Why I'm choosing to wear a bathing suit at home this summer
Approximately 68% of women in America are considered plus-size, but there’s a clear lack of industry representation and shopping options for this majority. In Plus-Size Diaries, columnist Olivia Muenter dives into all things plus-size, from sharing her personal experiences to speaking out about plus-size culture at large.
There was a time in my life when the idea of summer being “canceled” would have thrilled me—when I would have been elated to find out that I wouldn’t have to wear a bathing suit at a pool, beach, or water park. Even today, at 27, I can almost physically feel the relief that would have washed over 12-year-old me upon discovering I wouldn’t have to wear a hideous tankini or expose my stretch marks for the season. So, this year, when I first started to realize that traditional summer activities might not be happening due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, part of me felt that same sense of joy that younger me would have felt.
That feeling came up despite the fact that over the past three years, I’ve actively worked to love my body at any size and any weight. I’ve quit dieting, embraced plus-size fashion, and learned to actively question the voice in my head that says I need to be smaller. And in a turn of events that would have shocked my younger self, I now consider myself a fairly confident person. Contrary to popular belief, though, that confidence isn’t inherent but rather a daily, repeated exercise in telling myself that I am worthy of feeling my best, no matter what. And it’s definitely not a cure-all to any lingering insecurities or self-doubt.
I’ve believed for a long time that hating your body and accepting it take exactly the same amount of work, but either way, it’s still work. It’s work to feel excited about swimsuit season when you’ve spent years telling yourself a vacation would be more enjoyable if you’d lost 10 pounds. It’s work to hype yourself up to wear a bikini when every store you go into doesn’t even offer your size. It’s work to feel comfortable in a pool or hot tub when every woman around you is commenting on their latest diet.
So the idea of putting this work on the back burner for summer 2020? It was appealing for a second—until I realized how necessary it was for my self-worth.
The act of shopping for a bathing suit, finding one that fits, and physically wearing it is something that, for me and so many women, can conjure up images of crying in fitting rooms, hiding under beach towels, and swimming in oversized T-shirts. There is possibly no garment more emotionally loaded than a bathing suit. But that’s exactly why I think every woman should wear one this summer anyway—especially if you’re like me and swimsuit season conjures up painful memories.
I thought about how horrifying it was that there was even the smallest part of me that was okay with giving up floating in pools and diving in oceans if it meant I wouldn’t have to wear a bathing suit in public. That fact alone told me that I was getting my body in a swimsuit this summer no matter what, whether I liked it or not.
So I did. It felt a little odd, at first, to sit on my porch in plain view of my neighbors and rock a bikini. But after a bit, I realized it didn’t feel scary because I was in a bathing suit in a place I normally wouldn’t be—but because putting on a bathing suit always comes with at least a little bit of fear for me. Maybe it will always feel this way, but I’m committed to feeling that fear and putting on the bathing suit anyway.
So even if you won’t be finding yourself near water this summer, go into your closet and find your favorite swimsuit. Maybe it’s been a while. Maybe it gives you anxiety just to think about it. But put it on anyway. Pour yourself an ice-cold beverage. Turn on some music that reminds you of summer. And when you’re sitting there in your bathing suit on your porch or on the couch, tell yourself the one thing that my 12-year-old self never knew: In a world that likes to make you think that bathing suits hold all the power over you, it’s actually the other way around. You have the power, because the second you do the thing that scares you and you survive it, you realize that all those things you used to say no to are actually possible after all.
So even if it’s easier than ever this summer to avoid wearing the bikini that scares you, I’m telling you to wear it anyway, just like I did last week. Because I deserve to see all the possibilities on the other side of fear, and so do you.