Sun’s Out… No Buns Out: The Day I Was Publicly Shamed

swimsuit

Let’s start this post by acknowledging I am not always right. As a human, I am always learning new things: new ways of life, new perspectives, different opinions. I respect all of it. However, one of the things I truly cannot stand for is making another human feel awful about themselves, humiliating them on a public level.

Now that we have established that, HELLO! My name is Julia, and I like to put effort into my appearance daily. Call it a “Leo Girl” thing, a “pride” thing… however you interpret it, there has never been a time in my life where I have not put some amount of thought into what I’m wearing. If it didn’t make me feel good, it was not being worn out of the house. Ask my mother, she has a fun story or three. Whether it’s pajamas at home, running to the gas station, hitting the beach, a Target adventure, or a night out on the town, that outfit is cute and it feels good to wear it.

A couple of weeks ago, with my youngest in daycare, my oldest and I took advantage of our time together to hit a well-known water park with our friends. Now granted, I do have some “lesser coverage” bikinis (it is a beach town), but considering we were going to a place with young children, I knew it would be best to put on a one-piece swimsuit that I’ve worn there multiple times. A sun hat, shorts, and a packed pool bag were picked to tie the whole outfit together — LET’S GO! My son and I were so stoked it was the two of us, with that childhood feeling of invincible freedom that only summer can bring. It was a beautiful, hot summer day, the water was still cold, and everyone was enjoying themselves to the fullest… until a couple of teenage lifeguards approached me and my friend an hour after our arrival.

“Ma’am, we’ve had a couple of complaints about your swimsuit.”

EMBARRASSING. How embarrassing it was to be in trouble with two girls half my age. Embarrassing to be told I needed to cover up or leave. Embarrassing that I had to tell my son I couldn’t swim with him anymore. Because in that park somewhere, was someone who was embarrassed by a body that wasn’t theirs. I laughed it off at first and sat down for the rest of the time we were there. The lifeguards were doing their job. But afterward, the anxiety crept in. “Was my body that offensive?” “Was the suit really inappropriate?” “Are my own kids embarrassed of me?” I spiraled, I became angry, and I cried very hard later that afternoon.

The offending swimsuit.

Perhaps the desire to ensure my outfit was perfect can be traced back to days when the girls I grew up with would make fun of my weight (I was a little chubby; they were a little rude). Maybe it goes back to my high school years when I wanted to stand out from the cheerleading crew (MySpace did all of us dirty). Definitely in college (when I fluctuated weight like a dang roller coaster), I realized the highlight of my day was when I was told the highest compliment in Girl World: “Where did you get that?” No matter how I felt about my body underneath the clothes, I could still get comments on my style.

Now, let’s enter motherhood into the equation. I was extremely fortunate to have birthed two beautiful, healthy baby boys with no complications. I love them and cherish the effort my body went through to bring them earth side. Also, cue the 40 pounds that were gained with each pregnancy that did NOT come off with breastfeeding (the baby books definitely did me dirty on that one). Now that issue couldn’t be ignored. The clothes I had didn’t fit, and the clothes I wanted brought out terrible thoughts in my anxiety-riddled mind. These thoughts were not okay with me, and therefore, work had to be done.

OH BOY, did I put in the work. We’re currently living in a society where style and body confidence are very much related: look great, feel great! After almost 10 years of weight lifting, HIIT training, Pilates, walking, lifestyle, and diet changes, I am extremely happy with what I’ve achieved (most days). There are still bad days mind you, where I hate everything in the closet and nothing fits well, and my anxiety starts to spiral. But those moments pass, I bring myself back to earth, find a good basic staple, tell myself that I am freakin’ cute, and move on.

This day, was not a good day. We all know the water park out at the Beaches. Yes, it’s a place for kids and families that has a dress code for a reason. I spiraled on this thought for a long time. But who here has some story of witnessing some disastrously awful “bathing suit coverups” that were not cover-ups at all? Do we think at any point they were asked to “cover up or leave”? Most likely no, because it happens over and over again. Most people move on because it’s not their business — living in a beach town, we are all aware that everybody has a body. But on this day, in 2024, I felt the wrath of someone who took offense to a woman, A MOTHER, who took pride in her body. It’s like moms can’t win. They get body-shamed for letting their “mom bods” hang out, and they get shamed when they’re showing too much.

READ: Beat the Heat: Splash Pads, Pools & Water Parks In & Around Jacksonville 

I’ll never know who it was (and frankly I don’t care to). But it is a very odd feeling to be essentially told to put away the one consistent thing I’ve ever had. That stranger will never know the journey it’s been through. The bullying I endured as a child, the abuse that it survived by an evil college ex, the never-ending social media presence of typically normal, BEAUTIFUL women being compared to Hollywood celebrities made of diet pills and plastic. They also will never know the sweat, the labor of births, the work of the self-love it’s gone through. I’m still going to wear that bathing suit (I did wear it three days after the water park). There will still be pride in my outfits, my body, and the journey I’ve been on allowing me to reach this point in life.

My husband and I are raising our sons to respect women’s bodies and their choices. And I sincerely respect everyone’s choices to wear what THEY feel comfortable in, in THEIR body. It is your life, and you deserve to feel incredible in your skin. To the person who complained about me, I am sorry you were never taught that. I am sorry that you felt like you earned the right to comment on a stranger’s body, regardless of what they’re wearing. After all, “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.”

Julia Sanders
Growing up with the mangroves and estuaries of South Florida in her backyard, Julia knew when moved to Jacksonville in the 2009, she would always be a beach girl for life. A mother of two wild boys, they spend their days golf cart cruising to the sandy shores of Jax Beach, supporting their local business or exploring nature trails. Always on the go, she loves checking out any and every special event happening in the 904! Her love for Social Media can be traced back to her early days of high school photography classes and creating the best MySpace page back in the day (thanks Tom). Her passion has evolved along with technology and platforms, embracing new challenges and advances. Now you can find her hitting the beach hunting for shark teeth or adventuring in and around the great city #DUUUVAL. Say hi to her if you see her, she loves making new friends everywhere!

8 COMMENTS

  1. Way to go Julia! The entitlement folks feel over other people’s bodies is bizarre. It’s just a body is my motto, everyone’s got one, and if the sight of someone else’s body offends you, you might wanna stay home. Suns out buns out all summah!

  2. according to your own words, you knew you were going to a place with lots of kids, and you specifically chose not to wear a two piece because of it… so instead you go with a suit that has your butt cheeks hanging out the back and your vagina hair clearly visible in the front? what were you thinking? this has nothing to do with body image (you look great in the suit and the tattoo’s are awesome) or getting picked on in grade school or your stalker ex. it has to do with having the brains to know not to wear a two piece around kids, but not enough brains to know that vagina stubble shouldn’t be exposed to them either

  3. You look great, but I literally can see your labia….not appropriate for public areas with kids and mixed company.

  4. I am sorry but I wouldn’t want my grandkids to see anyone wearing a swimsuit with butt cheeks hanging out or cut upward in the front like that. Their parents are trying to raise them to dress decently and classy. Parents probably chose to take their children to this location because of a dress code, knowing they wouldn’t be exposed to something they felt their kids were too young for.

    This article was written to be about you and what you’ve been through. On the other hand parents are trying to protect their kids from seeing things they aren’t old enough to see. Trying to guide their children to grow up being decent and considerate of other Individuals.

    I would guess when/if they go to the beach, they try to find a less crowded section to protect their children.

    For you personally, when things are said to you that you feel are hurtful, stop those thoughts immediately. Don’t give those thoughts any power over you. We choose what we let hurts us. I refuse to dwell on anything similar that would be hurtful and put me in a sad state of mind. I learned this trick about 10 years ago. My pastor says “change your thoughts, change your life.”

    If I had of been in your situation that day, I would have thanked the teenagers for letting me know and I would have kept shorts on the rest of the day and still had a great time. Nobody is going to steal my joy.

    The thing about it is… that moment wasn’t the people shaming your body. It was the bathing suit. You could be built like Bo Derek in the movie 10 but the dislike was for your revealing bathing suit. I’m sure you wouldn’t want your children eyeing a strange woman’s butt.

    Accept that you made a mistake and broke the dress code but don’t let your mind create all that other negativity. Keep those thoughts out. Go back to the water park and wear a full coverage bathing suit. Always… protect your mind and refuse to dwell on negative thoughts. Believe me… we’ve all been there.

  5. As a mom and an advocate for other women, I say with no jealousy or hate, that swimsuit is not appropriate to wear at a Waterpark full of kids. I can totally understand why some other moms were unhappy with it. At least half of parents try to raise their girls & boys minimal exposure to hyper-sexuality. Wear your swimsuit at the beach. If other parents object, they can move away from you or leave without losing a bunch of money. It’s just a matter of respecting how other people choose to parent.

  6. Yes, sister. Sorry to say, but the swimsuit was too much for a place full of kids. I would be bothered as well if my pre-teen son was exposed to so much “front and back”. Nothing to do to the fact that you have a beautiful body.

  7. When Gen Z is constantly fighting for their right to wear what they want to school, I’m surprised the lifeguards even approached you instead of shutting down the hurtful behavior. But it’s not their fault at the end of the day.

    My heart breaks for you, I’m so worried what to wear to the pool these days since becoming a mom. Everything feels TOO revealing or TOO matronly. There’s no middle ground for us.

    But all the sadness aside can I just say, personally you are KILLING it in that swimsuit!!! You look AMAZING and for the life of me I cannot understand why anyone would try to bring you down.

    Sure dress codes are enforced for a reason but unless you own the establishment it’s not your job to enforce them. At the end of the day I wish everyone realized that their words have power. If the words you say have a chance to hurt someone, they shouldn’t be said at.

    Giving you hugs beautiful.

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