Layered Looks

June 14th, 2008 by Rainey

I want to buy a bathing suit.  A new one.  Something cute that I would enjoy wearing.  Something that didn’t make me feel like forty year old, but didn’t make me look like I was pretending to be fourteen.

I am finally at the place where I think I am comfortable enough with myself and my body to wear a two-piece bathing suit.  I fully realize that the years when I was less comfortable with my body were probably the years that I would have looked just fine and sometimes pretty darn good in a bikini–the years that a bikini would have been a better option than now.  But there is something about putting on almost thirty pounds and being pregnant and waddling around for nine months that sort of puts all of your past body image issues into perspective.  I am pretty happy with my body now.

And so, as the weather turns warmer, and then careens rapidly into hot in our schizophrenic, global warming way, I find myself thinking about cool blue swimming pools and swimsuits.

If I was like any other normal human being I would just go out and buy myself a cute two-piece and be done with it.  Alas, I am not normal.  I am a minister.  Which means I have to seriously consider whether I will ever be afforded the opportunity to wear said cute swimsuit.  Is it worth the money if I end up having to keep it in a drawer in favor of my sensible navy one piece as I take my youth to the pool or go to the church picnic or swim on the various mission trips during the summer and the amusement park days?  Is it worth it if the only time I will get to wear it is in my backyard by my lonesome or with my cute little six month old in the baby wading pool shaped like a frog?  Is it worth it if most of the vacations I go on take place in the mountains rather than the beach?

I am not sure.  Sometimes I feel like I have these layers of identity that don’t mesh together neatly.  Like a button down shirt that gets bunched up under your cute pink cardigan, despite all your attempts to hold onto the ends of the sleeves as you pull the sweater on over it.  I am twenty-seven.  Young.  Not young enough to still be on Real World or anything.  (Thank God)  But young, nevertheless.  I am married to a cute guy who wears cute literary looking glasses (when he isn’t wearing his Buddy Holly hornrims).  He is also young.  He plays guitar hero, wii, and runs at least a few times a week.  We like off-color humor movies and also good literature.

On the other hand, I am a pastor.  I don’t buy alcohol in town.  I don’t drink in public.  I toe the line and even manage to occasionally cook a casserole for the covered dish dinner.  I write thank you notes.  I do my job well and enjoy it.  I preach and teach and conduct funerals and weddings.  I love my congregation and I love the opportunities my job gives me to get down into the real stuff that makes up people’s lives and the way it allows me to work on making the world a little bit better sometimes.  I am fully aware that it is sometimes the little, inconsequential things that make it hard for people to let you be their pastor.  So I tone down the sarcasm when I know people can’t handle it.  My skirts fall below the knee at church.  I usually even wear hose.  And I don’t really mention the off-color movies.

I’m also a mom.  Strange as that sounds to my own ears most days.  I have this wonderful, cheerful little baby that sort of has come in and turned my world upside down.  He has managed to teach me a little bit about priorities.  And because of him I am looking longingly at pools again as I imagine teaching him to swim, paddling around in the shallow end with him like any other normal young, hip, working mama on a Saturday afternoon.

But then reality checks me.  The pool I’d take him to is the church pool at our retreat center.  Where I wouldn’t just be a young wife and mother.  I’d also be a pastor.  So I just sometimes don’t know if I have room for a bikini under that button down shirt and cardigan.  Maybe I need to stick to a sensible one piece that won’t ride up.  Or maybe I’ll go on vacation and leave the cardigan at home.

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