Finding a well fitting one-piece bathing suit for most women is difficult. Being over 6’ tall with different sizes on top and bottom, I have found it to be nearly impossible. Having to resort to a bikini was not something I always wanted to do. I have found that being comfortable in the water and being comfortable with what I have on my body are two very different things.
As a teen, I was super scrawny and had no trouble fitting into one pieces and tankinis that did the job. I never cared much how they looked, as long as they stayed in place whilst swimming. I still remember my favourite one-piece. Dark blue with a zipper up the back, the kind you might find on a wet suit. It made me feel like a scuba diver, and with aspirations of being a marine biologist, that is exactly how I wanted to feel. When I turned 18 however, I felt that maybe it was time to get a “grown up” bathing suit, which is how I viewed bikini tops. Now when I say bikini, I don’t mean tiny triangles of fabric held together by string. I am more for robust bikini tops. Something with good coverage, support, and most importantly, something that stays on in the water.
I made up my mind that I would buy my first bikini top at some point during my Grade 12 trip in the Niagara area. A shopping trip to the Penn Centre in St. Catharines was the perfect opportunity to browse all of the options . . . . if I was someone that liked to shop for clothes. So instead of looking at what different stores had to offer, I walked into Garage and grabbed the first top that I saw. A brown halter bikini with pink flowers on it. Pink? Really? At 18 I was even more against everything pink than I am now! Despite my unfortunate colour choice, I was very excited about getting a bikini top. I told everyone in my class. I’m sure they reeeaaallllyyy cared about my swimsuit purchase.
The next step was more difficult, actually wearing it. Some pool time was planned one of the nights at the hotel, so I had the opportunity to try out my new top. Pairing with my favourite boy short bottoms that usually accompanied a tankini, I nervously walked out of the bathroom and immediately wrapped myself in a towel. I felt so exposed! Modesty has always been important to me and I was wrestling with how it would appear with my midriff exposed. When I got to the pool, most of my classmates were already in the water, the girls in their bikinis. See, nothing to it! But instead of joining them, I shuffled over to the hot tub and quickly slipped in without anyone seeing me. I stayed there with a few friends, never showing more than my shoulders above the water.
Afterwards, one of the guys asked why I’d been hiding my new bathing suit in the hot tub. I told him about my worries of being immodest or that people would think I’m trying to show off. He said “People can tell if a girl is wearing a bikini to show off or if they are just wearing it as a bathing suit. They act different.” This really stuck with me. It made me look deeper into modesty, seeing it less about the clothes that are worn, but about the intention and attitude of the person wearing them.
For years after that, I continued to wear bikinis. Not because I wanted to, but because nothing else fit. I filled out as I got older, with wider hips and muscular thighs. Unfortunately, my top half didn’t get the memo. Being a small on the top, and a medium to large on the bottom, made trying on one pieces quite comical. I would usually start with a medium, which for some reason would have incredibly small leg holes. I’d be lucky if I could get them past my knees. I’d usually try to tug, hoping they might give a little more stretch, but the sound of ripping stitches usually had me reaching for the next size up. This, I could usually fit . . . on the bottom. I would get almost giddy and excitedly bring the straps up over my shoulders. But my spirits would drop as low as the sagging top the second I looked in the mirror. Now, I would laugh at the hilariously loose top that could likely accommodate 5 times the bust I had, but after trying on 7 suits with the same result, I would begin to feel like I was some sort of deformed monster. So I moved on to tankinis with a similarly disappointing result. Needing a smaller size on top meant that the bottom of the top wasn’t proportioned for my hips, causing it to roll up to my waist. So a bikini top, it must be.
Even after years of wearing a more revealing bathing suit, I am still extremely self-conscious. I am usually wrapped up in a towel, or wearing a shirt whenever I am not in the water. But I never really thought about what I was scared of until now.
When I look at this list, something jumps out right away. Each fear has to do with how other people may view me. Very likely, no one cares about how I look in a bikini. These worries come from deep seeded fears and lies in my head that I listen to way too often. So when these thoughts creep in, I will remind myself:
It all starts with accepting myself and my body for what it is. Something that is far from easy. If I can’t be comfortable in my own skin, then I will never truly be comfortable in anything I wear. So I will work on my self confidence and try not to worry about the opinions of others. Only when I accomplish that, will I learn to love my bikini. Will it be this month? This season? This year? I don’t know. But I am sure that I will get there one day.