I remember the last time I looked good in a bikini. It was a tiny string number—pink with multicolored polka dots—and all eyes were on me.
I was 3 years old.
Since then, I’ve had a tumultuous relationship with swimwear. (I did wear a bikini twice on spring break my junior year of college: My Puerto Rican besties are the most beautiful and body positive girls on the island and, if only for a week, I drank their Kool-Aid while we frolicked in the Caribbean surf.)
Truthfully, no part of swimsuit season has ever been easy for me.
For starters, the fitting room ordeal is more than the average person can reasonably be expected to bear. Starting with an armload of suits in the hopes that one, just one, might possibly fit, is almost too much to handle. It’s also impossible to know how the suit really looks since you’re supposed to keep your underwear on during the trial. Let’s get real, we’re all frenemies with the plastic crotch protector: We deal with her, but no one really likes her.
The suit options always seem endless—low waist, high waist, bikini, monokini, cutouts and long-sleeve rashguards—yet somehow it always feels the same, like I’m squashing 10 pounds of sugar into a 5-pound bag. Pretty, eh? Of course there are the power suits, the miraculous ones that promise both the appearance of fuller, firmer boobs and a taut midsection. They improve the outlook, sure, but they just don’t do it for me. No amount of Spandex can deliver surgery-like results, of course, and I’m not going under the knife or cutting off my circulation for some poolside thrills.
“It always feels the same, like I’m squashing 10 pounds of sugar into a 5-pound bag.”
These days, my personal happy place is a one-piece swimsuit. It’s usually black, steel gray if I’m feeling crazy, with embellishments, zippers and other accouterments encouraged. There’s nothing basic about it—I make sure of it—but knowing what works for my body is empowering. Tankinis are too sporty for me; I like a little excitement. And while I love a caftan for when I’m walking around, I don’t want to feel like I have to hide behind swathes of fabric. A black suit that fits well—supportive, slimming and elongating, if you’re doing it right—is a dose of insta-chic, the same way your favorite LBD always puts a little extra sway in your step.
There’s a certain no-nonsense vibe to a dark one-piece that’s both practical and sophisticated, a drama-free approach to something that’s always been drama-filled. I rarely have swimsuit worries anymore before an island getaway or a day at the pool because I know my bag is packed only with suits that fit, flatter and make me feel fabulous.
“Look, my body may not be a wonderland, but it’s certainly a miracle.”
Look, my body may not be a wonderland, but it’s certainly a miracle. It grew and carried a little human for almost 9 months. It then fed that human, working overtime to fatten her up so she could bust out of her tiny preemie clothes. My body has survived heartbreaks and a half marathon and can handle boss levels of hot sauce and Johnnie Walker Black Label. As for my stretchmark-covered mushy midsection, well, it’s just right for a toddler to cozily curl up on.
I’m working on being kinder to myself—it’s not easy, but I really try—because if my biggest problem in life is not being able to wear a bikini, then things are going swimmingly.
As for the ladies who preen poolside in their teeny bikinis, chunky jewelry arranged just so, feet firmly planted in heels, good for them. You do you, and I’ll do me.