It's typically early April when we start hearing about “beach bodies” as applied to the carefully-sculpted shapes of famously beautiful women. I hate this term. It suggests that a body that is beach-worthy must adhere to certain standards, or else be rendered unbeachable.
I have a beach body. It’s this one, the one I take to the beach, and it’s fat as all get-out, and I don’t give a crap if OK! shows up to photograph the backs of my thighs in all their rumply horror, because I AM AT THE DAMN BEACH and you can pry my good beach-going time from my cold dead hands.
Where I live, beach season comprises roughly one-sixth of the entire year, and if you think I am going to waste one second of that precious span worrying about whether the colorblocking on my suit is going to trick people into believing I’m shaped like Gisele Bundchen, then think again.
Of course, some swimsuit anxiety is normal. Wearing a swimsuit in public is getting pretty close to naked, and given the pressure not only to be a certain size, but to be shaped a certain way (and to have “good skin” and a lack of body hair and and and) it’s understandable that all activities involving swimwear, from shopping for it to wearing it, might be emotionally loaded. But you don’t have to be overwhelmed by the anxiety! Really. I have some tips on this.
1. Love your swimwear, even if nobody else does. Locate a suit you actually like. If you’re a sleek Speedo tank kind of lady, I support your choice, but I want my suit to have a little embellishment. Some polka dots. Maybe a ruffle. You may have to shop online. You may have to make one yourself, or alter one you already own. A trend currently rampant amongst many of my friends is making DIY bikinis from old one-piece swimsuits. It may be difficult. But for the purposes of warding off discomfort, a high-cut retro bikini that makes you feel like Jayne Mansfield trumps that flowered one-piece every time.
2. Ignore "rules" for what you're allowed to wear. Rules are arbitrary and ridiculous. You dig a retro swimdress? Wear it, even if your grandma has the same one. You want to strut around in a bikini? Do it, even if you have to make it yourself because it doesn't exist in your size. If you like colorblocking or loud floral prints, by all means wear them, and if you enjoy the extra support of that powermesh suck-you-in swimwear, then go for it. But don’t do either because you think they’re hiding your body, or that your body needs to be camouflaged or compressed. Your body is fine.
3. Your body is fine. Seriously. I don’t care what it looks like. Your body is fine, and if you see imperfections and so-called “problem areas” in it, know that you’re probably the only person focusing on them. It’s easy to zero in on the spots we don’t like. But the fact is that all bodies are different, and that’s normal.
4. They're (probably) not looking at you. Well, some people will be looking at you. But they are probably just wondering where you got your bag, or thinking your swimsuit is adorable, or admiring your hair, or are curious as to what time it is (these are all real comments I’ve gotten from staring strangers on the beach). Nobody will be judging you as harshly as you may be judging yourself. And if someone IS judging you, either for your choice of swimwear or the size or shape of your body, then they’re being a jerk and trying to kill your good time, so their opinions can be casually dismissed.
5. Body-policing is never OK. Don’t judge other people, not for their choice of swimwear or for the size or shape of their bodies. Not only does this make you kind of a jerk too, but it will also contribute to you feeling more self-conscious yourself. When we hold others to ridiculously high standards of appearance, it raises our own anxiety. If you’re made uncomfortable by the idea of someone making rude comments about your appearance, then don’t make them about anyone else. Snarking on the fat girl in the bikini may give you a temporary feeling of superiority, but ultimately doing so reinforces the idea that it’s okay to police other people’s bodies. And it’s not.