I don’t want to write about bikinis. I want to write about the amazing blue cheese dressing I made with buttermilk! (For some reason, I think buttermilk is the coolest thing ever.) And the pizza I found myself absentmindedly dipping in it until I’d eaten a whole piece like that.
I want to write about little victories and subtle triumphs. But there’s a bikini in the back of my mind, its strings tangling in my thoughts, its sliver of a bottom giving my brain a wedgie.
The thing is, I keep lying. Because I’m embarrassed.
This month, my husband Bear and I are going on a trip with my family. My parents won the trip, to a beautiful house in the Virgin Islands, in a synagogue raffle. My brothers and their girlfriends are coming, too. I can’t wait. I am imagining the ocean and that sudden sense of eternity that engulfs you when you look at it. You have to look away, because it’s too big.
Also, I will be wearing a bikini, I’m assuming. Since I have never found a one-piece that was a match for my long torso. Since I am young and sexy and perfectly capable of wearing a bikini.
I haven’t worn one in a long time. I pretend to myself that that’s the real issue here. The elapsed time. I’m just uncomfortable because it’s been a while. But that’s not the whole truth. I haven’t worn a bikini since I gained weight. Since I gained enough weight to bring me above my heaviest ever weight.
I promise, I am not obsessed. I am not that superficial. I am thinking about all of the things that people are supposed to actually think about. I am working, and cooking
dinner, and agonizing about my career, and waiting for this site to get back to me about paying me more than this incredibly tiny sum of money that makes me feel like I’m a college student working a summer job, and wondering if I’m doing the right things, and feeling relieved that I’m not in grad school anymore, and hoping there’s still some strawberry ice cream in the freezer, and wondering how we run through paper napkins SO fast, and imagining myself as a really great mother, and imagining myself immediately losing all of my friends and most of my mind as soon as I have a baby, and worrying about Bear’s blood sugar, and feeling rejected by the last publication that rejected me, and thinking about how life is actually absurdly short and then I will die and death is the most unbelievable thing in the world, even though it’s so ordinary. And during all of this, there’s this very small, very distant fragment of my brain that has been assigned the sole task of worrying about wearing a bikini. That’s all it does. It just sits there worrying about bikinis.
Here are its major concerns:
My pubic hair. What to do with it? Why don’t I know this yet? Shaving leaves all these little red bumps, and I want to scratch them. I have never gotten waxed and I’m scared at the thought and also slightly opposed to it for reasons I could explain but don’t want to right this second but have something to do with lying on a table with my vagina exposed to a stranger who is about to rip parts of it off.
My belly, of course. It sticks out.
Potentially, my butt .It sticks out a lot and a bikini bottom is no match for it.
Definitely my thighs. They are jiggly.
Also my arms. Yes, this is weird. But when I start to think this way about things, I think about how my arms look big compared to my breasts, which look small, especially
without the support and padding that all of my bras so generously come with.
Which brings me to my breasts. Can they hold their own? The arms are so nearby.
Actually, when you get right down to it, I think it’s possible that I have worried about my nose in a bikini. Do I have the right face for it? Lesser concerns also involve the length of my legs, potential positions I can lie in on the beach that might make my breasts do that weird thing that doesn’t actually count as cleavage but looks like a tragically lopsided desperate attempt at it.
What the hell?
This is a mess. What is the deal with bikinis?
Well, for one, they’re almost like not wearing anything at all, except you’re doing it in front of other people. And for two—actually, I think that was the main thing. It’s the almost-naked thing in front of the other people thing. That’s the big one.
It is so hard to be the way I actually look, exposed, in front of other people.
Which is a little disheartening. After all, I thought I was getting good at accepting my body, belly, thighs, nose, arms, and all. But bikini brain is making me wonder if maybe I’ve only just become more comfortable covering my belly with reassuringly protective cloth. If maybe I am not so far along after all. If there is a long, bikini-scattered road ahead of me.
Changing in front of a friend, I turn surreptitiously, shielding my belly, fighting the urge to glance down at my squishy thighs, to see how bad it all is in this moment.
Damn it. There is nothing wrong with the way I look. So why am I hiding? I have written so many words about not hiding. I cut off all my hair to stop myself from trying to hide. So what is the deal?
The deal, I guess, is that self-acceptance and confidence are not a ladder with total self-love at the top. They are not a straight path with a palace full of chocolate and mirrors and pure joy at the end. They are not deciding to feel better about your belly and then throwing on a bikini a couple months later in the Virgin Islands, and running down the beach, legs flying, pubic hair flowing in the wind, arm fat bouncing happily, as you yell, “I am me! I am me! I am MEEE!”
Or maybe they are, but only after several strong mojitos.
And since I am a baby and can never get through more than one, I think I have to admit that it might not be so simple.
I won’t lie about this. I am not finished. I am not at the end of a journey. I’m wading around in the mud somewhere off the path. I am slogging forward. Sometimes I stop to play. Sometimes I am just lost.
Some days I feel like a bombshell. Some days I am just fine. Some days I think I understand myself better. Many days, I don’t give any of it a second thought. And some days, I am nervous about being exposed. Maybe I was fooling everyone. Maybe they thought I was thinner. Maybe they thought I was hotter. Maybe they were imagining that I was toned. Maybe I was imagining myself that way.
It’s true, I’m not confident about my body in a bikini, in front of my family and my brothers’ slender college girlfriends and whoever else happens to be on the beach that day. But I am confident enough to admit that I’m not there yet. Not to hide behind my embarrassment. I am confident enough to realize that the problem is my worrying, and not my belly. I am confident enough now, after writing so many words about beauty and self-acceptance, to address my own fear, no matter how silly it may seem.
And maybe it isn’t so silly. After all, whole industries subsist—thrive– on women’s fear of weighing too much in a bikini.
As for the pubic hair, I still have no idea. Maybe I’ll just keep my legs really close together? I mean probably no one will even notice unless they’re really looking, right?