Women Supporting Women

It’s been hot in Portland for about a week now. Last Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday were all over 100 degrees. We bought a “portable” AC unit from Amazon just to survive this dry stretch. Most houses in Portland don’t have air conditioning, and it’s not a difficult decision to rationalize. Why would you need AC when it rains half the time and hardly ever gets up to ninety degrees? Well, in the past month, we’ve had sixteen ninety-plus degree days. It’s been rough.

Our AC unit doesn’t quite cut it; we installed it in our office upstairs, and while it works great in that room, it doesn’t do anything for the house. I needed a break from the heat—and several of my friends felt the same way. We planned a day trip to Moulton Falls in Washington, hoping to cool off in a relatively unpopulated and relaxing swimming hole.

In a perfect example of doublethink/lying to myself, I put on my swimsuit that morning while completely disbelieving I would go swimming. I’m extremely self-conscious, and I was unenthused about displaying my swimsuit-clad body for the world to see, so I tricked myself into thinking I wouldn’t actually use it—that I was putting it on “just in case.” Because, of course, going to a swimming hole doesn’t mean you’ll swim.

moulton falls hein

Moulton Falls. Photo cred to Lisa Hein. Check out her Instagram: lisahein

We drove to Moulton Falls and had a lovely picnic. The five of us brought enough food for ten people. After cleaning up, the others started putting on sunscreen. I hesitated. But—we’re not really swimming, I protested. But I knew I was deceiving myself. I inwardly groaned and accepted my fate.

I put the sunscreen on. I waited as long as possible before taking off my shorts and t-shirt, hoping none of the others would notice my razor burn, my flab, and all the other small, inconsequential flaws of my perfectly functional body. I waited for someone to say something about my appearance. I was so sure one of them would notice all of the things I disliked about my body. But if they did, they didn’t say anything.

In fact, the opposite happened.

One of them grinned at me and said, “I love your swimsuit! It’s so cute. One-pieces are coming back.” I returned the smile, comforted yet still on guard. It was only a matter of time, surely, before someone gave me a too-quick glance or recoiled when I sat next to them. But as we made our way to the water and found some rocks to sit on, the negative reactions I had expected refused to manifest. The girls had every opportunity to comment on my appearance, but their words were only positive. It wasn’t an endless torrent of compliments, but it was enough for me to feel comfortable with my body and do what we had come to Moulton Falls to do: relax.

The water ran mountain-cold over the rocks. We alternated between swimming and sunbathing, talking about books and TV shows and school and work. We picked pebbles from the riverbank and drove home with the windows down. It was, unexpectedly, the most fun I’d had outdoors in a long time.

I was surprised to receive such supportive and loving words from my friends. Growing up, I watched TV shows and read books where female friendships were infrequently shown. The books that did show female friendships portrayed them with a dose of cattiness, and my own friend groups throughout the years followed suit. But the women I swam with at Moulton Falls broke the mold. For a few blissful hours, there was no cattiness, no competition, no parade—just five women in swimsuits, enjoying an outdoor adventure on their day off.

Our bodies are imperfect, but it doesn’t matter. We are so much more than our stretchmarks, our moles, our cellulite, our messy hair. There’s so much more to love.

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