Most people do it after a big weight loss. Others use it as encouragement in the hopes of using it someday as the “before” shot. I have neither lost weight nor have any realistic expectations that I will in the foreseeable future. Rather, I am, at 52, throwing caution to the wind and heeding the advice of my friend Becky who, on the (millionth) occasion of my commenting that a woman on the beach who was about my age (and, more to the point, my size) was not only sporting a bikini, but kinda rockin’ it, she told me that I should wear one, too. After actually laughing.out.loud, I told her she was out of her effin’ mind…those days were long gone. The mere idea of it kind of horrified me on about 1127 different levels.
That’s all she said. Others have said it before, but for some reason, this time it struck a chord. At that moment, I decided that this was going to be the summer that I would own my imperfect body and just accept the fact that the tiny waist of my 20s was never coming back, that my butt (which seems to end somewhere between where it should and the back of my knees) would no longer (completely) define me and, more to the point, dictate my bathing suit choices.
I was growing tired of my collection of tankinis, anyway.
With full admission that I was being ridiculous, I told not a soul of my bikini plan. Hoping to happen upon one organically – walk into a store, find the perfect suit, buy it, wear it – proved to be (way) harder than I anticipated. Just as it took me some time to determine the perfect tankini, so, too, have I learned that all bikinis are not created equal.
In the hopes of finding something inexpensive, trendy and cheap, I began my hunt at Target. Not enough of a glutton for punishment to try them on in the store, I snatched up nearly a dozen tops and bottoms (in a range of sizes) and bought them all with a plan to try each combination on in the privacy of my own home (when no one was around). I further decided that my initial reaction to how I looked and felt would serve as my final decision. Every top and bottom was returned that same afternoon.
Perhaps, I thought to my losing-courage-quickly self, I would be better off going to a slightly more upscale store. As it turned out, that wouldn’t make any difference. Macy’s, Lord and Taylor, Athleta, Lands End, Marshall’s, Nordstrom. Fail, fail, fail, fail, fail and fail. It was a message from G-d, I decided, that this was a big mistake. So I stopped looking.
Then, one day I found myself at Old Navy and, wouldn’t ya know it, all the bathing suits were 40% off plus, if I used my store credit card they’d knock another 25% off and, because it was a Tuesday in June and I have curly hair, they’d give it to me for free.* I rifled through the mess of tops and bottoms, immediately dismissing some (having learned that certain tops were out.of.the.question) and purchased one suit in two sizes. Discouraged from my earlier foray into the bikini world, I left the bag in the trunk of my car and waited (more than) a few days before trying it on. When I finally found the courage time to bring it in the house, I was pleasantly surprised….this might just work. With an absurd trepidation, I emerged from my room bikini-clad for the first time in nearly 25 years. Jess saw me first. A smile spread across her face. Barry, ever the sweetheart, gave me a warm smile (and I am pretty sure his eye twinkled) and, with the caveat that he is “the wrong person to ask because I think you are fabulous no matter what you wear,” his approval. (Yeah, he’s a keeper.)
Yesterday, Becky by my side, I planted myself at the beach in my bikini and, am proud to announce, lived to tell the tale.
I was not the thinnest person on the beach.
I was not the fittest person on the beach.
I was not donning the best-fitting, -looking or -made bathing suit on the beach. And, at something like $14, certainly not the most expensive.
If I was being judged or ridiculed or a topic of other’s conversation, I was blissfully unaware.
I was surprisingly comfortable.
And, not for nothing, the perfect weather and company notwithstanding, it was perhaps one of my best days ever on the beach.
But wait….there’s more.
It wasn’t enough for me to wear a bikini…I needed to memorialize it. Twenty-seven selfies later, I was, once again, feeling defeated. With just a modicum of disgust, Becky wrestled the phone from my hand and proceeded to snap away. “Stand up” she said. “It’ll make you look better”. So I did. Then, upon checking the photo she’d just taken, I was instructed to sit back down. And, because I have turned a corner on one of my (many) insecurities, we cracked up. (Aside: she was 100% right.)
When I returned home nicely bronzed from the day, I approached Jess with what I deemed to be the most acceptable of the dozen or so snaps on my phone (Becky is a lousy photographer, I’ve learned) and, I am ashamed to admit, asked her to make it “look a little better.” Reason number 1211 I love that kid: she refused. With assurances that I am “beautiful”, she reminded me that posting a photo that has been enhanced kinda defeats the entire purpose. And she is right.
Am I ready to throw away all my other bathing suits? No. Might I buy another bikini? Maybe. Do I feel a little bit freer? Yep. So here I am: unfiltered, unretouched, unedited and amazingly unencumbered.
(Not shown: the big, deep breath I took before posting this…)
*Okay, that didn’t happen…but at the register they did seem to toss in discount after discount after discount.