Some Perspective on Swimsuit Season

If you were reading the blog last year you’ve already seen this one but as I hear more and more people bemoaning swimsuit season I thought it was worth repeating.  (Also, Golda Poretsky who inspired the post and I are doing a workshop in NYC on the 21st that I’m super excited about! Check here for details)

Do you know Golda Poretsky?  You should.  She is a very cool woman doing great work in the Body Positive Community. Her site is Body Love Wellness and I highly recommend it.

Yesterday she tweeted;  “Rec’d a link to “How Not To Look Fat In A Swimsuit”. Wld ♥ to see “How Not To Obsess Abt Looking Fat In A Swimsuit & F-ing Enjoy Yourself”

Well Golda, your wish is my command!

Seriously, let’s talk about this.  It seems that almost every woman I know, of any size, starts to have panic attacks the first time she sees swimsuits out on the floor of her favorite store;  their pesky cheerfulness belying their greater purpose of  prodding us into going on insane cabbage soup diets and considering a move to Alaska.

Let me preface this by saying that I don’t personally spend much time at lakes, rivers, oceans, pools or water parks.  It has nothing to do with my size or how I feel about wearing a bathing suit.  I am half Irish and half German so my skin can only achieve two colors:  translucent and lobster.  I’ve tried every sunscreen in the world and nothing works.  But don’t cry for me Argentina, I don’t really enjoy being in the sun so it all works out.  I’m a chlorinated, heated water, ambient temperature controlled, indoor pool kind of girl – I’m not high maintenance, I’m highly maintained.

That being said, I will strut around my gym in a bathing suit with no worries.  Here are a few reasons why:

1.  It’s my BODY.  I live with it 100% of the time.  It does awesome things for me like breathing, and walking, and swimming and I decided long ago that I am not going to allow anyone to convince me to hate or be ashamed of  something that I am with 100% of the time for the rest of my life.  I get to choose how I feel about my body – nobody else can make me feel good or bad, it’s on me.

2.  Because it’s a pool and when you go to the pool, you wear a swimsuit. It’s not for vanity – it’s practical.  The last time I was at the gym ready to make use of the pool there was a “thin to average size” (probably a size 8 or 10)  woman in a large t-shirt with a towel wrapped around her legs and all the way to her ankles.  She scooted to the edge of the pool and, in a move that I can only describe as ninja-esque, threw the towel behind her as she jumped into the water as fast as she could whilst grabbing a kickboard off the side.  But her Crouching Tiger Hidden Swimwear moves could not mask the fact that she was wearing control top pantyhose under her suit.  She looked at me and said “Nobody should have to see these legs without hose on”.  Before I could reply, she realized that her shirt was caught on the side railing, then her pantyhose got caught on her kickboard.  While I swam laps she spent most of the time dealing with being in the water with a giant shirt and pantyhose.  I am simply not willing to put up with that kind of inconvenience, or  have my technique interrupted by a ginormous swatch of cloth which, when it is wet, hides nothing anyway; and pantyhose which I will not wear under any circumstances in the world, ever.

3.  I do not care if people are offended by my body.  People are allowed to be offended by whatever they want and it’s really none of my business.  I’m offended by people who I perceive to be too easily offended, but it turns out nobody gives a damn which is as it should be.  It is my BODY, if we all treated each other with basic human respect it would be impossible to be offended by someone else’s body.  The very idea is ludicrous to me. Regardless, it is not my job to protect people’s delicate sensibilities – there are at least three alternate cardinal directions in which they can look if they don’t want to look at me, they are free to choose one.

4.  Hypocrisy is an ugly thing.  It always seems like the same group of people who are  telling me that I should lose weight and are subsequently  offended by my body in a swimsuit.  While I would prefer that they just shut up, I insist that they choose – you can’t complain about my weight and then complain about what I do to stay fit.

5. It is maddening to me that the diet industry makes 60 BILLION dollars a year convincing women to hate themselves.  They create fear and uncertainty by saying things like “Swimsuit season is just around the corner, are you ready to wear a swimsuit?”  Well, let’s see here…  Swimsuit?  Check.  Body to put it on?  Check.  Yup, I’m all set thanks.  Plus I think I’ll keep my money you bloodsucking leeches.

6.  People can see me.  So they know how big I am whether I’m in a swimsuit, or jeans and a t-shirt.  If they are shocked at my size in a swimsuit, they should have been paying better attention.  That’s just a big sack of not-my-problem.

I realize that my swimsuit preferences are not everyone’s which is awesome.  Not everyone, regardless of size, is comfortable with how much skin a swimsuit shows.  Here are some more ideas  to help you stop obsessing and start having fun in the sun (or the oh-so-flattering incandescent glow of the overhead lights at the gym).

1. Alternative Swimsuits.  These are often created for women who want to keep to specific religious clothing guidelines or who just want a more modest look.  I did a quick Google search and found http://www.modestkini.com/.  I’m not affiliated with them at all so I make no guarantees, but it will give you an idea of what’s out there (and some of their plus size swimwear is actually modeled by plus-sized women.  Woot!)

2.  Fabulous Cover ups:  If there’s a particular part of your body that you prefer to keep covered for whatever reason, an (aptly-named) cover-up might be just the thing.  Here are some examples (again, no affiliation, check out the vendors before you buy!)

3.  Safety in numbers.  Go with a group of people who make you feel good about yourself and focus on the fun and not on any body insecurities you might have.  Think about how fantastic your body feels when you are swimming, or going down a water slide, or splashing in the waves.

4.  Reality check.  One of my favorite quotes is by Mark Twain “I’ve had thousands of problems in my life, most of which never actually happened”  When I’m worrying about something I try to remember that I am wasting energy on something that is not actually part of reality.  So instead I…

5.  …Expect the best, plan for the worst.  Think about what your true fears are about going out in a swimsuit.  Write them down and then create a plan to deal with each of them.  Are you afraid people will say something mean to you?  Create some scripting and practice it until you feel comfortable (you might check out my “How Dare You” post). Afraid of chaffing?  Hie thee to Google and read up on the various lotions, powders etc. that can help with that, or look into swimsuits that can help. Worried people will talk about you behind your back?  Maybe get over that – I actually think that’s the best possible outcome because frankly I don’t want to hear it anyway.

In the end of course it’s your choice.  For my part,  I’m not willing to allow my options for fun, activity, movement etc. to be controlled by what other people might think or say.  If my own fears or insecurities are getting in the way I try to find a way over (modest swimsuit), under (cover up), or through (F this, I’m wearing a two-piece) the fear and insecurity because I’ve found that very often the pure joy lies just on the other side.

Published in: on May 15, 2011 at 11:36 am  Comments (28)  

28 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. I have a strapless swimsuit, I have nerve damage in my neck and cant get in and out of one with straps.

    I am learning not to care what people think. It is bright orange with bright pink flowers by the way!

    I have friends to whom I will pass this post.

  2. I have to give another hell to the yeah on this one! I also have to say that when I woke up this morning I said to myself two things: 1) It’s too damn early and 2) I have risen but I REFUSE to shine. Then I go to my inbox and what do I find? The post that started it all for me on my road to “How to love Ragen Chastian in 5 easy steps.” Yep. Your post about swimsuit season was the first one I ever read from you. Therefore, it is still too damn early, but I am shining because of the smile this brought to my face. I wish I could remember how I got the link, but what I do remember was after reading this post I spent a great deal of time going back and reading all of your previous posts and have followed you ever since. Gee, if this weren’t a public blog that you wanted people to read, that would have sounded horribly stalkerish.

    Once again, thank you for the reminders that I have no shame in prancing my ass down to the pool this summer and enjoying the hell out of it. Oh, and I’m totally with you on the whole two shades of translucent and lobster. I too am of German and Irish lineage and just driving in the car with the windows down gives me a burn. I love explaining to people that in fact I did NOT go to the beach today, I simply wanted the window down in the car and that is why only one arm is a “beautiful” shade of red and the other is still practically see-through.

    Keep rockin’ with your bad self!

  3. Thanks for this! ;) Actually, my preference is swimming nude, wherever I can. I love the feel of the water on my skin. And at 240 pounds, I have gone in Barton Springs topless. Which is legal there, even if hardly anyone does. I enjoy your posts!

  4. I am not a swimmer, myself; it’s not that I burn, though I do. I just don’t like getting water up my snoot. My biggest concern about “looking good” in a swimsuit is finding one with a supportive enough top. I’ve been known to wear a bra under a swimsuit if it didn’t show too much.

    • I hear you on supportive swim tops! Try looking on line, in the past I’ve found swimsuits with under wire cups built in! I know it’s struggle to find a suit for when you’re getting in or out of the pool; so worth it once you get in! Just a couple hours of weightlessness top area.
      Feeling your top heavy pain,
      Lauren

    • This has always been my biggest issue too. I have a (comparatively) smallish ribcage measurement, a large-ish bust measurement, and hips that make the word “curvy” turn and run. ;)

      In the past I’ve combined various sports bras (2 at a time, please, in different sizes!) and bike shorts to create a swimsuit that was: a) most importantly, functional for my needs (lap swimming + boob containment device), and also b) middling stylish.

      That said, I’m way liking the look of some of the “modest swimwear,” and I bet those would be somewhat easier to wear a “real” bra under.

  5. Thank you! I really needed to read this. i don’t have the option of just skipping swimming or going to the pool this year, my daughter got her first time in the pool a week ago and fell in love. So now we’ll be back often.

  6. LMAO at “Crouching Tiger Hidden Swimwear.” Sometimes I really wonder at the things our culture pressures us into thinking are perfectly normal and reasonable (then I realize that I do things that aren’t so different).

    Also, thank you for the swimwear link! I’m not a fan of two pieces, but I prefer shorts to bikini bottoms so that rules out most one pieces. My dream suit is a ’20s style tank dress/shorts combo, but it’s more of a comfort thing, so it never occurred to me to search for them under modesty suits.

    • Don’t like the bottom half of your swim suit? Maybe add shorts or skirt bottoms. With the tankinis being popular you can buy separate bottoms.

  7. I cannot swim & I am a very fair part-Irish redhead, so I live in sunblock when I am out in jeans & tees. I love this post & I love your attitude. And I feel incredibly sorry for the woman you saw at the pool & incredibly angry with the culture which fosters these feelings of self-hatred.

    • “And I feel incredibly sorry for the woman you saw at the pool & incredibly angry with the culture which fosters these feelings of self-hatred.”

      You’ve summed up my feelings perfectly!

  8. Thanks for this post! I was looking at swimsuits the other day, and just CRINGING! But you’re right, and I’m going to try to not be so self conscious about swim suits any more! I love and appreciate you and your blog!

    P.S. I feel your Irish pain, I’m fish belly white and lobster!

  9. I love this! Thanks for posting it. :-D I’m an overweight lady who loves to swim.

  10. Ahh, swimsuits! Mostly, it’s hard to find one that fits for under $150. Finally I just ended up buying a couple tankini tops, altering them, and wearing them with some tight running shorts. I look at the pictures my mom took of me “surfing” in Mexico last summer (ie: falling off the surfboard repeatedly while turning a brilliant red colour everywhere the super greasy sunblock stick wasn’t), and I think I look awesome. I’m surfing! And I’m obviously having a blast! Awesome! :D

  11. ““Swimsuit season is just around the corner, are you ready to wear a swimsuit?” Well, let’s see here… Swimsuit? Check. Body to put it on? Check. Yup, I’m all set”

    My gods, Regan, you’re awesome.
    Thanks for the modestkini link; I’ve always thought the swimming suits worn by Muslim women were really stylish – far more so than the standard cozzies I always ended up with – but I never knew where to get them or what they were called, and I was too embarrassed to ask.

  12. I love how you give actual examples and tips for how to go about body wellness. They are greatly appreciated!

    • Thanks Jenna. Glad that you like them :) I always feel like the blog should just be more than me ranting all the time!

      ~Ragen

  13. I burn too. Last summer I wore t-shirts into the outdoor pool to keep from burning but that didn’t work well because cotton gets HEAVY. I’ve discovered rash guards, which come in a variety of sleeve lengths, and I’m going to buy some short sleeve ones and maybe boy short bottoms (or bikinis–depends on how wild I feel or how much I care about my thighs rubbing together). I’m looking forward to wearing something specifically made to keep the sun off you in the water. There’s a cool fat woman at my pool who wears bikinis with bling–lots of sequins and stuff–but she tans very dark. I wish I had the skin tone, and the guts, to do that.

  14. Ragen, I love your line about “they haven’t been paying attention”. Really, people can’t tell what size I am before I take my clothes off? Remind me to tell you my fat naked lady on the pool slide story some time. :)
    Hugs, as always, Theresa

  15. About ten years ago I was introduced to nudism and natural hot springs. My bf took me to a clothing optional hot spring and told me clothes weren’t an option for us. That first time I was totally freaked that everyone was looking at me. I got comfortable and looked around and saw people of all ages and sizes enjoying the water and some awesome conversation. That really was the first step in accepting my own body.
    There are occasions when it’s unacceptable to skinnydip. I have a friend in LA who makes the most amazing swimwear and dancewear for plus size women. I was at her studio getting some new dance pants when I spied the cutest swimsuit ever: a halter top and ruffle bum bottoms in pink plaid. The bottoms fit perfect. The top not so much. She made me a new top right then and there. Yeah, I paid $80, but it’s the cutest swimsuit ever! Having the cutest swimsuit actually makes you want to strut your stuff near the pool. If you’re interested, check out By Ro! Designs on Etsy. I really love that she has quality stuff and it’s all cute.
    Final thought: keep in mind that the vast majority of the time other people at the pool are so focused on what they think other people are thinking about them to be worrying about what anyone else looks like around them.

  16. This post is WONDERFUL! Thank you for this! I have been a happy bikini wearer all my life, and now that my best friend and I both have babies, she thinks I am crazy for wishing to continue to wear one. We have many MANY conversations in which she panics about wearing a bathing suit, and what people will think of her legs (which she thinks are hideous)her hips, her stomach, and how she can’t wear certain bathing suits because she will horrify everyone on the beach. i always tell her that everyone else is so absorbed in their own insecurities, that no one will judge her, and if they do, she shouldn’t worry about it because they are shallow. I also remind her that her imperfections are perceived in her own mind and that I don’t see them.
    I am tired of all these “rules” that magazines, media, etc try to put on us as far as what is “the right bathing suit for your body type” when we should all just wear what we are comfortable in. I, for example, choose boyshort bottoms because I feel less naked,therefore more relaxed, but not because anyone makes me think I need to hide myself!

  17. Very good points. Our bodies are amazing and miraculous in form and function, whether they look like they came out of a magazine or not. Kudos for standing up and speaking a truth that all of us need to hear. My favorite swimwear is the UV protective kind. It might help with your fair skin/burning problems. Here’s my favorite brand: http://www.tugasunwear.com/uv_protective_clothing_women.html

  18. As a man with the pasty-white Celtic heritage skin that has as much chance of tanning as I have of growing a third arm, I hear you on the sun part. My wife and I took scuba lessons nearly three years ago, though, and while I couldn’t care less if people are bothered by how I look, I do love the UV protective lycra “skins” we wear for warm water diving. If a woman is really that concerned by how her legs might look in a swimsuit, such that she would try and wear pantyhose while swimming, she should instead look into one of those. They are DESIGNED to swim in.

    My wife is a large sized woman (she describes herself as a “fat old lady”), and, yes, the lycra skins are available in her size as well.

    Oh, and I frequently wear a kilt, subjecting my co-workers to my pasty-white legs. If they don’t like it, they can look elsewhere. I like the kilt, and I realized long ago that no decision I made was going to make everyone around me happy. If someone is not going to like what I do, no matter what, then I might as well do what I like and not worry about their preferences.

    • I hadn’t thought of the lycras, that’s a great idea! Also major points for kilt-wearing. My best friend rocks a kilt but people seem to love it!

      ~Ragen

      • The lycra skins are available at most any shop that carries scuba gear. You can get them in a plain black, or in colorful patterns. My wife’s favorite is overall black, with a tie-dye pattern across the chest and shoulders. The Neosport skins state a UV protection factor, and are thin enough to neither feel restrictive, nor offer any barrier to the cool feel of the water.

        http://www.neosportusa.com/index.php?page=category&sport=dive&catID=4

        My wife and I spent a week in Fiji for our 30th anniversary last year, and despite my “won’t tan in a million years” skin, the lycra skin kept me from burning out on the water.

  19. I grew up in a family of nudists. We would all go to a place in Topanga Canyon called Elysium. On one of our outings when I was 11, I saw a supersize blonde walking across the grass, and I was awestruck. She plopped happily down next to her husband and her children, and all I could think was “I WANT A GIRLFRIEND LIKE HER!!!” You will be noticed. Sometimes for all the right reasons!

  20. “Plus I think I’ll keep my money you bloodsucking leeches.”
    Bwah-hahahahahahaaaa!

  21. This was just a wonderful read! I spent time at a lake this summer and tried to have the same attitude. Ended up having a blast! I also wanted to interject about the By Ro! Designs suits. I have owned 2 and wore them both until they literally fell apart. I loved them!! They were very fashionable and well made. I even sported a “tankini” when I was around a size 28.


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