I have never worn a bikini in my life.
I tried one on but once on a pre- summer-camp shopping trip with my grandmother who waited outside while I squished myself into a tasteful two piece. Then, as now, I privately dug my primo curves, the way the band of flesh between tops and bottoms had the appearance and consistency of a cumulus cloud. But one look at my grandmother's face when I exited the dressing room told me what I've never forgotten: that girls that look like me don't wear bikinis.
Since that day, I've gained and lost at least 100 pounds, hips and stomach spreading out like an expanding spill, then retracting to reveal my bones rising to the top like an uncovered fossil. The body I have today is a body that has seen some shit.
And yes, there were nights spent crying over the loose skin dripping off my back and stomach like a melting candle, especially when I first lost the weight and looked like I was about to unzip my ill-fitting human suit to reveal my alien identity.
When it comes to actually having surgery, a part of me would like to, but the larger lazier part of me is like "I got a man" you know? And all in all I am cool with what I've got going on underneath my clothes. It works right, people I am having sex with seem to like it OK and I have eaten so many delicious things in my life. Still, what I am about to show you leaves me feeling way more vulnerable than the contents of my fifth-grade diary. My stomach, strechmarks, sagging skin and all:
But all this talk of "bikini body" this and "swimsuit season" that has started to get under my (loose) skin lately. Have I not a body? And can it fit not in a bikini? Yea verily, I say! I'm a human girl, not some creature of the bikini-less underworld. So when I saw this awesome 50s-inspired suit from Unique Vintage, available in sizes 6-16, I decided to take the plunge. (Swimming pun!)
I lost my nerve a bit the first time I put the suit on before the planned Fourth of July road test. It was high-waisted enough to cover a good bit of my stomach, but that fish-belly strip of midriff that had literally never been exposed to the sun before looked so vulnerable, much like my body confidence. I came out of the bathroom tentatively and stopped before my boyfriend with a bit lip and an "I don't know..."
"What? You look good to me," he said, with a slight eyebrow wriggle of "possibly getting some later." God bless the sh*t out of that sweet, sweet man.
When it came time to take the show out on the road, I felt nervous but prepared as I pulled some shorts on over the suit and prepared to hit the aweomely kitsch-y pool at our Wildwood hotel.
I'd decided to test the suit out right away when we arrived because a) I could eat my face off with impunity knowing the photos were in the can, and b) I hoped that the pool area would be less crowded on a Friday afternoon, keeping me from collecting a crowd of onlookers assuming I am some kind of famous bikini model.
Unfortunately, the small crowd included some bro-ish looking teen boys, for whom I took my cover-up off kind of sexy-like, because I am often performative when extremely self-conscious. (It's amazing how some moaning and thrashing really draws attention away from perceived body flaws.)
Initial photos thus snapped, I settled in to experience my bikini from the vantage point of a poolside lounge chair, where I quickly discovered something that probably should have been obvious. In hot weather, the more naked skin you're rocking, the better you feel.
And it's not just the breeze on my belly. While I love my retro one-piece, just the sheer act of wearing the bikini makes me feel...well, sexy. And girlish! Playful! Like winking at the whole concept of a bathing suit.
If it weren't for the picture-taking aspect of the exercise, I don't think I would have felt self-concious at all. Well, except that I really did not want to show you the back view. But what's interesting about seeing people with perfect bodies in bikinis? That article is called Maxim magazine.
Ta-da! I participated in a ritual of girlhood, love handles be damned. And I recommend it! Because if there's one thing I've learned from working at xoJane, it's that a "beach body" is whatever body you take to the beach.