Contrary to what you may have been told, wearing a swimsuit does not need to be an act of “bravery.” Not even if you’re fat—regardless of how microscopic your bikini may or may not be! Wearing a swimsuit is merely an act of clothing yourself, and does not require bravery unless the suit is made from live bees. Or ants. The only things you need to do to have a “beach body” is to have a body and put said body on a beach. Do, however, refrain from lugging unknown corpses to the beach, as you might be arrested for murder, but take your own body to the beach by all means, enjoyably and unashamedly, and send us landlocked folk a postcard.
I’ve waxed lyrical about my love of swimming before. It took me a while, however, to feel comfortable about wearing a swimsuit to a public pool. When I first started, I deliberately picked a location that was blissfully unpeopled—a shabby rundown pool that no one else went to. A couple of months later, I switched over to my (now) regular open-air place. I often asked a friend to come along with me, because having a swimming buddy was excellent for focusing attention away from my negative body image—it’s hard to think about jiggly thighs and wobbly bums when you’re busy trying to drown each other (purely in jest, I may add). Also wonderful: the immense variety of people I’d regularly find there, like toddlers floundering on floats in the shallow end, wrinkly old ladies swimming length after length without a care, pot-bellied, hairy men holding court on the affairs of the day in a corner, a conglomerate of boys launching themselves from the diving board, each trying to out-splash the others. There weren’t any perfect bodies that I could see, and no one seemed to mind very much.
It’s virtually impossible to believe when you’re feeling self-conscious, but the vast majority of people don’t have the time and energy to focus on the appearance of a stranger (in this case, you) when they’re too busy being awkward about themselves—something that everyone does basically all the time. People, as a rule, are self-conscious and even self-absorbed, and the ones who go out of their way to catcall or harass you have unfathomably puny and stunted lives that they need to fulfill by making others as miserable as they are. If you run into someone whose life is so bleak and empty that they need to drag you down that well with them, remember that they deserve nothing better than your utter disdain and maybe a well-placed comeback. One of my tried and true standbys is to turn around, confront the catcaller and urge them to examine the wasteland of their existence. A simple ‘What the fuck is wrong with you?’ is sufficient at times; on other occasions, I might pose something more intellectually challenging such as, “Is this what you do all day?” or “So that’s the best you could come up with?” or, simply, “Your fly’s open.”
If you’re worried your friends will body-shame you for wearing a bikini to the pool or beach with them, why, in all honesty, are they still your friends? If more accepting compatriots are in short supply at the moment, it’s helpful to draw some strict boundaries with the pals you’ve got. Clearly communicate to them that comments on your body or any aspect of your appearance and choice of clothing are totally unacceptable, and if their need to make those remarks is so great, they can air their opinions to a brick wall, because you’re not here for that shit. This also works if you’re with a larger group of people, some of whom you might not know very well.
You can feel confident for tons of reasons, not least of which is that your bathing-costume options are manifold and STUNNING. As if we didn’t already know you were going to look great: Cute swimsuits exist in your size. I repeat, cute swimsuits exist in your size, in your style, available for you to buy and wear and positively slay in. Similarly, your swimwear options aren’t confined to “tummy-trimming,” “curve-flattering” one-pieces in navy and black for you to try on as you stare longingly across the aisle at the riot of tropical hues and shed a single tear. (The author of the present piece confesses to having engaged in similarly melodramatic acts in the past.) Luckily, the internet exists, and so do good-looking plus-size lines at an increasing number of in-person stores.
“Cute” also extends to athletic suits that’ll stand up to acts of bodily strength and speed, don’t fret. My Sisterhood of Serious (Fat) Swimmers, worry not: Competition-worthy suits exist for us, and they’re not all depressing. In my experience, unpadded suits with bra shelves last much longer than their padded, underwired counterparts. Whatever you choose: It’s super important to rinse out your suit with tap water right after you get out of the pool, especially if it’s a chlorinated one. That way, when you find the right one, it’ll last you!
Look around—THIS SEASON RULES, which has nothing to do with your size. It’s summer! It’s finally warm, and the sun is out, and the flowers too, and to be alive and happy at a time like this is the greatest joy. Let your belly hang out, your arms and thighs find the sun, bask in the heat like a fat, content cat, and bliss out as your freckles and your glorious tan come alive again.
Finally, here’s my pro tip for feeling confident at airing your luxurious fat in public. First, find a full-length mirror. Put on your fatkini or other swimwear of choice, fix your hair and your makeup if you’re wearing any, and put on a pair of shoes you feel good in. Now hold your head high and walk towards that mirror till you’re facing yourself exactly as you are—and exactly as the world will see you. Look at yourself from every angle; strut a bit; do a little pirouette; put on your best pouty face and blow yourself a kiss. Be silly; laugh at yourself for the ridiculous things you just did—look yourself in the eye and laugh. The next time you do this, have someone you trust around, like your best friend or partner, and laugh with them. When you’re ready, go walk the length of a changing room in your swimsuit and look at the people around. If you hear a snicker, a whisper, or a snatch of muffled laughter, find its source and stare it down until it is quelled and extinguished completely.
And if “the worst” happens and some dickhead makes a comment, don’t flinch. When you’re a scared little squirrel (as I once was), you might be able to shut your eyes and block out the titters, but when you know the fury and strength of your own laughter, you can use it to overpower other people’s. Once you take whatever laughter you might have been afraid of and preempt it with your own—with actual joy—you have taken any power it has to hurt you because you’ve made it yours—and it looks absolutely great on you. And so does that cute-ass suit! ♦