Last year around this time, the promise of summer filled the air and a sunny surprise arrived in my mailbox—a Victoria’s Secret bathing suit catalogue. I assessed it curiously, wondering how my name even wound up on the mailing list. I didn’t think they sold Hanes Her Way underwear.
I flipped through the sexy suits casually. For years, decades really, I’ve wanted to wear a bikini. In my mind I saw the perfect one. It was bubblegum pink with those ’70s strings hanging from the sides of the bottoms. I also imaged the smooth, thin, tanned legs that those sexy ties would be resting against, as well as the long, lean torso showcased in the middle.
This would explain why – besides three times in my distant memory – I have never worn a bikini. The fantasy is not the reality, and for a long time I was the kind of girl who thought if you can’t do something right, don’t do it. I’m still sort of that kind of girl.
Thus, years of swim dresses and cover-ups ensued. I even successfully managed to go without wearing a bathing suit for an entire summer – twice. Of course, all of this is unnecessary. I could certainly comfortably wear a swim suit, but that doesn’t mean that I was comfortable doing it. Also, since I dislike the water – both pool and ocean – it turns out bathing suits are easier to avoid than you’d imagine.
But on page 29 of the catalogue, a pink and green string bikini caught my eye. I lingered on the page; silently coveting, and felt a shift within me.
I wanted that suit.
I couldn’t believe it. Now that I was almost 45 and had had three children come out my pooched, overstretched stomach, I was going to cave? Was this some trick of middle age? I knew I couldn’t see distance well anymore, but could I no longer see myself clearly either? Did I really think I could get away with this?
Logically the answer was no, at least not in the way I’d like to, yet still I felt gripped by urgency. This was probably my last chance to wear something like this before middle age really set in around the middle.
Before I could think anymore, I went online and ordered the suit. When it came I was flush with happiness … until the next week, when I had the opportunity to wear it. In public.
Now or never, I kept telling myself as I eyed my safe floral swim dress. Now or never.
With trepidation, I put on the bikini, along with a nice cover-up that I didn’t plan to take off. But when I got to the beach and saw the myriad of bodies, I felt bold. I was a woman over forty. I was tired of being a prisoner to my warped self-image. I was tired of being ashamed.
I didn’t exactly rip off my cover-up and go romping through the sand singing “I’m Every Woman,” but I did lie on my lounge chair for the world to see, simultaneously feeling proud, sexy and terrified to move. On my next outing, I actually stood up and walked near the water.
In fact, I wore my bikini all last summer and felt so good that I just ordered myself a new one.
This time in blue.