There are many types of women in bikinis... but very few of them are like Elle
Looking through old holiday snaps. I came across a pic of my 15-year-old self in a tiny bikini on a family holiday. I was size 10-12, with perfect skin, perky boobs, killer legs and long, glossy hair, and I vividly recall how I felt as I posed for the camera. Hideous!
As most of my pals were size 6-8 sprites, I thought I was a big, hefty lump beside them. I wasn't, and if I looked even half as gorgeous now as I did back then, I would stroll down Grafton Street on a crowded Saturday in that bikini.
My 20s were filled with fun, girlie holidays, where getting the 'beach body', so beloved of women's magazines, was the holy grail. From hundreds of back-breaking sit-ups to flatten our barely-perceptible tums, to ripping every hair south of our necks out by the roots, we embarked on the run up to our holidays with military precision.
We rubbed in cellulite cream for weeks, lest a ripple of dimpled thigh would offend the eyeballs of the portly German hausfrau on the sun-lounger next to us. We lightened our hair for the sun-kissed look, and silently cursed the blonde, willowy girls in our gang who had the local boys falling at their feet.
Speaking of feet, ours were as smooth as a baby's bottom, having been steeped in acid booties or attacked with a pumice stone, to slough off the hard skin that had built up over the winter.
We did weeks of sunbed sessions (I know, I know, but we all did them back then) so that we wouldn't look like pasty, flabby Irish girls when we hit the Costa del Sol. All of this was to aimed at attracting the attention of any swarthy Spanish waiters, of course.
Failing that, we'd go for Podge from Leitrim in his nylon GAA shirt, who'd stick his tongue down our throats after spending his evenings necking back the ouzo in the Irish pub with 20 of the "de lads".
By our 30s, we had the beach thing sorted. We discovered kaftans and sarongs, and abandoned bikinis in favour of one-piece costumes with built-in support for our tummies/boobs/whatever dodgy area was causing us angst.
We had also worked out by then that the beach was filled with all sorts of sights, from portly men in mankinis, to skeletal old ladies with leathery skin, and women who were far fatter than we ever were, and were letting it all hang out without a care in the world.
By our 40s onwards, we didn't give a damn. The indignities and ravages of bearing children had knocked any notions we had out of us, and we had accepted the onset of middle-aged spread, hairy chins and all the rest of it with forbearance.
Plus, we had come to realise that nobody cared a fig what we fat oul' ones looked like on the beach, when all eyes were on the lissom young women cavorting topless into the sea. Even Nigella Lawson took to the beach in a burqa!
It was sad in a way, but also liberating, knowing that we were entering an era where what we looked like in a bikini was no longer really our, or anyone else's, concern.
And then we opened the papers yesterday, and saw a 50-year-old mother of three posing on a yacht in the Italian Riviera. She looked like a million dollars in her grey, black and yellow bikini. As we looked in awe at the six-foot stunner with her toned abs, lean legs and perfect, flat stomach, there was only one thought that went through the rest of our middle-aged, slightly bitter heads,
Ah Elle, would you ever put it away and give the rest of us a break, love.