Over to M
“I’m the kind who hates the bra police. The ones that tell you your beautifully coloured strap is showing. Yes, it’s showing because it’s part of my outfit, thank you, and I want it to show. But I did grow up in big bad Delhi, and still carry a jacket for covering up in public spaces when I’m wearing anything that exposes anything other than currently permissible body parts. I’m part of the new breed of women who refuse to behave and dress their age, and who won’t roll over and be tired just because they’ve hit the big five oh. But I had never dreamed that I would wear a bikini- or not until I had that perfect bikini bod, anyway, which would likely be ummm never.
I’m the opposite of tall and willowy. I guess you could call me small and wide/curvy, but parts of my body shimmy when I walk. When I dress right, you wouldn’t know it, but it’s there behind the clothes.
This year I went to meet a friend who lives near the sea in a surprisingly warm part of Europe. While packing I was hit by my FOIC [fear of imagined cold] and of course didn’t pack any swimwear because the weather report [I imagined] said it would be cool. Also I had no idea I was going near the sea.
On day 1 she wanted to show me a beautiful beach. I’m a lazy bum when it comes to shopping and she’s not mad about it either. Given the choice between buying swimwear and using hers, I hoped for the impossible that I would fit into something of hers. Did I mention that she’s about 8 inches taller than me and very slender? It didn’t even strike me that she’d only have bikinis. She offered me 5 different impossible options of swimwear that were to cover a teeny tiny part of my body. I tried on the one that had a sliver of extra fabric, convinced myself that I’d read enough of the “How do you know if you have a bikini body? Wear a bikini and voila, you have a bikini body” kind of slogans. And besides, what kind of a feminist was I if I was so body conscious. And why did I care what others thought etc etc.
So we went to the first beautiful beach. And we changed into our bikinis behind a rock. Already that felt wonderfully wicked, even though no one else cared. And the earth didn’t open up. And nobody stared at me. And I felt quite beautiful even though I was spilling out of my clothes. And we had a conversation with a stranger and I asked him to take a photo of us. And we chatted with a group about everything and nothing. And after a bit it all felt really normal. It helped that people there had all kinds of bodies. People with jiggly wiggly stomachs, and breasts, and bottoms and tops. And little and big love handles. And the svelte tall perfect bodied ones too. All co-existing quite easily and without an overt sense of hierarchy. I checked with my friend if there was a secret code I was missing and she said not. Maybe not seeing enough real women in a bikini made me unconsciously think that the only people who wore stuff like this, were the ones I’ve seen in films etc- the ones with the perfect bodies. No one seemed self-conscious and I decided not to be self-conscious too. It felt really good and free. I look back at our photos and smile at the happiness on our faces. And I carry some of the ease in my body. Intellectually I knew all the ‘right’ things I should think, but emotionally experiencing my own acceptance of my so called imperfect body, was a whole different pleasure.”