I’m typically excellent about doing things that scare me. I know, from observation, most people feel serious world-stopping doubt in the face of acting out their fears. From flying to karaoke, I’ve witnessed friends, family, and strangers completely shut down and melt down. And it’s not that I don’t understand. In a cerebral sort of way, I really do. But there’s some button hiding deep inside me meant to keep me from cliff diving or getting a tattoo that is permanently switched off. So, when I get the opportunity to do something that scares me, I do it. I wish I could describe how and become a best selling author of books on how to face fears. But I can’t. The words for it are stuck behind some metaphorical brick wall that is only going to be breached by another 10 years or so in deep (maybe even group) therapy.
And so we come to bikinis. I have longed, ever since puberty, to wear a bikini. They come in adorable cuts and stylish colors and patterns. For years I desperately swam in the bathing suit pages of the J.Crew catalog dreaming. The origins of my bikini longing are neither to garner more masculine attention nor to show off my incredibly feminine figure. What I would really like, more than anything, is to have tan lines that actually mesh with my normal human bean clothes. Some of you are scoffing, saying that there are one piece bathing suits out there that would afford good tan lines. Some of you are adding that two piece tankinis are both stylish and tan-friendly. You would be wrong. I’ve done the research. And for my empirical efforts, I have three different tan lines up around my bum; two, maybe three, odd shapes on my lower back; a stark white abdomen; and indescribable things going on in the cleavage and shoulder area.
Understandably, some of you are getting a little miffed at the sheer frivolity of all this tan-line talk. Let me point something out. I live in Southern California. This is the home of 365-day-a-year shorts and spaghetti strap attire. Mark my words, I’m not complaining. I hail from a state in the northeast that is either death by blizzard or humidity induced mosquito swarms. I’ll take tan lines any day of the week and double on Sundays. But, from where I’m standing, tan lines are an issue.
It was recently pointed out to me — by a man who shall remain nameless but lives with me and sees me naked — that my chaotic map of tan lines is getting a little out of hand. To his credit, it was said in the nicest way possible. And he cooks me dinner. I explained the problem at hand. The only way to even out the canvas is to wear a bikini. And I do not have a bikini body. Even after gastric bypass surgery and loosing 26 (but who’s counting) pounds recently, I just don’t have what, in my mind, might be passable. I have stretch marks from a lifetime of obesity and carrying a pregnancy. I have scars from my two stomach surgeries. I have what I like to lovingly refer to as flubber. But, worse than any of those, I have a lifetime of fat abuse from family, the media, and myself.
I grew up with women who ranged in weights and sizes from average to obese. Even the average-sized women never would have bought a bikini. I was taught, from an incredibly early age, that bikinis were for young, skinny (and I do mean skinny rather than fit), busty girls. And I was taught that I did not apply. Rather vehemently. It’s hard to describe how subtle emotional abuse can be when it’s happening. For me, it was being told that my shoulders were too broad and I looked like a linebacker or having the fat of my stomach grabbed. Or being told to buy a black bathing suit because it would be slimming. Over and over again for years, well into adulthood.
The upshot is that I’m scared of bikinis.
Today I decided to put on my magic ring and use my superpower. I decided to wear a bikini. Except, I don’t own a bikini. My bathing suits, because they are many, are an oddly cobbled together lot at the moment. I have a tankini from Old Navy that is too big. But I kept wearing it until my son actually pulled the bottoms off while playing at our apartment complex’s public pool. I have a one piece, slightly sexy number which has grown alarming big at the openings around my bum. So that’s out too. I have a top that I got from a thrift store because, let’s get real, bathing suits are expensive. The top fits okay and has straps for when I’m playing with my son because nobody wants a rehash of the last “pulling down” incident. And I have some bottoms that, oddly, are juniors sized and came from Walmart, again, because they were cheap.
I have bottoms but I don’t have a bikini top. And I don’t plan on buying one until I see how this whole adventure pans out. But (LIGHTBULB!) I have a strapless underwire bra that stays in place and is black. Close enough old sport.
I felt really good when I put my Bride of Frankenstein bikini on. My objective opinion was that, while kinda flubbery and a dangerous shade of pale, I didn’t look half bad. That was when the negative little cretin who resides somewhere in my brain kicked in. Captain D-Bag, which is his official title, said that people were going to laugh and talk about me when my back was turned. Somebody would ask me to cover up. They would criticize my soft, pale body.
Then my superpower kicked Captain D-Bag in the testicles and proudly exclaimed that we were going anyway, consequences be damned. And I did. It wasn’t very busy at the pool, just a mother with her little girl and an older gentleman who was in dire need of a brochure on sun damage (like I’m one to talk). It wasn’t busy, but you can bet I felt like I had a hundred eyes on me while I, attempting to be casual, took off my shorts and shirt. And then you know what happened? Nothing. No jeers. No ticker tape parade. As I got into the pool, the mother made some casual chit-chat with me. I swam a bit and then laid out on a chaise reading magazines until the shadows of early evening started bearing down on me.
And really, most of the time, that’s how it is when I use my superpower to do the things that scare me. I get freaked out, do it anyway, and everything turns out fine. It’s a damn fine superpower to have.