Let’s go to the beach used to be the ultimate horror soundtrack in my brain.
Um excuse me? What am I supposed to wear? No, no, unfortunately, bathing suits have been deemed poisonous by the FDA.
Miss the water? Sure, I might. Are baggy T-shirts the size of dresses allowed by the life guards?
Reasons I don’t wear bikinis.
My complex relationship with carbs.
The phantom hold of religious stringencies.
My on and off devotion to exercise.
Hair. God given. Everywhere. Dark, Hungarian hair on pale skin. HAIR.
And that tire around my belly, expanding and flattening according to its own insane desires.
I don’t swim well. My parents never really taught us and whenever we frequented lakes, beaches or pools on those sporadic family holidays, we waded in and out, close to the shore or walls.
Some doggy paddle knowledge was gained at day camp. At one point I could even do a breaststroke.
Basically, I won’t drown in calm waters.
I never practiced too much anyway, even though I was brave enough in my youth to dive off the highest diving board at the community pool. I was too young to notice how I looked in my bathing suit when I landed, with an inelegant splat, in the deep end.
Before I moved here, I hadn’t gone swimming in years.
The main reason was the swimwear.
Water shouldn’t be so much hassle. I shouldn’t have to remove hair from a thousand areas on my body just to enjoy it.
Nothing, not even the tankini, could give me the coverage I craved, and yet I shunned too much coverage, eschewing modest swimwear like swim skirts and swim shirts.
Once, just once, I wore one whilst babysitting in a pool.
They were heavy. Suffocating. I wanted comfort and peace of mind. I didn’t want to hide.
I went to the beach last year wearing a tankini under a boho dress, hoping I could find some compromise somewhere. It was the first time I was letting go of my traditional modesty and choosing to swim in mixed beaches, solely in my tankini.
I thought it would give me some sense of self, some reacquaintance with my very flawed, raging figure, some introduction to the overdue “easing into my own body” phase.
The plan: in and out of the water in my suit and then on with the flowy dress for lounging and walking. I don’t know why my mind decided to create those arbitrary boundaries. I think It was setting rules so the process slowed down to something meaningful. Break rule one, hurray! Move forward, sister. Only forward.
I was trying to teach myself to be comfortable inside my skin, within the walls of my body, not wanting to display or parade it around, because that’s not what it is for. Maybe one day I’d feel sexy enough to do that. Parade it in a private space with someone whose bones I wanted to jump. Maybe I would never want to flaunt it, even then. Maybe I’d need to. Maybe something would compel me to.
But that day, last year, on the beach, it was all about banishing fear, calming down. So what if I missed a spot shaving? I had to just get on with it anyway.
It was about only sucking in my stomach halfway instead of inhaling to the point of breathlessness.
It was about coming to terms with the fact that NO, my body was NOT causing or going to cause a catastrophe, whether it be disgust or desire.
It was about realising my body was not going to elicit any reaction from anybody, because my body was not for others to react to.
It was for me.
To settle into.
Palmachicm was not a crowded beach, making it the perfect place to dip my toe in the self acceptance pool. I wasn’t leaping mind you. I still cringe walked my way back to my towel when my tankini top rode up, exposing my lower back.
A tingle of fear and self conscious horror still crab walked its way down my spine as I lingered on the faces dotting the shore.
No one looked at me. The relief was astounding.
During the interim winter I enlisted my mom to help me find a bathing suit I felt at home in.
My requirements were that it be one piece, black, have a neckline mimicking a tank top, and a high backline.
Dutifully, she trolled Lands End, the home of golden ager’s fleeces and appallingly ugly patterns.
She sent me a link to a suit that ticked every box.
Sure, I’d probably look about 80, but I didn’t care. I could finally go to the beach and never worry. I could actually walk into the sea and feel the water, oxygen twisting through the hydrogen at a scary pace, the frothy white waves pushing me against the tide.
Instead of the usual do I show, how fat are my rolls, is my body offensive?
Even under water I’d feel that fear.
When the bathing suit arrived I tried it on. It was perfect but for one thing. It was a size too small. It was too tight.
Undeterred, I wore it anyway.
This time when I made my way to Fricshman, my skirt was a bit shorter, looser, more comfortable, allowing me to be flexible and give off the impression that I was long limbed.
I still held by those boundaries of covering up to go to the bathroom. Jogging skirt, short sleeved kimono with tassels.
When I got back to the lounge chair this time, I took those items off. I relaxed and let the sea air wash over me. I settled, like a cat, aware of every hair and every creak and revelling in them anyway.
And maybe over on Gordon beach there was that perfect 10 I had seen last time who made me collapse into myself with self consciousness.
Or that perfect rich couple from Hungary who were stock models out of a Nivea ad.
But here on Frischman, there were imperfect specimens amongst the gorgeous, and no one cared. There were families in odd ball swimwear, and two old women with intense sagging thighs, wrinkles and scars who didn’t give two ****s.
There were pot bellied Israeli guys drinking beer and smoking while hotter ones played soccer on the far right.
There were dazzling displays of stretch marks and plenty of cellulite emphasised by flashy bikinis, that were far from itsy.
And no one cared. Everyone relaxed and watched the stunning water do its wonderful dance of rushing in and out of the edge of the world.
The water was rough so I didn’t swim. However, I took off my skirt and kimono and walked steadily in up to my midsection, feeling that hyper adrenaline when the speed of the furious tide comes for you. I laughed because what can one do when something pushes you, carries you, makes you feel so alive and intense that all you can do is try to survive it, ride it, make it last?
I laughed. I forgot I was all shoulders and legs and thighs. My one piece covered the bits of me that used to cause me worry.
Maybe I didn’t look hot when I finally woozily tumbled back onto the shore.
Trust me, “hot” is something I’ve never accomplished nor ever will, now that I’m older.
Maybe there were pesky patches missed by the razor. Maybe my makeup was congealing or scratched off by a white wave.
I genuinely didn’t care.
Maybe I did. For a second.
But it only lasted for a second.
And for the rest of the day I felt liberated, calm, relaxed.