Time to Cancel the Swimsuit Issue

As a woman, I think bathing suit shopping is a nightmare. But not the way you would expect. The horror I experience has nothing to do with what I see in the fitting room. It’s what I hear: Body-bashing from a chorus of unfamiliar voices. Instant, TMZ-worthy critiques. I have come to believe the back areas of retail stores are actually self-loathing chat rooms.

“Look at my thighs! They’re huuuuge!”

“I’m paler than a stack of fresh printer paper.”

“Cellulite Central!”

“Side boobs.”

“Salute my arm flags.”

Cut it out, my dears. Just cut it out.

I’ve noticed two common themes in this constant commentary. 1. Shape—too big here, too small there, etcetera. Tons and tons of etcetera. 2. Skin—too pale, too loose, too whatever.

As I write this, I am 7 pounds lighter than I was the previous month. But it’s not due to an advertised diet hawked by celebrities who, for the past decade, have been losing the same 50 pounds over and over again. (Yeah, that “system” works.) My quick dip to “swimsuit ready” arrived without intention: I was double-whammied by several weeks of insane busy-ness and a horrible stomach virus.

That smack-down did more than wind the scale back; it left me weak for a large chunk of time. I missed out on a big Memorial Day weekend. And just after that summer kick-off, I had to literally prop myself up for two special birthday celebrations. I leaned on door frames while conjuring auto pilot smiles. My appetite was gone. I missed out on good food and energetic frolic. I’ll never get those days back.

The experience was a little reminder of what’s important. Ladies, if you can propel yourself around a room or alongside a pool or across a sandy beach this summer, your body is just right. If you can hug your family and friends with your so-called arm flags, you are beautiful and you are lucky. If you can bite into a sandwich or scoop up a salad with gusto, just do it with gratitude and no apologies.

And what about our pre-determined skin tones? I think dissatisfaction with any shade in the human spectrum is such an arbitrary standard of “beauty.” I don’t understand it when I see people baking for endless hours by sun or bulb.

I was born on the fair scale—my mother is an Irish beauty. I’m totally fine with this genetic nod to alabaster. No “correction” needed. If my legs blend with paint chips from the Sherwin Williams egg shell collection, the world will have to deal with it, not me. I say, PFFT—the universal word for shrug.

After growing up with brothers and raising sons, I know this shrug word well. And I have a strong suspicion men’s fitting rooms echo with pffts. Guys who might have over-pursued the other kind of six-pack (liquid/hops) might discover they have to “upgrade” their swim trunk size from last year. “Ah, well,” I’ll bet they think, “Time to cut out the fries and move more. Pfft.” Then, they buy their suits with maybe a little extra resolve, but always with joyful swimming pool cannonballs on their immediate agendas.

I like that scenario.

Sisters, maybe we should all take a cue and wear our tankinis like a man.