact, their makeup flawless. And it made me so sad. Why do we do this to ourselves? Why are we willing to miss out on wonderful memories with our families just because we’re pale, or we have cellulite, or because our hair dries in a horribly unattractive way without the aid of a blowdryer? When we’re on our deathbeds, will we say that we wish our hair had looked better? Will we feel a sense of accomplishment at having never been seen in public in a bathing suit? More likely, we’ll regret not having taken advantage of every opportunity to have fun with our children. I’m telling you, having seen the light, I wanted to walk up to those lounge chair moms and shake them. I wanted to shout, I used to be one of you, and you have no idea how good it feels to just not care! But, of course, I didn’t. I guess I still care just a little.