Our neighborhood has a pool. I’ve never lived in a place before that has one and I have to admit it’s pretty rad. Not for me necessarily – I still hate swimming – but my kids love it and it’s an easy, fun way to get them outside and moving. It’s also fun for me to get to know other people in the area, especially so I can have conversations like this one:
New friend: I’ve seen you at the pool a ton and yet I don’t think I’ve ever seen you in a bikini!
Me: And you never will!
First, as part of my religion (I’m LDS a.k.a. “Mormon”) I choose to stick to one-piece suits. And second, I’m finally at the age where my increasing fear of melanoma and my decreasing ability to care what people think of me intersect! Wooohooo!
I should probably tell you what I was wearing when this conversation happened: An Athleta UPF 50 jacket-dress thingy with long sleeves and a high collar, ankle length running tights, a wide-brimmed hat, sunglasses and so much sunscreen I should buy stock in Banana Boat. I did also happen to have a swimsuit on underneath although it’s anyone’s guess why I bothered at that point. (I think it’s because I’ve been peeing properly for so many decades now that it’s obviously time to up the difficulty. Also, it’s not as hot as you think. Promise!) In other words, I looked like a complete dork.
New friend: You totally could, you know! You’re cute enough to pull one off!
My new friend was being very sweet and complimentary, which I appreciated, but something about the comment hit me funny. Why do we have to be “cute enough” to wear a bikini? At the time I was too busy counting heads – onetwothreefour – every minute to make sure no one was drowning to think much more about it but then the other day I came across one of the perennial summer staples: the swimsuit calendar. But this one was different! Swimsuits For All put out the first “curvy girl” calendar, featuring plus-size models modeling the heck out of some adorable swimsuits.
Unfortunately, as soon as you could “sexy at every curve” (the calendar’s theme), people were jumping to decry the calendar and what it stands for. (“Don’t encourage them!” “This isn’t healthy!” and “Agh my eyes!” were the nicer comments.) I blame that other ubiquity of summer: all the articles telling you how to “get a bikini body.” Put down the ice cream cone, they say, and start doing jumping lunges – right now!! – or you’ll never be able to show your face at the pool without a caftan. Whole ad campaigns, plot lines on popular shows and more mommy group discussions than I care to count have hinged on this idea of how to be good enough to wear a bikini in public.
But here’s the thing I wanted to tell my new friend: every body is a bikini body. You don’t have to get it or work for it or earn it. All you really need to do is wear a bikini. Boom, done! (That is, if you want to wear a bikini. If you don’t want to wear one that’s totes cool – you can come sit on my lounge chair!)
Every body is beautiful in its own way but we are often told otherwise. It’s drilled into us from a young age that unless we look like a very specific, narrow standard of beauty then we don’t deserve to feel comfortable and cute on the beach. If you’re not perfect then you must punish yourself with ugly, ill-fitting, hot clothes so every time you try to move comfortably you’ll be reminded at how you’ve failed! Model Robyn Lawley and noted fashion blogger GabiFresh explain that they decided to push back at this ideal by creating swimwear that makes you feel sexy no matter what your size. (Oh and it’s not just bikinis! The swimwear line features a wide range of styles, prices and, yes, sizes.)
“I think all bodies should be celebrated,” GabiFresh told TODAY.com. “Beauty comes in all forms.”
The idea was born when rumors started circling the fashion community that this year’s Sports Illustrated cover would finally feature a plus-sized model. Instead the cover ended up featuring three conventionally thin models. “When the issue came out and that didn’t happen, we were disappointed and decided to do our own calendar shoot around the idea that curvy women — and all women — are sexy in swimwear and sexy to men,” said Moshe Laniado, president of Swimsuits for All.
I’m glad he included the “and all women” in there because there’s certainly nothing wrong with being thin. Or average. Or pregnant. Or elderly. Or any other size. And we all need to be reminded of that from time to time. Swimsuits are a particular gauntlet for women because even in the most modest ones we’re still basically just wearing underwear.
I personally own four suits, all of which I hate for different reasons. One is retro and perfectly adorable – except it squishes my leg fat out funny. The second is too tight on my hips and gives me muffin top. The third is stretched out because I wore it pregnant. And the last, the one I wear the most, is a plain, red tank suit that I bought 15 pounds ago and therefore gives me a permanent wedgie. (I wear shorts to hide it.) Yet, even with all my knowledge about body confidence and self-acceptance I still can’t bring myself to go face the mirrors and buy one that fits properly.
And this is why we need this calendar.
What’s your beach style like? Anyone have any good recs for buying a decent suit?? (That I’ll only wear at indoor pools because sun.)