For as long as I was first made aware that I didn’t posses a perfect body, I’ve been self-conscious about it.

The summer between my sixth and seventh grade year, I had a typical puberty growth spurt. I went from being of average height and weight for a female, to gaining a massive amount of weight and growing a few inches above everyone. Due to that growth, I got stretch marks on my torso and breasts. The time when a child goes from pre-puberty to full-on puberty is never a fun one. My high schools years continued this trend. Stereotypically awkward, and as my own mother told me a few years back, I went through an “ugly duckling stage.” Thanks, Ma.

I’ve struggled with my weight since then. The heaviest I’ve ever been was 266 pounds. The lowest weight I’ve been as an adult was 199 pounds. As of yesterday, according to the scale at my doctor’s office, I weigh 244.6 pounds.

I flip back and forth between being fine with my body to hating every single square inch of it. I’m somewhere in the middle as I write this morning.

With it being summer and there being a shiny new swimming pool in the backyard,  my weight taps me gently on the shoulder and whispers in my ear, “you are going to be wearing a swimsuit now. Let’s not disgust everyone, shall we?”

I went shopping for suits this past weekend, and as usual, my experience was unpleasant. Not only am I a bigger gal, but I have a long torso. Suits in stores do not fit me properly. The straps dig into my broad shoulders, my breasts spill over the top, and there is such a phenomenon as a front wedgie. I dance around the tiny fitting room, pulling and tugging at the fabric in a vain effort to adjust the unforgiving material to cover my body, but if I lift one spot, another spot get uncovered, and it’s the ultimate no-win situation and incredibly frustrating.

There are suits called tankinis, which is a word as shudder-inducing as “panties” (shudder), and those are longer two piece suits designed for the more ample of us, but in my experience, they are also some of the most unattractive suits ever. The bottoms have skirts to hide bulging thighs; the tops have ruffles and gaudy prints to try to distract from full stomachs. I hate these things. Defeated, I ended up buying a simple one piece whose straps are sort of long enough, but I still pull and tug.

This may sound like I’m body shaming the woman I live with, and I don’t mean to, but hear me out. She wears bikinis, and according to the rule book made by the fashion industry, for all intents and purposes, her body type isn’t what these suits were made for. The kicker is–she doesn’t give a shit. She realizes she has extra pounds and isn’t a size 2, but proudly wears her bikini anyway.

“I’m in my own yard. I don’t care.”

I decided I admired that “eh…fuck it” attitude. Yeah! It is just the backyard! I can wear whatever I want!

So the other day, for the first time in my life, I, Erin, bought a bikini; just the top, though. The selection had been picked over and the size I felt would try to cover my butt wasn’t in stock, so I decided to wear a pair of short, short shorts. Tuesday afternoon, which I get off work every other week, I donned the green bikini top, shorts, and stared at myself in the bathroom mirror.

Panic set in. What the fuck, Erin? You look ridiculous. Go put on a one piece and return the top. But then…then I had a moment of clarity. I have terrific breasts and the top I chose, while definitely testing the tensile strength of the straps holding it up was in question, I looked good. The shorts come up high enough to cover the part of my abdomen that I hate, but still accentuated the hourglass waist I have. I shrugged my shoulders in the “whatever” fashion, and went outside and got into the pool.

I read an article on HuffPost Women, asking the age old question: do you have a bikini ready body? Basically, what it came down to was, do you have a body? What about a bikini? Okay, then! All set! Gone is the idea that you must look like models on the cover of Sports Illustrated and enter the notion of just wear what you want to wear.  So I did.

I’m not saying I’m free of the shame I feel of my body, because ha ha, good one, but I do feel less intimidated by it. I still want to lose weight, but not because I need to to fit in, but for health reasons.

So, if anyone comes over to use the pool and sees this Amazonian woman lounging in the pool, wearing a skimpy bikini top, I make no apologies. Just hop in and swim with me.

But if you try to untie the string in the back, I’m going to punch your face.

As always, thanks for reading.

Carlton “Skip” Davies sits in his car, casually watching traffic, the semis rocking it gently as they speed by. Skip flinches as one gets a little too close.

He watches all sorts of vehicles as they pass: luxury cars driven by balding middle age men; giant pick-up trucks with excited farm dogs in the back pacing back and forth, their mouths open and tongues flapping in the wind; hybrid cars, eerie in their silence like some sort of stealth machine; enormous, lumbering Winnebagos towing various recreational vehicles behind them; ancient and decrepit cars somehow still chugging down the road based on pure luck and a few rolls of duct tape holding various parts to the body.

He made a game of how many vehicles of a certain model he’d see, making a mental tally. So far today, Skip saw fourteen Hummers, six of those comical little Smart Car things, and his favorite, a gorgeous silver and bright cherry red 1973 Corvette. Skip actually got a hard-on when that one sped passed him. As his best friend Roger used to say back in their more wild and carefree days, it was “shit hot.” Skip would give anything to own a car like that, but on his meager salary, that was a pipe dream.

Skip is a cop going on twenty-five long years now. He isn’t anywhere near retirement and thinking about how he has ten more years to do so depresses him something terrible. He used to love his job, but now? He loathes donning the shit brown uniform, shiny black shoes, and hat.  The strap in the back makes his bald head itch and has a permanent dent where it digs into the back of his skull. The black leather belt cuts into his doughy waist, too.

His wife used to run her long finger along the crease in his head and Skip smiles at the memory. Janie has been gone for five years this past November; brain aneurysm got her. The emergency room doctor tried to assure him she didn’t feel any pain as the faulty vessel ballooned out and burst while she was out in her garden, and Skip hopes he is telling the truth. Thinking his wife’s last moments alive were maybe spent in agony cuts Skip’s heart out all over again.

Skip and Janie haved two kids–twin boys. Skip doesn’t hear much from them since their mom died, but that’s okay with him. He doesn’t have much to say to them anyway. He loves his children, but doesn’t like them much. He wanted them to join the force like he did, but they had different ideas. Last Skip heard, Ben lives with his boyfriend in Atlanta and they own a used book store, and Peter is in Los Angeles trying to be an actor. Ben never calls or visits, and the one time Peter came home was a few months after his mother’s funeral, asking if he could have all of his share of the inheritance to help fund a screenplay he was co-writing. Skip asked him to leave.

Skip doesn’t have many friends, and that’s okay with him, too. He spends his days alone in his squad car, so what’s spending his nights and weekends alone, as well? He passes his time with woodworking projects and watching hardcore porn. In fact, he built the entertainment center his flat screen television sits on so he can watch quality high-def vile sex acts. Also the shelving unit that holds all of his porno DVDs. These two hobbies are the only thing he really lives for. Other than that, Skip hates his life. No wife, two miserable excuses for sons, a job he loathes…the only thing that keeps him going is the knowledge that he has to keep working to pay for all his lumber and tools and the porn.

Today, however, today Skip just doesn’t care anymore. A young woman in a black BMW flashes by the squad car and the radar alerts him she was going twenty miles over the limit. Skip blinks slowly and takes a sip of his Coke. I hope you blow a tire and swerve into oncoming traffic, he thinks. He snorts air out of his nostrils in twisted delight to this. Skip is done with it all. He reaches over to the glove box and opens it to fish out a porn magazine; it’s the one where women like getting defecated/urinated on. He flips through the pages, annoyed he isn’t getting an erection. A message over the scanner distracts him: possible drug bust on the interstate. All available units respond to the area.

Skip puts the magazine back in the glove box, starts the engine, and flicks the beacon and siren on. He peels out of his parking spot and makes a U-turn in the middle of the road. The scene is a few miles to the west and Skip presses his foot down hard on the accelerator. He watches the needle on the gauge creep up…fifty, sixty, seventy, eighty, ninety…

He tears down the highway, the mile markers blurring by him, and approaching cars pull off to the side to make way for the speeding police car. Skip’s adrenaline is pumping through his body and he gets a sudden and crazy thought–hey man, just kill yourself. You know you want to. Go on and do it. Your kids hate you and truth be told, the feeling is mutual. Janie’s gone. Just do it.

Lucid and behind the wheel of a car that represents a life he hates, Skip gives in to his thoughts. He stomps his foot down on the accelerator more, the vehicle now doing well over 100 MPH. Up ahead is an overpass going across the highway; you know, the ones with thick cement pillars supporting it in the middle. He’s going to drive his car into one of those. It approaches fast and Skip cranks the steering wheel hard to the left at the last second. The front end of the car connects with the thick column. Physics takes care of the rest.

Somehow, after what’s left of the rubble is sorted through, rescue crews find the dashboard camera still intact, as well as a porno mag with a photo of his late wife tucked inside and a small instrument used to carve intricate designs into wood.

Even in death, Deputy Carlton “Skip” Davies went out of this world surrounded by the few things he truly loved.