bikini photo: black bikini amy-under-tree.jpg Before I went to the beach yesterday, I had to stop and get a swimsuit because I somehow managed to lose every bit of my beachwear. I'm sure I'll find it sometime during late winter. At any rate, when I went to try them on, the saleswoman asked if she could help me with anything. I jkingly replied "Yeah, if you could just point in the direction of the magic bikini that makes me skinny again, that would be cool" and off she went with a sigh to show me some magic section.

Seriously, she did.

She took to me to the spanks area and I told her I was joking and I needed a swimsuit, not a fat suit, but the experience was most alarming because well, there were more varieties of spanks than bikinis. Are we really that concerned that we completely contort our bodies into something they aren't so we look great in a pair of jeans? How disheartening. And it only got worse.

Personally, I don't have much confidence in my looks, but I do wear bikinis. If you can't tell by all the stretch marks and appendectomy scars that my stomach is in the shape it's in not because I'm lazy, but because...well, life happens, then don't look at it. But, I did buy one of those bikini tops that looks more like a blouse and opens in the back so I can flip it up to tan my stomach, so maybe I'm more self-conscious about it than I realize. But, even when I was skinny I didn't like to walk around with my stomach showing so maybe it's just my natural comfort zone to cover it up.

What really tore me up is the conversations that took place at the beach. It was a Monday and it's a small beach, so it was pretty quiet there. For the better part of the day there were maybe 6 other women, all with kids and 1 or 2 guys. The most common topic of conversation? Fat.

Now, keep in mind that all body types were represented. I mean, from the ultra-skinny to the due-any-day-now pregnant. And every single one of them were ashamed of their bodies. In fact, if you had overhead the conversations without seeing the bodies, you would have thought that every woman there was swimming in lard. And realistically speaking, there were just average bodies.

We tend to think that women want to look good to impress men, right? So why is a collection of women at a beach so focused on body shaming? So much so that many of them never even got in the water because that would require taking off their bathing suit covers.

I got in the water. I swam. I floated on my floatie with my stomach exposed and I'll tell you what, I didn't even feel bad about it. After listening to those women, I realized that I felt worse about my body when I was skinny (and still trying to lose weight) than I do today. Why?

For one thing, I care far less today what people think than I ever did. Thank you universe for the lack of give a shit that comes with the 30s and 40s.

This makes me sad. Women are so ingrained with the idea that they have to be a perfect size that even when they reach a perfect size for them, they keep trying for something "better". They are so focused on it that it isn't even a matter of impressing anyone. It's this warped image that we all hold in our mind's eye.

You want to know what women are talking about at the beach? It isn't about what a great time they are having or that guy with the ripped abs out on the diving board. It's about the millimeter of skin hanging over the top of the bikini, labeled as "fat". It's about trying to convince one of your friends that she came to a beach to get in the water and it really is okay to take that coverup off.

Heads up ladies: you're worrying far more about the scale than anyone else is. Of all the men I know, only one of them even has a preference for the heroin addict look and that man has never in his life been in a happy relationship. The rest of them? They know they have imperfections and they kind of prefer their women to have a few as well because they want a woman, not an airbrushed paper doll.

I had always been clear about how the first vehicle would be handled. I never wanted Hunter to end up like I did, with something that ran for about a week and no one to help me fix it. However, I also didn't want to spoil him and hand him the keys to something that was newer than I had.

My solution was pitch in as much as Hunter did toward the purchase of his vehicle. That meant he could get something decent and I would help, but not cover the whole cost.

Things changed. Earlier this year Hunter's grandfather gave him a very cool moped. He loved it rode it, and then a line came off and we got busy with other projects, projects that I hired the neighbor to help on. The next thing I know, Hunter and the neighbor are talking about swapping vehicles.

My 13 year old son just made his first car deal on exactly the kind of truck he wanted. No, he didn't have to save money, but he did swap something he really thought was cool. As for me, I'm holding up my end of the bargain by paying for the cosmetic repairs because the truck runs just fine.

Hunter has had one heck of a rough week, and he did a whole bunch of growing up in a very short period of time. In my mind, there probably wasn't a better time for a young man to have a truck to work on and roam around the property with.

What's your plan for your kid's first vehicle?

body shapes photo: body shapes bodyshapes.gif

Guest post by Whitney Levon Simon

Finding the right outfit to fit your body type can be a challenge. When done incorrectly, you might end up emphasizing the very parts of your body you want to minimize. Here are a few quick and easy tips to help find the right outfit for your body.

Broad Shoulders (Wedge or Apple-Shaped Bodies)

Aside from avoiding shoulder pads, there are several other ways to dress that will minimize the look of broad shoulders. They key to remember is to draw the eye away from your shoulders. Dresses with full skirts can help to draw the eye away, and define your waist with a belt. For your tops, choose V-necks or deep scoop necks to create a more narrow look. Scarves and long necklaces can also take the emphasis off your shoulders. Avoid spaghetti straps and shirts with wide collars.

Pear-Shaped Bodies

Women who are heavier on the bottom than on the top often have a hard time finding outfits that are flattering. A-line dresses can help to add definition to the upper part of your body while slimming your hips. Full skirts and wide-legged pants create a polished look that doesn't call attention to your midsection. Avoid skinny jeans and baggy tops. Fitted shirts are ideal for drawing the eye up and away from problem areas.

Hourglass Bodies

While most women say they want an hourglass figure, it can still be a challenge to dress this body shape. Baggy clothes can make you appear heavier than you really are. Fitted clothes and wrap dresses help to showcase the classic hourglass shape. Use a belt to define your waistline and call attention to your curves. Avoid full skirts that don't define your figure.

When in doubt, bring a friend with you when you shop. Make sure you try clothes on before you take them home, and don't be afraid to try new styles. You might be surprised to see what works best for your body.