When I was a child, there were a few things I thought I’d do when I was a grown-up: Put on lipstick and heels every day, have hair like Jaclyn Smith in “Charlie’s Angels”, and wear a bikini.
Since then, I’ve accepted my hair’s limitations and the fact that I’m more of a flats-and-Chapstick girl.
But the bikini? I was always waiting. Waiting until I finally lost five pounds, until my stomach was flatter, until my thighs were toned, until I found a self-tanner that looked natural, until the laws of the universe changed and I woke up one morning with long, thin legs. I went to the Us Weekly School of Bikini Bodies and graduated with the firm belief that a bikini body looked a certain way. And my body never looked like that.
But a funny thing happened when I went on vacation to Aruba last week. I arrived with my suitcase full of modest, tummy-covering swim tops and skirted bottoms and realized that everyone else was wearing a bikini.
And by everyone, I mean everyone. Women with soft bellies. Women with cellulite. Tall women. Short women. Women in all shapes and sizes. Moms. GRANDMAS. And 99 percent of those women wearing bikinis didn’t have Us Weekly Authorized Bikini Bodies.
I was immediately envious of these women. They looked completely at ease. They looked confident. They looked comfortable. They looked wonderful. My modest swimsuits, which had always made me feel secure, suddenly had the opposite effect. They felt horribly wrong.
When packing my suitcase for vacation, I’d thrown in a bikini on a whim that I’d bought many years ago but that had never seen the light of day. And on the third morning of our vacation, I put it on. I locked myself in the bathroom and stayed there for a long time, looking in the mirror and wondering whether I could do it. Whether I should do it. I finally came out, went to the pool with my husband and kids, and took off my cover-up.
Nobody laughed. Or tsked-tsked my soft, pale midriff. The Earth kept spinning. The editors of Us Weekly didn’t appear to issue me a citation for Wearing A Bikini While Having A Mom Pooch.
And I felt fantastic. The sun and water on my bare belly felt incredible. It felt freeing.
I suddenly remembered a Facebook meme I’d seen once: How to know if you have a “bikini body”: Do you have a body? Do you have a bikini? If so, you have a bikini body.
So I suddenly had a bikini body. Because I decided to wear one. Because I decided to stop wishing my body would change and start accepting my body as it is, including all of the soft parts, the dimpled parts, and the stretch-marked parts.
While writing this post, I wondered what kind of photo to include. Did I really have the guts to share a photo of myself in a bikini? But then I remembered that this has nothing to do with what I look like in a bikini. It’s about how I feel. And it’s not about whether you think I’m worthy of wearing one. It’s about me deciding that I’m worthy.
And if there’s anything I learned from the Aruba School of Bikini Bodies, it’s this: That’s the only thing that actually matters.
For more on body acceptance, read When It Comes to Health, When Is Enough ENOUGH?.