herald

Saturday 16 December 2017

my body image issues are seasonal - to be accurate, bikini season

over half of Irish women say they feel uncomfortable in swimwear and the other half are probably too embarrassed to admit it. There is a unique feeling of vulnerability, which only the wearing of swimwear in public can bring about.

Perhaps you are happy with your body, perhaps you are not. Regardless of how you actually feel about yourself in this particular moment, there is no escaping that element of exposure, in every sense of the word.

If nudity and mortality are the great levellers, then swimwear is the next best thing in many peoples' eyes. While celebrities Instagram perfectly-poised, sun-ready selfies, paparazzi with long lenses cameras, eagerly ready themselves in the bushes for that all too lucrative bad bikini angle they can sell to the magazines who will fill pages gleefully pronouncing the year's best and worst beach bodies.

We gobble it up because it backs up the fear we all have of being judged. It also creates even more areas for us to feel insecure about.

paunch

In some self-flagellating way, we almost relish these rules, which dictate what is 'acceptable' and what is not. Kate Moss's beach 'paunch,' Christina Hendricks almost knee-length breasts escaping from her 'unflattering' one-piece, Britney Spears' cellulite, and my personal favourite - Angelina Jolie's knobly knees.

I can trace the exact moment when I became uncomfortable in swimwear back to when I was 14 and a French boy came running up to me at a hotel pool to inform me in his best English, that I was in fact both "too white and too fat".

As perhaps a slightly too mature and womanly early teen, with a number of more senior admirers on the go, I was astounded by this news. It clipped my wings there and then. I have yet to ever really believe anyone who has disagreed with this little... add your own expletive here... since, without suspecting them of being a chubby chaser.

So it seems that I am one of the 53pc of Irish women who feel uncomfortable wearing swimwear anywhere beyond the back garden.

I thought I was an extreme case until a friend confided that she had recently spent an entire sun holiday, without wearing a bikini or even a one-piece swim suit, even once in seven days.

My tactics are a little less drastic. I swim, I sunbathe, I will even walk around in a bikini, but every moment is choreographed so that when I do, everything is where it needs to be.

I have never been skinny. I have never been fat. I float between somewhere. I am a pear, with tree-trunk legs.

Generally, I am not fussed about my weight. In clothes, I'm pretty confident. My body issues are seasonal - bikini season to be exact, because swimwear raises the stakes.

The standard of fat is a whole lot less forgiving, when your modesty is covered by just three strategic triangles of material held together by some string.

And there is nowhere to hide your tree stubs in those slimming one-pieces, unless of course you do a Nigella Lawson (left) on it and invest in a burkini.

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