Tippi Benjamine Okanti Degré, daughter of French wildlife photographers Alain Degré and Sylvie Robert, was born in Namibia. During her childhood she befriended many wild animals, including a 28-year old elephant called Abu and a leopard nicknamed J&B. She was embraced by the Bushmen and the Himba tribespeople of the Kalahari, who taught her how to survive on roots and berries, as well as how to speak their language.
You can wear a shirt with a picture of the devil on it, and meet someone with an advertisement for their church on it. If you smile at them, they will most likely smile back at you, because most humans are smart enough to know which gesture is more important.
How many bikini season posts have I seen on the internet so far this Spring? How many sopping guides; rules to determine which fruit I resemble the most? How many lists are there of swimsuits and sundresses that are “appropriate” for my body type? How much time have I spent in front of the mirror, scrutinizing the soft hills and jagged edges of my own body, pulling and tucking and arranging and wishing that something could be different or somewhere else? Am I an apple? A pear? An hourglass? A roast chicken?
I don’t love my body. I don’t hate it, either. It’s an instrument capable of both good and bad. It does things that I like and do not like. Sometimes it fails me. Most often, it performs the way I need it to and I am grateful. I made and fed two babies with it. It carries me through the woods, to my job, to the playground with my kids. It isn’t ornamental; it’s a machine. I am lucky.
Yesterday I read a blog post written by a stranger (a mother) about bikini season and the need to lose weight. She wrote unapologetically about how she just wants to be skinny. She wrote about swearing off food until she was skinny enough to be able to wear a bikini; she wrote that she plans on only consuming three protein shakes a day until she is as skinny as she wants to be: skinny enough to deserve that bikini.
As a human and a woman, I understand. It’s okay to want to be attractive (whatever your definition of that may be). If there is something that you don’t like about yourself, it is absolutely your choice to change if it you want to, however you want to. It isn’t my or anyone else’s business.
As a parent. AS A PARENT. I remember getting my daughter ready for school one winter morning. She was 4. She slipped her little arms into her puffy winter coat and suddenly started to cry. I asked her what was wrong and she turned her perfect, beautiful little face up to me and said, “This coat makes me look fat.” I cried right there at that very moment. My heart hurt so much for her. All of the frustration I have ever felt with my own body and appearance welled up in that moment. I knew exactly how she felt, and I was beyond horrified that she was feeling it. At 4 years old, my daughter was afraid people would think she was fat.
In that moment, I promised to never, ever, say negative things about mine, ours, or anyone else’s bodies. At home, in our shared family lives, we think we have private moments, but we really don’t. Our kids see everything. They see us skipping meals and eating tiny portions. They hear the things we say about our fat thighs and flat asses and too small/too big boobs. They think we’re beautiful because they love us, and when we turn around and shame ourselves, we teach them to do the same. We are their standard and they are our mirrors, and we will never be able to show them how to accept who they are while we are so busy hating ourselves.
I am trying to accept myself for them. I am trying to show my kids that there are so many ways to be healthy and beautiful. And as for bikini season, here is what I recommend for obtaining a bikini body: 1) Have a body, and 2) Put a bikini on it. It doesn’t matter what kind of fruit you’re shaped like. You get to do whatever the fuck you want. Isn’t that nice?
It’s raining hard today.
The day is more like night,
the spring is more like fall,
and in the yard a driving wind lays waste
to the little tree that, seeming not to, stands
steady and firm; it seems among the plants
like a too-green adolescent grown too tall.
You watch it. It may be
your pity stirs for all of those white flowers
the north wind strips from it; and they are fruit,
sweet preserves we set
aside for winter, those fallen flowers spread
across the grass. And your vast maternity
aches for them, all.