The Fifth Season

Bikinis are a season? The commercials say it's bikini season, and so do the clothing racks at Walmart.

You know how the gyms get packed with fresh guilt and resolve at the New Year and by Valentine's Day it's back to not fighting for a parking space before Zumba? I'm starting to wonder if therapists gleefully rub their hands together in anticipation of the throngs of broken confidence vying for a spot on their client lists.

Join NOW! Don't eat that. Sign up here! Be Happier Than You Are RIGHT NOW...after you pay the membership fee, of course.That's what the commercials tell us.

And don't forget to read the fine print telling you that you are not legally allowed to feel anything that even resembles happiness until you've successfully managed to wrestle yourself into that pair of skinny jeans without bothering to work out how the hell you were going to get them off.

Because until you zip up the jeans that magically give every woman on the fucking planet a muffin top and a complex, you just don't get it. You haven't earned your stripes. Those skinny jeans (and the bikini you have hanging on your bathroom mirror -- placed just so as to allow for an unobstructed view as you wait for the scale to tell you what kind of day you're going to have -- those are our reminders that we will never be good enough because the standards keep changing.

Ever try reasoning with a crabby toddler in the middle of the grocery store? Because in this scenario, we are the parent and Other People's Perceptions are bringing it home in the role of the kid throwing the tantrum in the deli section. We all know who wins in this scenario.

Bikini season is what we live for. It's what we train for all winter so that when the snow melts and the sun makes us all sunshiny happy, the world knows who talked the talk and who actually walked the walk (or skated on by with a nip and a tuck, 'cuz that works, too). In a bikini? You are granted this moment of self-validation. Not in a bikini? Don't bother trying to come up with excuses. You have failed at life. And now everybody else knows. Maybe next year, you'll actually take this shit seriously. For now, here's your pool cover-up. I'm not bothering to explain to you why it's scarlet.

It's bikini season! This is serious, you guys. It's time to count every fucking calorie in that celery and carrot sticks lunch and perform death-defying feats of mathematical gymnastics in your head while standing in line for the the elliptical trying to figure out exactly how long you have to torture yourself to make up for the two brownies you ate on the way to the gym because HUNGER IS A THING! You may as well stop trying to feed the rest of us that line about hating yourself skinny if you hate yourself now because everybody knows skinny people are always happy, Goddammit.  Let us know when you've decided to let go of that one about your fat ass not defining you as a person (because it totally does and you know it).

Oh sure, there are a few Devil's Advocates out there spreading happiness and cheer wrapped up nicely in a confident little package for all. They call bikini season things like "Beach Body Bullshit" and try to tell you that it's only this difficult because we've let it become so. They pass out smiles and pats on the head and tell us to find out own version of healthy and to get regular activity and eat a healthy and balanced diet because it makes us feel good. They make a bit of headway before all progress is reversed the minute another Hollywood mom gives birth and six week's later is on the cover of People in a sexy suit. The picture alone is a head game, but I'm pretty sure the kicker is the carefully worded headline implying that we could have that body, too, if we really wanted it badly enough. I'd ask Gwyneth Paltrow for her opinion, but I'm pretty sure she'd tell me I just need to consciously uncouple myself from the Ben & Jerry's.

My daughter, who is six, recently heard a friend of mine say something about bikini season and being on a diet because she'd gained five pounds this winter. Basically, my friend said she couldn't wear a bikini, let alone a bathing suit, until she got rid of the pudge. I'm not going to lie to you. My friend is not a magazine model and was graced with Regular People DNA and a normal, average, let's go shopping with Marylin Monroe sized 14 body. She's pretty. She's active. And she eats all the fruits and veggies.

Outside of "bikini" season, my friend is confident and sassy and has more good days than bad. The minute Jenny Craig and Weight Watchers start the mind-games with sexy-two-piece-wearing success stories, though, all that shit's out the proverbial window.

Eliana asked me what my friend meant by not being able to wear a bikini when we were on our way home. Did she really mean she can't physically put on on, she wanted to know. Or did her own mama think they weren't appropriate? If that was the case, she wanted to know if I get to make the final call on her wardrobe even after she has her own kids.

You bet your sweet ass I said yes.

Then I told her that there are still four seasons, that people think too much sometimes, and that as long as we are healthy and do what we can to stay active and eat what we believe is right for our bodies, that we are all doing just fine. I told her that healthy and happy doesn't come with size options in the stores, no matter how many times society tries to tell us otherwise. And I told her that she's just fine and I'm just fine and let's go home and have some homemade coconut milk ice-cream because life's successes are not defined at the end by how many bikini selfies we took in our younger days.

But how come she can't put a bikini on, Mama?, my girl asked me again. I'll tell you what I told her first, which is that sometimes people say they can't when they start to believe what others say about happiness and it being a privilege to be earned instead of just being happy because we want to be. That seemed to suffice. The questions stopped. And we went home for ice-cream.

When it was time for a bath, Eliana asked to wear her one-piece in the tub. I'm not an idiot. I said yes.

For the rest of you? Let's review the steps involved in "getting ready" for bikini season. It's a simple two-step process that has been needlessly complicated, so I'll go slow here for you to keep up. Ready? Good.

Step 1: Choose a suit you like in colors you like and show as much or as little skin as you damn well please (providing, of course, you are of age and not my daughter).

Step 2 - Put the fucking thing on.

See how easy that was? As for the snow, I think Mother Nature knocked the coffee over on her memo. Or maybe she just hasn't felt like shaving her legs yet. Either way, my work is done here.

You're welcome.