Kate’s Body is Just Asking for a Bikini
The next guest blogger is my favourite writer on the web right now, so you can imagine I was pretty elated when she agreed to do a guest post for the Bikini Confidence Series. (Seriously, I jump on her blog immediately every time new content pops up on my reader.) Kate blogs at Eat the Damn Cake where she evaluates the relationship between women and their appearance, remarks something that she loves about herself with her Un-roasts, and collects photos of women eating cake (like mine) in her cake gallery. Her bikini story reflects on how she reverted from insecurity about her body back to the positive self-image she held as a young girl.
A Brief History of My Relationship With Bikinis:
Samantha’s relationship with bikinis is inspiring. They should make a movie about her journey. And, as a result, more women should go out and buy the bikinis they feel like they shouldn’t wear.
The whole idea that only some people “can” wear something, and everyone else is not allowed to is really obnoxious. It’s pretty clear that a lot of clothing is designed for a single body type (you know the one. Tall, graceful, malnourished, possibly on the brink of death. Or at least tall and slender). And it’s also pretty clear that bodies look all different. And lastly, I think we can all agree that pretty much everyone is wearing skinny jeans anyway. So we’re breaking the rules constantly. Except for me, because I still can’t figure out how to get the jeans past my ankles. They’re way too skinny.
But bikinis, on the other hand, seemed at first to be made for my body. I got my first one when I was ten or so. It was black, and I thought it was really sexy. Until I saw my best friend Emily’s bikini, which was plaid, and even smaller. It looked much more grownup. We traded, in what I thought was the coup of the century. I cackled evilly to myself, hid the bikini in the bottom drawer of my dresser, and never wore it. It was too scandalous. I knew my mother wouldn’t approve. She might take it away. And the bikini was too precious to risk losing.
By the time I was fourteen, I was wearing bikinis, rather than hiding them, and I was sure every boy who saw me in one fell immediately in love. Or lust. Either one was fine. I had no breasts to speak of, and a long torso, and one-pieces didn’t really fit right, but bikinis made me feel free.
I looked forward to summer. Thinking back on it, it wasn’t that I’d determined that, objectively, I had the ideal body for a bikini, it was that I was just proud of my body, and a bikini showed much more of what I was proud of than regular clothes. There wasn’t anything about my body in particular that was exceptional—I just liked it a lot. And I liked knowing that I liked it, and knowing that I looked comfortable.
Because I was an unschooler, and didn’t spend a lot of time in a crowd of my peers, I didn’t have a lot of other female bodies my age to compare myself to, and I wasn’t exposed to the judgment of a bunch of boys. I didn’t know where I ranked, and it didn’t occur to me that I had to rank at all.
Now that attitude seems almost impossible to have maintained, and I’m a little shocked by my past self, for being both so unaware and so fantastically healthy.
During college, I realized that in order to wear a bikini, one had to be more than just thin and confident. There were a certain kind of breasts that were involved in the look. A certain kind of butt. A certain silhouette (mastered by that girl who posed for all the mud flaps). Legs with specific measurements. The list went on and on. At the beach, I was tugging self-consciously at the wet cloth, trying to cover more of myself. I grabbed a towel.
I bought shorts for the bottom half, and a padded top. I tried to keep my clothes on for as long as possible. My body wasn’t something to be shown off anymore. The only bodies for showing off were the perfect ones. My body needed a lot of work. It needed to be carefully defended and protected. If it was set free it might run around humiliating me.
And it only got worse. I gained weight. My stomach stuck out for the first time.
This past March my fiancé and I went on a vacation that included a beach. I had to dig up an old bikini for the occasion. I hadn’t worn it in ages. It was black. And tiny. And unpadded. It was a hand-me-down from a friend whose breasts it was unable to contain. I was not looking forward to wearing it. I was thinking about what I might wrap around myself, over the bikini.
And then there I was, in the ocean, naked except for a few shreds of black cloth, in all my awkwardness and imperfection. We were jumping over waves. It was a little like being ten again. And the boy beside me, obviously he had fallen madly in love (and lust) with me.
When we got out I didn’t pull the towel over myself right away. Instead, we went for a walk. I couldn’t undo the years of lessons I’d learned so well about the many ways in which I don’t look gorgeous, but I could begin to remember a different way of experiencing myself. I felt a familiar hint of pride at having this body, not because of any one thing about it, but because it was mine, and I liked myself. I liked the way I fit together. And it seemed a little absurd that I had ever begun to compare myself to every other woman. As though I could ever be anyone but myself! As though anyone could ever wear a bikini quite like me.
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Un-roast: Today I love my long torso. It’s just asking for a bikini.
This post is part of the Bikini Confidence Series. If you missed them, check out the other guest posters:
And, of course, my own Bikini Birthday post!
If you have a story to share about your own struggles with body image or your opinion on how women’s body image is affected by media or society please feel free to e-mail me your idea at firstname.lastname@example.org.