"It took me a long time not to judge myself through someone else's eyes." ~Sally Field
Do you watch Girls? If so, do you remember the episode where the girls of Girls head to the North Fork for some R&R and Hannah spends the entire day in that green bikini? I have watched that episode from start to finish 19 times, and it was around the 11th viewing when my friend Ali posted to Facebook: “I cannot stop thinking of Hannah’s green bikini” and I popped up out of my constant recline (what? Whenever I’m home I lose all ability to sit up straight) and said “YES” which deserved all caps because I realized that I had to watch that episode over and over not because of the writing or the storyline or empathy on the progression/regression of friendship as an adult but because homegirl wore a green bikini for an entire episode. Never mind my questions on comfort and chafing but a woman who is not a size two rocked that bikini all over Long Island, and I wanted to give her a high five through my TV screen.
Obviously, I’ve seen a woman in a bikini before. I’ve even seen a larger woman in a bikini before, and you know what my thought is? Get it, girl. Will I be putting my ample ass into a bikini? NO. Because AMPLE. I tell myself that I shouldn’t be in a two-piece bathing suit. I don’t have the body for it. I can do yoga every day for the rest of my life, and while I will always be able to bend over and place two palms on the floor, I will never be lithe and graceful. I look at photos of myself or take a peek in a full-length mirror and say that perhaps I should do all a favor and stay away from anything that shows my mid-section. My body is very apple shaped, and everything goes straight to my stomach; no one needs to see all of that. So when Ali mentioned Lena Dunham in a green bikini, my natural response was this: I AM BUYING ONE.
And then I had an out-of-body moment where I was like, um, what? Who said that? And then I added exclamation points and went directly to the Forever 21 website and PURCHASED A BIKINI. And then it arrived and I was still like, this is not happening but we know F21’s return policy, or lack thereof, so I found myself the not-so-proud owner of the bombshell top in neon coral and the retro glam bottoms in black. And then I put that sucker in my bag and brought it to Miami, because why waste a perfectly good bathing suit even when you are going to a place known for its supremely beautiful people? I don’t know what they put in the water there, but no one’s thighs touch in Miami, and all the men have muscles and a six-pack. As I said; exactly as advertised.
When you are a woman of plus size, the idea of putting your body in a bikini is less than appealing. I had to take a Klonopin before putting on my bathing suit, because what would the others think? I, a woman who normally doesn’t give a damn as to the opinions of others, suddenly found myself reverting to my 11-year-old self. The 11-year-old who deemed herself fat so she swam in a giant T-shirt. Always with the T-shirts in the pool and on the beach. People ask if I ever wore a two-piece as a child, and I honestly have no idea, because every photo is of me in a giant tee but no pants. That’s how I spent my summers. Then there is the natural comparison to one’s stunning and hot friends. Somewhere, my traveling partner Jumana is reading this, and she’s going to be embarrassed that I referred to her as hot but let’s all be real here: She’s like a size 2 and I am like a size 2X and there would be no way on God’s green earth that I would be wearing a bikini next to her.
I’m sure you’re now wondering what I did with that bikini and all of my pent-up fear and anxiety and the body issues that I thought I had long gotten over:
I wore a bikini. That’s what I did.
SPOILER ALERT: I survived the ordeal. Though it wasn’t the profound, liberating experience with other women admiring me from afar and giving me a thumbs-up while I strutted my stuff on the beach. I was a woman in a bathing suit on a beach, with other women and men in their bathing suits on the beach, and we were all trying to forget our daily lives and remember what the sun feels like. I had read and heard about all of these other plus-size women—including dear friends—who put on a bikini and have this grand epiphany about their own body image and women and the human experience, and so, I thought I’d put on a bikini and discover the meaning of life. Instead, I discovered sunburns, and that it’s far easier to go to the bathroom when wearing two separate pieces as opposed to a one-piece. I’ve had Tuesday afternoons more exciting than wearing a bikini. I wore it, it looked cute, I took it off, the end. And then I purchased another one.
TL; DR: I am fat; I wore a bikini. I went about my day. How mundane this story is of a plus-size woman wearing a bikini is possibly the greatest discovery of all.
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