You know what a beach body is, right?
As it is National Bikini Day according to a dramatic website called Days of The Year, which probably laughs every time a hashtag like #NationalEatATurkeyLegOffTheBoneonAPorchWhetherYoureVegetarianorNotDay is generated, the former event has prompted me to think more introspectively about my relationship with bathing suits.
Last weekend, I was sitting by a pool in Long Island next to my mom. She was wearing a two-piece and has, for as long as I have known her, celebrated her body but definitively rejected the showing-off of her undergarments. I asked what makes her bra and underwear any different from a triangle bikini, to which she replied, very eloquently, “I don’t know, it’s my underwear.”
If I had to guess, what she meant was that her undergarments are for herself (one of the things she taught me with curiously stern conviction growing up was that I should never let my bras or underwear rip; it connotes a sense of self-disrespect), whereas bathing suits are geared toward the public gaze. And that makes sense. We buy “intimates” under the guise that they will remain, you know, intimate for the most part and as such, whether we are aware of it or not, we develop somewhat confidential relationships with them. But when we consider the bathing suit — similarly silhouetted, just rendered in different fabrics, we’re not only considering ourselves. This might sound like it runs counter to a core attribute of Man Repeller: dress for yourself and no one else, but it’s hard to subtract the consideration of what we will say with our suits, who will see them, what they will think and how we can manipulate that.
In spite of how little I like my belly button, I have historically been a two-piece wearer. They say more than a one-piece can in the same way a top and pants vs. a dress does. I can mix and match triangles and bottoms, pair a top with a t-shirt, skip a bottom all together, but have recently moved toward one-piece suits. I want to say this is motivated by nothing more or less than their being “in fashion,” but I know that’s not it. I’m kind of starting to hate my body — not as much from an aesthetic perspective — but more so because it’s not doing what I’m begging it to: nurture a baby. In a one piece, no one can think about what’s going on with my stomach. It precludes that patch of skin from dominating the conversation. It’s covered and therefore protecting me — in some ways from myself, and my internal monologue, but also from the public gaze.
At the time of this writing, 4th of July weekend has not technically happened yet. I’m still in the city, wearing an oversize dress and thinking about what I’ll pack for the three days ahead. I’m looking at a small pile of two one-piece suits and one bikini that’s covered by the linen shirt I’ll wear over it and I’m thinking that for as far as we’ve come as women, our relationships with our bodies, whether based on aesthetic merit or otherwise conditions, are still contentious enough for me to think that this is an interesting question: do you wear one-piece bathing suits, or bikinis, or neither? And why?
Know, by the way, that as it is “Let Loose and Relax” month on Man Repeller, you better fucking believe I’m spending the month in crop tops. It’s silly to think anyone actually wants to talk about my belly anyway — right?
Feature collage by Emily Zirimis; Feature image swimsuits by Lisa Marie Fernandez.