It came to me in a flash, a singular thought, mid-bite into a grilled cheese dunked in ketchup and mustard…
Oh god, summer is right around the corner.
And I am not ready.
For women, the preparation to squeeze into last season’s triangle-and-string clothing apparatus is exhausting and stressful. And for some of us, the mere mention of the dreaded “swimsuit season” sends us into self-deprecating spirals.
The stupid, pointless, and nothing but stress- inducing thoughts that run through one’s mind are as impressive as they are troubling:
I need to stop eating carbs now. And sugars. How about if it’s white I just won’t eat it. Clever. Easy to remember. I can do this… Except for eggs whites and milk. But wait, I heard dairy bloats you. Or was that carbs? I won’t eat either just in case. Actually, a diet of just celery for the next two months should do the trick. And running. And yoga. And crunches. As a matter of fact, I’ll run while I eat, canceling out the calories… Yes, yes, perfect, that will do the trick…But if not I’ll do Pilates just in case. Dear god, I need a waxing appointment…Should I wax my arms too? Hmmm… my arm hair, although fine, could be a potential point of gossip for the other girls, I don’t want to be known “Helga, the lady gorilla” so those must be taken care of. Perhaps I should just have all of the hair on my body singed off with a laser. Sure, the pain might be excruciating, but at least I won’t have pesky stubble to scare away potential husbands. If I know men, which stereotypically speaking, I do, it’s that they hate stubble more than romantic comedies and showing emotion. And oh God, my face, don’t even get me started on my uneven skin tone! I’ll use a laser to fix that, too. I’ll fight brown spots with brown spots and be beautiful in no time. Speaking of baking my skin, I’ll have to tan so people won’t think I’m pale even though we just went through winter…
And it just goes on. And on. And on.
You might think I’m exaggerating. But truth be told, if you take out apparent sarcasm that I’ve injected into those insipid thoughts in hindsight, in my experience a mindset like this is all too familiar to many women and young girls in this great, appearance-obsessed country of ours.
I consider myself a pretty chill chick in comparison when it comes to these things. I feel pretty good about myself, I suppose, and my body…
But my god, when I realized that I was going to have to get into a bathing suit within the next few months, I genuinely panicked.
What I think I fear the most isn’t so much what the fellas will think—but rather, what will my fellow ladies think? What if I have gained weight? That very fact will be cause for conversation. All of the sudden, I hear them all in my head, talking in a demented stereotypical teen-movie speak which is something like a ValleyGirl accent, except more malevolent with extra hissing.
“What happened to her?”
“Guess someone put on that college weight.”
“Man, does she look bad.”
“That’s what no exercise does to you.”
“It’s only going to get harder from here to take off that weight…”
“I say we gather around her in a circle and laugh!”
“I can do you one better, I say, we throw a doughnut into the pool and see if she dives for it.”
“My fellow witches, wouldst thou like to sacrifice her so we may stay young?” “Why yes sister, that doth sound like a good time!” “Yay verily! I’ll draw the pentagram!!!”
It’s just… there’s so much to do! Every magazine or women’s talk show seems to come up with something else you need to buy/inflict upon yourself in order to be deemed as respectable during the swim suit season. One must pre-tan, tighten abs, wax, learn how to walk with confidence, learn how to work that bikini, buy invisible bikini spanks, learn how to suck in your stomach for over twelve hours, be able to cry on the inside so as to not mess up your pool ready make-up.
It’s overwhelming. And to be honest, it kind of pisses me off. It brings up the idea that I’m not worth anything else except for what I look like. That I’m supposed to look pretty all the time, and that’s my purpose.
This mentality trickles down to the swim suits we buy. In case you have not noticed, they are not meant for swimming. They’re meant for showing your body off in the most obvious and attention starved way possible. Although I’m a fairly confident person, who on most occasions likes myself, I don’t like that idea that I’m just this object for people to look at and appraise. It bothers me and I don’t understand it.
When in reality, who am I looking good for? For some unknown person who may or may not take an interest in me based completely on whether or not I have stretch marks on my hips or cellulite on my legs? Why on earth would I like to date someone like that anyway?
Is it really worth all of the energy, the time investment, and in many cases, the pain, just so that I can be spared the judgmental glances of my peers?
Not at all, actually. But despite knowing this, it consumes you. It always feels like no matter what you do with yourself, there is always something to be improved upon. Something always needs to be fixed, or tightened, or bleached, or hell, just ripped out of you entirely…
Truth is, a lot of women have a mantra that no matter what we do, we aren’t good enough. It’s drilled into us through everything we consume. And, to be honest, we make up for the fact that we feel this way by putting other women down. I know I do it, too. It’s a stupid, malicious cycle that I’m quite honestly ready to move past. I just want to put on a one-piece bathing suit that stays intact while I swim, so I can, I dunno, actually be in the water without feeling anxious that my “clothing” is going self-destruct if doggy paddle too vigorously.
I’ve got bigger fish to fry than to worry about my fried food consumption and how it’s going to affect the way I look. I think we all do. If I ever worry about my fried food consumption, it’s because it makes me feel icky and isn’t nutritionally beneficial.
Have you noticed that “taking care of yourself” for women often equates to doing something to make you look pretty other than something to make you actually feel better? The two overlap and conflict, and I’m not sure that’s a good thing.
Our health should be a top priority, and our infatuation with the way we look shouldn’t take its place.
Because cutting out carbs a week before you go swimming isn’t healthy. Using tanning beds to brown your skin isn’t healthy. Subjecting yourself to unnecessary pain isn’t healthy.
Honestly, I just want to focus on taking care of myself. And you can’t do that if you’re always beating yourself up. So ladies (and gentlemen too, I don’t want to pretend that guys don’t have their own worries and anxieties about the way they look) try to adopt a new strategy this swimsuit season. Just be kind to yourself and others, as contrite as that may sound.
Because in the end, it’s hard to feel like you look good when you’re busy scrutinizing, and criticizing, everyone else.
twoday magazine wants to know: Are you stressing about swimsuit season? (And yes, guys, this applies to you, as well!) Share with us your thoughts on our Facebook page.
Find Mia on Twitter and console her on the end of her grilled cheese sandwiches for the foreseeable future @miasminirants.
Like this article? Check out other great articles from twodaymag:
Memories of a Water Rat By Kristen Houghton
Hot Bod in the Bikini By Kristen Houghton
Miss Universally Nauseating: My Personal Abhorrence for Beauty Pageants By Mia Bencivenga