I got my first bikini when I was 19. I wasn’t allowed to wear bikinis as a kid, and my confidence levels wouldn’t have allowed me to wear one, anyway. My sophomore year of college, three girlfriends and I moved into an apartment complex with a pool, and the girls convinced me to buy a bikini. After a long day of shopping with my patient roommates, I bought my very first two-piece. I wore it for a few summers, and I added a few more bikinis to my swimsuit collection. I even bought a skimpy one for my honeymoon, because that’s what you do, right? (There will be no original pictures in this post, by the way. I have students who read this. So you get some random comics I found on the Internet. You’re welcome.)
But here’s the thing: I’ve never felt comfortable in a bikini. I wore them in college because my friends told me I looked “hot.” I wore them in my 20s for the same reason, and because I thought I was supposed to. But I’ve always felt too naked in a bikini. The first time I went swimming with my brother in college, I was so embarrassed when I took off the shirt covering my swimsuit that I couldn’t wait to jump in the water. Walking around in Mexico with my in-laws, I wanted to crawl in a hole when I couldn’t find my cover-up. I felt like they were seeing parts of my body that just shouldn’t be seen by family.
This discomfort has little to do with body image. As I’ve gotten closer to 30 (less than a month now…), I’ve learned to love and accept my body. Of course I can still obsess over flaws, but I’m not letting myself do that anymore, because it does no good. I know I can wear a bikini, but I don’t really want to. Ironically, though, in the last few years I’ve felt even more obligated to wear a bikini, thanks to the body positivity movement. Don’t get me wrong: I love the movement. I think it’s fantastic that women are being encouraged to accept their bodies and embrace their own beauty even if it doesn’t fit society’s narrow definition of “beauty.” (Related note: my new favorite Instagram page is @effyourbeautystandards. They post pictures of gorgeous women of all shapes, sizes, and skin tones. Go check them out.) But I also think that sometimes the movement implies that you have to wear a bikini to prove that you love your body. And that’s just not true.
By the time you read this, I’ll be on a cruise in the Caribbean (you’re allowed to be jealous). I did pack my bikinis, because I need more than one swimsuit (putting back on a wet swimsuit grosses me out) and I am a cheapskate who won’t throw out a perfectly good swimsuit. But I also bought a new tankini. It’s cute, and flattering, and most importantly, I feel comfortable walking around in it.
I truly believe that if you want to wear a bikini, you should rock it! But you don’t have to wear a bikini to prove that you love your body. You can be beautiful in a tankini, or a one-piece, or a mumu if that’s what you feel like wearing. If it makes you feel good, wear it, regardless of what other people –on either side of the argument — think about you.
What type of swimsuit is your favorite to wear?
Have you ever worn something you weren’t comfortable in just because you felt like you were “supposed to” wear it?