Why I Bought a Bikini

Real Style on 04.18.11
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I did a crazy thing a couple of weeks ago: I bought a bikini.  Actually, I bought two -- or really, four, since I opted for the mix-and-match pieces from Old Navy. But the point is that when our pool opens in a few weeks, I will be wearing a bikini. In public. For the whole summer.

Clearly, I have lost my mind. Or maybe I haven’t. I can’t really tell any more.

I’m not at all a bikini kind of girl; when I’ve told close friends about the bikinis, the response has universally been, “You bought what???” I’m not someone who goes in for cleavage or lots of exposed skin in my everyday life; instead, I’m that mom who can always find a way not to wear shorts, even on the hottest days of the summer.

But this summer, I’m embracing the bikini, for two reasons.

Reason number one is my body. No, I have not suddenly decided that I have some Hott Mama Bikini Body; on the contrary, I am a pear shape with no boobs at all to speak of. Finding one-piece swimsuits that actually fit me -- on the top and the bottom, at the very same time -- is frustrating and fruitless. In order to keep my backside appropriately covered, I wind up buying suits so big in the top that I can skip the pool bag and just store everything in the vast, empty cups. It's a little depressing.

Ok, a lot.

Last summer, a friend who owns a swimwear boutique introduced me to Bikini Buddies, foam cups that fit inside the top of any too-large swimsuit and create cleavage where none exists. They made my suits fit better, but I felt like I had a life preserver strapped to my chest. It was also awkward for me to go from my normal AA cup size to the enhanced nearly-C cup that these inserts gave me. I like my small chest; it's part of my look. Suddenly blowing myself up to what felt like stripper proportions to go to the pool made me super uncomfortable.

My stylish friends always helpfully suggest that I try a tankini -- more coverage, less exposure -- but the tankini doesn’t work for me, either. In order to get the tank part to fit my prepubescent chest, I have to buy a size so small that the hem inevitably hits just above my Permanent Post-Baby Roll, right below my belly button (the “baby” is almost nine and that roll is going nowhere). Honestly, I don’t want to spend the entire summer with that particular part of my stomach sticking out of my suit.

So despite the fact that a bikini will leave my entire stomach exposed, I'm convinced that it truly is the solution to all my fit issues. I was able to order tops and bottoms in individual sizes (the bottoms are a full two sizes larger than the tops, if that gives you a sense of what I’m working with here). Everything fits perfectly, and despite the fact that my entire midsection is exposed, I feel more covered up. Go figure.

Let’s talk about that midsection part, though -- that’s the deal-breaker for most women; we don’t want our post-baby, over-40 stomachs on display because they’re a little doughy or wobbly or thick or -- let's face it -- not 20 and perfectly toned. And that brings me to my second reason for opting for the bikini.

Last summer, I started to notice something at the pool; while the moms were agonizing about their bodies -- deploying spray tans and shapewear suits and cosmetic surgery to get bikini-ready -- the dads were just showing up, stripping down, and jumping in the water. Men don’t care if they have a golf tan or a spare tire; they’re at the pool to relax. Women, on the other hand, see situations involving swimwear as one more opportunity to feel like failures for geting older. There's nothing relaxing about it.

My bikini-buying was inspired by my husband, whose swimsuit criteria are simple: it has to keep his junk under cover, and it can’t be too binding or too loose. Otherwise, he’s set. He doesn’t care that his cyclist tan means that his chest and feet are blindingly white; he doesn’t care that his abs aren’t a perfect washboard. And while all the biking does mean that he can’t compete with his peers for Biggest Beer Gut, he doesn’t care that his body isn’t that of a 20-year-old.

And honestly, he has a lot more fun at the pool than I do.

So I ordered two bikinis, which mix and match to make four bikinis, and of course I ordered extras to ensure that I got the sizes just right. And I wound up with four pieces -- two tops and two bottoms -- that fit me perfectly. That may very well be the first time I’ve ever said that about a swimsuit, honestly. And despite my pasty white skin and that little doughy spot under my belly button, I like the way I look in my bikinis. I look like I'm ready for summer, and I feel like it's going to be fun.

What about you -- would you wear a bikini to the pool? Right now, this summer. I dare you.


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