Growing up, I was a competitive swimmer. My first real job was as a lifeguard. As an adult, I don’t think I’ve ever taken a vacation that didn’t involve a lake, beach, or pool of some kind. I love the water and have owned hundreds of swimsuits and yet I’ve never worn a bikini -- until now.
Among my many fears about wearing a bikini for the first time -- at the slightly less than perky age of 37 -- was the fact that I've never seen a bikini that I thought could prevent my breasts from going rogue and popping out of the top at the first cannonball. Enter "The Princess" by GabiFresh. The folks at Swim Suits For All kindly sent me one designed for bra sizes G/H, which seemed like a very promising start. A promising and flamingo-covered start.
Once I was convinced that I was fully contained, I was ready to stress out about the next item on my mental worry list: actually leaving my yard and venturing to the pool where other people could see me.
Back when I was a high school swimmer, I chose my swimsuits based on how fast they'd make me. Since I've had kids and and put on more than a few extra pounds, I've chosen my swimsuits based on how much of me they cover. I've started choosing my suits apologetically, going to all-black skirted numbers designed to hide as much of my body as possible, lest people be uncomfortable with the sight of my size 20 hips.
Somewhere along the line, I stopped choosing suits because they were pretty. I certainly never chose something because it made me look sexy. When you are plus-sized, it is all too easy to feel like sexy isn't an option. And then I put on The Princess and, hello boobs!
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I wish I could say that the sight of my rocking rack filled me with such confidence that I marched into the community pool without even a cover-up on, but the truth is that it takes more than one afternoon in a cute swimsuit to get comfortable in my stretch-marked skin. The walk from the side of the pool where I abandoned my towel to the shallow section where my son was waiting for me seemed incredibly long. I dropped my towel and felt the unfamiliar sensation of a breeze on my exposed stomach. I sucked in as much as possible and hustled over to the pool.
For the next hour, my son and I played. I was a shark, trying to nibble his toes under the water. He was a cannonball, trying to make the biggest splash. We pretended to be submarines, and under the water I felt free, certain that nobody was watching me or, even worse, laughing at me in my bikini. When it came time to get out of the pool, I hesitated about making that long walk again. But my son's chattering teeth and slightly blue lips told me it was time to go and so I got out of the pool and tried to walk with a confidence I didn't feel back to my beloved cover-up.
As I drove home from the pool with my chlorine-scented boy chattering away about how he couldn't wait to go swimming again soon, it occurred to me that I had survived. Nobody pointed at me. Nobody laughed in my face. No parents covered their children's eyes in alarm at the sight of my virgin cleavage. I was just another mom at the pool with her kid.
I don't know if I'll wear the bikini the next time we go swimming. But I also know that I'm ditching the black-skirted "please don't look at me" suit. Confidence is a process. I'm not sure I'm all the way at bikini-level confidence yet, but I'm for sure ready to add some color and fun back into my swimsuit wardrobe.
Come the summer, I'm going to be ready for some sunscreen and something a little flashier to wear for shark duty. No apologies.
Images via Rachel Farganis Photography; Wendy Robinson