I don’t think we actively notice it when we’re little, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t affect us greatly. Mummy stops wearing a bikini, or if she does, she complains about it and nervously covers her tummy. She doesn’t like coming swimming with us; she’ll wear a sundress while we run around. She is always on one diet or another, and she won’t eat potatoes even though she heaps them onto our plate. She’ll always be saying how she wants to lose weight, how her tummy is too big, her bum is too big, everything is big big big when she should be small. When we should be small.
At a certain age, the torch is passed to us as young girls. We suddenly look in the mirror and notice that we also have that layer of tummy peeking below our t-shirt. The next time we wear a bikini, we see that another girl has a flatter stomach in hers, that she has a space between her thighs that we don’t. We begin to shrink ourselves, we allow the bikini but always know that the time is ticking away. When we get to a certain age or size, once we’ve brought life into the world, our bikini days will be over too. That’s just how it is. Bikinis are illegal once you pass skinny. There are exceptions, women who will strut around in their two-piece regardless of their larger size or body shape. We will look at them, in both awe and discomfort, unsure how to process their rebellion. Maybe we will selfishly make ourselves feel better by making a joke to our friend, but the truth is that we wish we could wear a bikini too.
I am not a skinny girl. I think I realised this at a young age, and it weighed on me every pool party. I can’t remember a time when I didn’t hate my body, a thought so sad that I almost didn’t want to type it. But it’s true, and what is worse is that I am far from the only one. I hated my thick thighs, my bulge of a tummy, my chubby cheeks. But when I looked at other women with these features, they no longer looked repulsive. I fill my Instagram feed with gorgeous, full women and celebrate their confidence in these healthy figures. Yet I still struggle with the remaining thoughts of my eating disorder; I would still trade my figure for a smaller version in a heartbeat.
I have always considered myself a feminist. I don’t think a woman’s body hair is shameful. I don’t think we need to make ourselves smaller so that men feel bigger. I don’t believe women should be contained to societal rules for them. I will say this avidly, argue with any drunk misogynist in a bar and revel in my freedoms. I am recovering from my eating disorder, learning to like, maybe one day love, my bulkier frame. I am the highest weight I have ever been, but definitely at my healthiest. I try to exercise because I want to, I combine healthy meals with treats. But at reaching this larger weight, I put away my bikinis, far to the back of my cupboard, and purchased a one-piece instead. This wasn’t an active thought. I didn’t think, “Oh 65 kilograms, that means I’m past the bikini limit!” It happened without notice. Unconsciously I determined myself past the size that could look good in a bikini and resigned myself to a life of one-pieces. I couldn’t see a day when I could wear a skimpy bikini again unless my eating disorder captured my mind and shed off these excess pounds. The little girl in me had learned this rule and put it into effect without a second thought.
I told myself that I looked better in a one-piece. That I was doing it because my curves were highlighted better in this more covered swimsuit. But that is a lie. And I didn’t even realise it until months later when I finally noticed all these beautiful, full women in bikinis around me. They had probably always been there, but I never let myself consider that I could be one of them.
I was resigned to the life of a stomach covered in lycra, wistfully gazing at the stomachs tanning around me. I’m not saying that there is a problem with one-piece suits, they can look awesome too! I’m saying that it should always be a choice. Do I want to wear a bikini or a swimsuit? Not a rule or regulation based on your appearance, but a decision that you get to make on your own terms. That if you are jealous of others in a bikini, you go out and buy yourself one and then rock the hell out of it.
We are so quick to grant the gift of feminism to everyone around us. We love all women; we want them to be happy and healthy, regardless of their size or precisely for it. But when it comes to ourselves, we don’t provide the same courtesy. We hold ourselves to rules that we deem ridiculous for others. She doesn’t have to shave her armpits, but I do. She gets to wear a crop top with a jiggle of belly fat, but I’m not allowed to. She is beautiful, but I am still ugly.
Stop it. To you, to me, to every single woman out there. Stop giving away all of your feminism and holding none of it over for yourself. Stop holding yourself to rules that you have deemed to be ridiculous and sexist. That is a lesson I need to start doing as well. So I vow to you, right here and now that the next time I go swimming or to the beach, I will wear a bikini. I will wear a bikini, and I will not tear myself down for it. I will strut past anyone, proud in my two-piece and hope that I can be that motivator for another woman with this struggle.
You deserve freedom, so it is time to put the ‘me’ back in feminism.
Welcome to Symptoms of Living! A place where I like to relieve myself of the barrage of thoughts and ideas filling my mind. Here I'll take a look at various topics, from books to BPD, series to self-harm, there's nothing that we can't, and shouldn't, talk about.
Having struggled with mental illness since the age of 15, one of the hardest parts was how alone I felt in it. While mental illness is beginning to be discussed more openly, and featured in the media, I still think there is room for improvement. So whether it is mental illness or merely mental health, a bad day or a bad year, let's make this a place to approach it and strip it back. Everyone has their own symptoms of living, and you certainly won't be the only one with it.
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