A Tale of Anxiety, Stereotypes, and Laughing in the Face of Ageism
Picture this: me, a 55-year-old woman with more life experience than your average Instagram influencer, looking for a new swimsuit. You know, something that says, "I've still got it, but I also enjoy early bird specials." So, with the enthusiasm of someone who's just discovered that kale is, in fact, edible, I decided not only to hit the shops, but to drag my beloved along for the ride.
Initially, I had my sights set on a one-piece that would make even Betty White nod in approval. You know, hoping for that perfect "MiracleSuit" to perform it's proclaimed duty by transforming and hiding my past many years of ladies' nights out, emotionally comforting ice cream and binge watching bad TV. My boyfriend, however, had other ideas. He pranced around the store, grabbing bikinis and saying things like, "You'd look amazing in this!" or "This one rocks" To which I'd reply, "Are you insane?" It was like watching a puppy in a land of squeaky toys, except the toys were skimpy swimwear.
Let's be real, even if I were 25 with the body I have now, I would still feel anxious about wearing a bikini. We are all so deeply well versed in the language of body attractiveness from such a young age, equating our value, esteem and worth as humans with the "correct" proportions of our cleavage and ass, that any perceived variation, real or not, can send us hurtling at the speed of light through a wormhole of self loathing. And at 55, that anxiety was on steroids, thanks to society's unrealistic expectations and pervasive ageism. The world is constantly informing women that to be sexy or beautiful, or more importantly, wanted or loved, you need to have the body "goods" and this nonsense gets baked into our brains, no matter our age. I just couldn't shake the fear of being judged for daring to expose my "imperfectness".
Despite my eye rolls, my boyfriend convinced me to try one on. I snapped a pic in the dressing room mirror, looking like a tropical smoothie had exploded on me, and sent it to him with the words, "This is why I don't wear bikinis anymore." My eyes couldn't help but be drawn immediately to my cellulite, my mudflaps and my protruding tummy, and I felt a horrible wave of revulsion coming on, not unlike the feeling I get when attempting to eat sea urchin. His reply? "What are you talking about? You're so hot." Later, he added that he was a little surprised I didn't have my normal "fuck it" attitude about the whole thing. This guy had more faith in me than I did, even if he did need glasses.
His encouragement got me thinking though: why the hell not? So, fueled by a combo of fear and rebellion (not to mention a little disbelief in how so little material could cost so much) I bought the bikini. Arriving at the beach, I clung to my shorts and t-shirt like they were my last shred of dignity. But then it hit me: who the hell cares what anyone thinks? I'm 55, awesome, and ready to give those judgmental beachgoers a run for their money. Plus, my vitamin D is low.
I took a deep breath, shed my clothes and tossed them aside and strutted down the shore like I was on the runway of a Victoria's Secret fashion show – minus the angel wings, of course. Who says older women can't rock bikinis? Oh, right – society and its absurd stereotypes.
But this journey doesn't end there my friends. After bathing in the ocean and my newfound babeness, I actually decided that these particular bikini bottoms resembled a diaper much like the one worn by my next door neighbor's 17 year old poodle and decided to go buy another. At first, I instinctively walked by all the string, thong and barely there bottom pieces but my newly discovered hot mama voice cajoled me back. I grabbed a black, oh so tiny, string bottom, tried it on and cringed in the mirror yet again. This time however, I made eye contact with myself, said "fuck it" out loud with a grin and paid the nice lady behind the counter. I was of course, more than a little nervous about my boyfriend's reaction to being able to view a greater percentage of my butt dimples, but that fear was quickly washed away with s pleased smile and a look in his eye promising future frolicking fun.
So, to all you fabulous women out there, regardless of age, I say this: embrace your inner goddess and wear that damn bikini, miniskirt, or whatever else makes you happy. And if anyone tries to tell you that you're too old, too flawed, or too whatever for a bikini or anything else, give them a sarcastic grin and say, "Oh, honey, you wish you looked this good."
At the end of the day, the only person who gets to decide what's "age-appropriate" for you is you. So go on, unleash your inner bikini goddess, channel that "fuck it" attitude, and show the world that age is just a number – and a pretty awesome one at that.