Sunday, August 3


I do realize that what with September a month away and back-to-school clothes invading the malls that it's a little late in the summer to be talking about bathing suits. But since it's "Anything Goes" week here at TFC, and that's what's on my mind, here goes:

The (Barely Abridged) History of Me and Swimsuits.

My first bathing suit - well, after the topless number they used to throw me in the kiddie pool in when I was a toddler - was a white one-piecer with a red and blue diagonal strip from shoulder to hip, bearing the legend: MISS AMERICA. I can still see a picture in my mind of myself leaning against the pool ladder, hand on hip, flowered bathing cap on head. You just know that pot-bellied little girl was sure her destiny was to win a pageant. A really big pageant.

It being the sixties, and my mother being fashion forward, I was soon wearing bikinis on a regular basis. Not necessarily flattering, since I still had that pot-belly on and off, but I also had sunglasses with interchangeable psychedelic lenses and a suede shoulder bag with lots of dangling hippie fringe, not to mention white go-go boots, so I was willing to accept the unflattering bad with the funky good.

Then puberty hit early, at age 10, and my well-documented 36Cs and I started feeling a little self-conscious, so I took to wearing those skirted one-piecers or whatever I could find that was more conservative.

When I was 12 things got a bit interesting. One of my classmates was extremely wealthy, her parents owned an Olympic-sized pool on an independent piece of property, and sometimes for gym class we'd go there to swim. One day I forgot my suit and my friend insisted I try her older sister's: a rather revealing (for then) halter-style bikini with little knots on the hips and at the cleavage. Looking in the mirror of her cabana that day was a revelation: I looked good. Somehow I'd missed that I'd actually acquired a waistline along the way, the pot-belly disappearing. Who knew I could look like that? It's amazing though how quickly self-satisfaction can turn to mortification. I loved diving, my friend had an amazing diving board, I executed my trademark swan/bellyflop, and when I put my hands on the concrete surrounding the pool, and started to pull my body out of the water in order to take another assault on that diving board, I discovered that the force of my dive had caused me to lose the top of my bathing suit.

The rest of my eighth-grade class, especially the boys, made the discovery when I did.

I took to wearing T-shirts over my bathing suits whenever I went swimming. It's impossible to dive yourself out of T-shirts.

And as I grew older, and the T-shirts began to look ridiculous, it was back to one-piecers, except for a few years in my late twenties/early thirties, my anorexic phase, when wearing a bikini to show off my skinniness was just too great a temptation. It wasn't much of a bikini really, in terms of sex appeal, more like what you might see a track-and-field althlete wear these days, but it made me ridiculously happy.

Then I got really sick and put on weight, then I got pregnant and put on weight, then after the baby I still kept a lot of the weight, so it was just one-piecers from there on in.

Last week I decided that after wearing the same suit for three summers, and with vacation around the corner, it was time to get a new suit, if only so that I'd look different in the pictures. My eight-year-old daughter went with me and the first thing she wanted to know was, "Are you going to get another one-piece or a bikini?" I laughed. I am, after all, 46 now. "I think I'm past the point where I can wear a bikini," I said, still laughing at the idea. This puzzled her. "But anyone can wear a bikini," she said.

I was about to answer "What planet are you on, kid?" when it struck me: she did live on a different planet than the one I'd grown up on. And not just because having inherited her father's height and natural thinness, she'd probably never have to debate whether she could wear something or not in her entire life. It was more than that. It was the epiphany about the pool we go to: that no matter what the size or shape of the girls or the women there, a large percentage of them now wore bikinis. As if rather than worrying about what everyone else thought about their imperfections, they were wearing what they wanted for the sheer joy of it; you know, that great summer feeling of - skin cancer, be damned! - sun on naked skin. Just like 34 years before I'd somehow missed the acquisition of my own waistline, I'd somehow missed that - maybe, maybe - other girls and women had grown more mature and liberated attitudes about their own bodies.


So I bought a bikini.

So now the only thing I have to worry about is the fact that, having worn a one-piecer all summer and having my first real tan in decades, when I put on the bikini I've got just about the weirdest two-tone look you can imagine: bronze shoulders, fishbelly-white belly.

Ah, well. It'll never be perfect and I'll never be perfect, but I'll have fun. Who cares what anyone else thinks?


Be well. Don't forget to write.


Melissa Walker said...

bikinis are cool because they say, "so what?" if .5% of the population has that bikini body, then i say change the bikini body. let's all wear bikinis! also, the esther williams style suits, (which are coming back!) are completely flattering and gorgeous.

Wendy Toliver said...

I am always self-conscious in a bikini. I don't know, maybe it's because I'm a mountain girl who rarely makes it to the beach. Or perhaps I'd be more comfortable in my own skin if my skin were tanner. Either way, I love going to the beach and pool and usually wear a little dress, skirt, or shorts while not in the water. And since I almost always have a little monkey hanging on my neck, I opt for bathing suits with staying-on power. :)

Lauren Baratz-Logsted said...

Melissa, what a great attitude!

Wendy, I miss the days when mine was small enough to be a monkey around my neck.

Gerb said...

Bikinis are not my friends. Seriously. Even though I believe in being comfortable with the skin you're in. So, although I LOVE my bikini book cover, it is so not me. But it did provide fodder for one of the funniest reader comments during a school visit last spring. One 8th-grader, book in hand, eyed the bikini cover, looked at me and my matronly figure, looked back at the cover and asked, "How old were you when you wrote this book?" Snerk!

Lauren Baratz-Logsted said...

OMG, Gerb!

Wendy Toliver said...

Gerb, that is hilarious!

Alyson Noel said...

I LOVE bikinis!
No I don't look near as good in them as I did BACK THEN, but who cares? I refuse to give them up!

Glad you're back on board the bikini train Lauren!

And Gerb- that story was hilarious!

Lauren Baratz-Logsted said...

Work it, Alyson!

Stephanie Kuehnert said...

When I was a tween, I had one of those almost bikinis because that was as revealing as my mother allowed. Does anyone remember this kind of suit? It was basically a one piece with the stomach and back cut out. Or a tank-style bikini where the two parts tied together on the side, however you want to look at it.

I got my first bikini in high school, but didn’t go to the pool very much, too busy doing activities that kept me pale rather than tan. I was rather obsessed with the pale thing, even though at ten, I spent everyday at the pool, reading my book during rest periods and alternating between my back and my stomach. I remember being obsessed about tanning over my chicken pox scars. Now I like the sun again, though I don’t actively tan so I’m still on the whiter side. Sometimes I’m still insecure about my body (though the summer after I’d obsessively gone to this ab lab class, I was sooooo hot even I couldn’t find a flaw with myself), but the main reason I like rockin’ a bikini now? It’s the only thing that shows off all of my tattoos at once!

Really great post though, Lauren. I like thinking about attitudes changing. It’s a really positive thing. As someone who struggled with self-image all her life, it makes me happy to know more women and girls are feeling secure, as they should because we are all beautiful!!!

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