competing. one of FEW bikini-clad moments.
It was the summer after senior year of high school and the start of those months where I lived at home under parent-rules, yet knew I’d soon be gone and creating my own.
I can’t remember why I involved my mom in the bathing suit shopping (typical teen wanting to wrangle her into paying? honestly looking for an opinion?), but decades after that summer her words that day remain with me.
I’m getting ahead of myself.
This was my summer of the real boyfriend.
I was convinced he was the one and, to give my younger-self credit, even with 20/20 hindsight I can see how I’d believe that.
(different-colleges, long distance never works, tumultuous break-up was to come. story for a different day.)
I share that tidbit because I vaguely recall some sort of boyfriend tie-in to our shopping excursion.
I was a life guard. I owned plenty of Speedos. I wanted something different.
And yep. To purchase said different, I brought my mom (laughing along with me? smiling? is this quintessential ROOTS when it should’ve been wings?!).
I ostensibly invited her for her swimsuit-opinion and the thoughts she shared have influenced me in greater ways than what I wear in water.
filled with youthful optimism.
The scene was this:
String bikini. Me. Whipped open curtain to dressing room. Stood. Waited to see my Mom’s response.
You look great, but no. It’s too adult.
My reaction to her words surprises me even more now I’m a mother.
I didn’t grow angry. I didn’t plot & plan how I’d return and buy the suit anyway.
Even though “too adult” was something she’d never paired with a NO, I accepted her answer and we settled on a compromise.
I believed she thought I looked great. I thought I looked amazing (I was always Miss. Piggy).
Those two facts were enough. I didn’t “need” the bikini.
I’ve considered her words this summer as I’ve seen girls of all ages frolicking in bikinis.
we’ve never been a bikini family.
I’ve thought about what she said as I’ve watched online discussions about the sexualizing of girls and the unintended impact of swimsuits we allow them to wear.
I’ve realized I register surprise when my daughter’s 8 & 9 year old friends yank off cover-ups and what’s underneath is two pieces.
we’re still in the one piece phase.
I don’t think I’m judging (we’ve already established I’d tell you) and often we’re in our backyard so there’s no tinge of inappropriateness.
Could the reason for my reaction of surprise *not* be as complicated as fears of self-objectification and as simple as I’m not a 2-piece person so don’t “get it?”
Bikinis, for me, are the uncomfortable combo of revealing & never staying in place.
too EXPOSED for me.
I do, however, reflect on days of swim diapers & baby bathing suit struggles.
Even then I found cutsie toddler’kinis oddly inappropriate though they may have worked in my mama-favor.
playing dress up with my shoes.
I am also aware how fortunate I am.
My daughter doesn’t yet request two piece suits or argue with me over other sartorial selections.
I’m the one, in fact, who argues against school dress codes and the messages they send.
I’m the one who fights for her right to wear what she wants because to “rule” otherwise is a disservice to girls.
To rule otherwise recontextualizes her body and makes it exist only through her male peers’ eyes.
we are a one-piece family!
Someday soon, though, I realize she may want to be a bikini-girl like her friends.
When that day comes I hope I find words which convey what my mother’s did on our shopping trip.
I want to let her know her body is beautiful, amazing and nothing to hide or be ashamed about—while conveying it’s OK to wait to do some things until she’s older….or, if she’s her mama, never at all.
There’s growing concern we shame our girls with NO’s! when they choose to show their bodies.
I didn’t hear that message when I was told no.
I heard you look great, but not now. Not yet. Wait. Save something for later.
And I think that’s OK.
- Your thoughts on girls, bikinis, and whether or not they sexualize children?
- Do you, too, view school dress codes in a different light?