Two years ago, my nutritionist turned to me and asked, “How about a little exercise?” Little did I know where this question would lead me.
As one drawn to water, I thought I’d try swimming. Front-crawling my way back to fitness at the community pool in Dundas, Ont., I soon befriended some of the lunchtime regulars. One day, when three of us women were showering after the swim, I burst out with a question: “Wouldn’t it be great to be able to swim just once without bathing suits?” Both agreed, and the idea of a women-only skinny dip was born.
We reserved the pool for a private swim, hired an all-female lifeguard team and bought some big tarps to cover up the windows. I activated social media, and the newspaper sent a columnist and photographer. My swimming pal Hélène Caron and I made a splash on the front page of the Hamilton Spectator, standing in what appeared to be our birthday suits behind a bright pink towel.
But as word of the event circulated, too many women cited their body shape as the reason they’d never be naked with others. Cultural norms dictate thin, “fit” bodies to the exclusion of anything else. It seems that visibly distinct body shapes with various scars and lumps are to be hidden under clothes.
Initially, the skinny dip was only intended for fun, but it occurred to me that it might also work as a fundraiser. My thoughts turned to the agencies that help people who struggle with body image. The staff at Danielle’s Place, an eating disorder resource centre in nearby Burlington, Ont., readily agreed to partner with us and allowed us to borrow their slogan — “Love the skin you’re in” — for our event.
Get The Observer’s latest stories on justice, faith and ethics by signing up for our e-newsletter. It only takes a few seconds to join and we’ll deliver award-winning content to your in-box.