Since moving here and having anytime access to the amazing pool in our tiny neighborhood, I have stocked up on new swimsuits to add to my collection of old ones. Even though I have worn a one-piece swimsuit here and there when I can find one that flatters my figure, for as long as I can remember my style of choice has been a two-piece tankini. There are two reasons for this. First, I like the mix-and-match element. I can get a cute, multi-colored patterned tankini top and wear it with an assortment of different bottoms. Second, I am extremely self-conscious about (and I carry a lot of my weight in) my stomach, so a tankini covers that up nicely.
If you follow me on social media you know that while I’ve always been an exercise lover, I’ve really been hitting it hard in the past year. I take boxing classes four or five times each week. A couple of months ago I added a consistent home Zumba routine three or four times each week, and most recently I started personal training sessions at the boxing gym once a week. I’m eating a more balanced diet, most of the time (I still treat myself because YOLO!). I’m currently at a very stubborn weight plateau but I’m still seeing body changes, which is nice. For example, recently I caught a glance of myself in the windows of a store and thought, “My butt looks really good right now!” When I’m changing clothes in our bathroom I can see in the mirror that my waist is becoming more defined again, finally. (My stomach? Smaller but still there. It’s a long-term project.)
Old Navy recently put their swimsuits on sale and no, I don’t really need any more swimsuits AT ALL, but I saw clearance tags on two bikini tops and had just enough body confidence in that moment to think that maybe I wanted to buy them.
That’s right. Bikini tops.
I haven’t worn a bikini top since I was a child, literally, and suddenly here I am within arm’s reach of my fiftieth birthday (this November), thinking I have any business throwing one on my body.
True story: the confidence I had when I paid the Old Navy cashier scared me. Who do I think I am, buying two bikini tops? I am certainly one of those women that people would see and think, “Yeah, she shouldn’t be wearing that because she’s too heavy (or old, or whatever).” Aren’t I?
Or maybe it doesn’t matter what people think as long as I am comfortable. And if I’m not comfortable, maybe I could fake it until I am. Maybe age doesn’t matter if I have the confidence to pull it off. Maybe instead of focusing on the parts of my body that don’t thrill me (yet), I should think about how my arms, waist, and rear end are making me very happy (right now).
I decided that for the time being I would wear the bikini tops to the pool when I was relatively certain nobody else would be there, which would be pretty easy since I often have the pool to myself. I also decided that if anyone arrived on the scene, I would declare my pool time over for the day and leave immediately.
I wore the first one to an early-ish pool session, arriving there at 9:45am. I applied sunscreen as usual, spraying my mid-section liberally since I’m pretty sure it hasn’t been exposed to UV rays since the seventies. I was completely alone at the pool and still felt awkward, like I was wearing a bra and underwear in public. (Frankly, bikinis are basically the same thing, except they’re made out of nylon and spandex instead of cotton and lace.) I went home two hours later, feeling good about sticking it out that long and immensely relieved that nobody else joined me there.
I wore the second bikini top to the pool yesterday at 11:00am. I was all alone again…for the first hour. Then, my nightmare: I saw one of my neighbors drive up and park. I looked at the table next to my lounge chair and assessed the stuff I brought, trying to determine how quickly I could throw on my coverup, toss the rest into my pool tote, and head for my car. Just when I started to move, I stopped short.
“You can do this,” I told myself. “She’s not going to say anything.”
I stayed. My neighbor had a lot to say, but not about my swimsuit. We chatted nonstop for the next hour. I even got up from my chair, walked right in front of her, and went down the steps into the pool because it is terribly hot here this week and I had to dunk myself. She didn’t seem to look at me in a funny way as I walked by her, and in fact she just kept on talking. I cooled off and got out of the pool again, taking my place back on the lounge chair.
“I’M DOING IT,” I thought.
I survived. I still can’t believe it.
I decided that I’ll definitely continue wearing the two bikini tops occasionally, mixed in with all of those tankinis. Hopefully as I practice wearing them while continuing to move forward on my health and fitness journey, I’ll start to feel more comfortable and maybe even forget which top I’m wearing on any given pool visit. It’s a nice thought, anyway.
The fact is, we can’t control what others think about us. Working on ourselves by quieting the negative self talk and building our own confidence is a task with a much higher rate of return. Around the time I turned forty it suddenly became less important to me to please everyone else to my own detriment. Don’t get me wrong: I still like to make people happy, but I also know that my own opinions and ideas should play a huge role in my decisions. I have learned how to exercise that option freely. Maybe now that I’m knocking on Fifty’s door, I can also let go of some of the insecurities I’ve been carrying around for years. Maybe.
What I know at this moment is that I did a big thing this week. I’m proud of myself, and right now that’s enough.