They’re there to have fun in their bikinis. And it doesn’t feel rebellious, like “Fuck it, Ima do this.”
Oh, these Italian ladies at the beach! Not to mix cultures, but ooh-la-la! What a revelation! They don’t care that their stomachs aren’t flat or their legs are dimpled or their arms are starting to look like wings; they’re there to have fun in their bikinis. And it doesn’t feel rebellious, like “Fuck it, Ima do this.” It feels like they’ve come for fun in the sun, period. It hasn’t occurred to a single one of them to be embarrassed or self-critical. It’s so very refreshing. And my goal this summer is to learn how to be like them.
This body stuff has reached critical mass for me. It’s tiring, thinking about it. It’s often shocking to not recognize the flesh that has served me so well for so long. It’s time to either let it go and have fun in my bikini or consider something…surgical. I’ve got a couple sun-drenched weeks to think about it and I think I’ll start with my legs.
Oh, they used to be something, these legs—racehorse long and just the right amount of lean. Now other optics are taking over: lumpy brown parchment comes close. My fairly new and still-besotted husband sees pretty spots, and calls me Leoparda, but my own love is not so blind.
And as hard as I try, I can no longer ignore the situation on my arms. They, too, are long and lean, but they, too, are sun-baked and much less forgiving of the trauma my lifestyle inflicts. The skin has become so thin that an errant dog claw makes a bloody divot that doesn’t heal for weeks and leaves a jagged pink scar. Worst of all, the skin is not so tight anymore. It trembles in a strong wind.
The skin is not so tight anymore. It trembles in a strong wind.
People who have lost vast amounts of weight, and who now need to lose the vast amounts of leftover skin that remains, can have the extra removed, making for a streamlined limb—it leaves a scar though. I don’t have vast amounts to lose, but enough that I dream of the procedure. I’d still end up with a scar, so I have the idea that I would turn that scar into a tattoo, maybe an uplifting phrase or poem; maybe, if I could summon the honesty, a little story about what this tattoo hides and why.
The Big Why?
But “why” keeps being the problem. Why do I care that the aging process, which nobody can say they didn’t see coming, has decided it’s my turn now? A dried up husk is not what my friends see. My husband still has stars in his eyes. Those Italian women of a certain age in their bikinis didn’t stare in horror, and, come to think of it, neither did the men.
Those Italian women of a certain age in their bikinis didn’t stare in horror, and, come to think of it, neither did the men.
Women’s bodies change even as they’re still seeing things through the eyes of a nineteen year old. The suggestion that this is anything but normal, or anything to be ashamed of, has women in a cruel stranglehold. Remember the story about the woman in her 20s who was sick of the whole vanity-industrial complex so she decided to go a year without looking in a mirror? A year that included her wedding? She did it. We need more like her.
Hereby and on this day, I’m officially over it. From now on, whenever I look at my body and see anything but strength and health, I shall channel those Italian ladies who have probably never seen their bodies in any other light.
But right now it’s hot, and I’m putting on some shorts and a tank top and going to the store. The way my nineteen-year-old self would have. The way you do when it’s hot. It’s pretty simple, really.