Having a body in public

It’s a lovely crisp day in Sydney, so it’s probably a bit odd to be thinking about bikinis, especially when I’m wearing a bright green knee-length skirt, navy tights and these fabulous un-summery shoes:

Swing shoes for men, from RetroSpec'd Clothing

Swing shoes for men, from RetroSpec'd Clothing

But I was reading If I Hear One More Word About Beach Bodies, I’m Gonna Strangle Somebody With a Tankini at xojane and this stuck in my mind:

I hate this term. It suggests that a body that is beach-worthy must adhere to certain standards, or else be rendered unbeachable.

I have a beach body. It’s this one, the one I take to the beach.

If you haven’t read it, please do. It’s about “killing your swimsuit anxiety in 5 easy steps” and it rocks.

I’m an intelligent woman who generally doesn’t buy into the beauty industry, but I’ve still internalised this idea that only perfect bodies can be on display in public. Because I’m not a beach person (pale English skin that burns like no one’s business), I don’t tend to see a lot of semi-naked bodies. The ones I do see are in advertising, and on my friends who have lovely legs, and on women I don’t know who have lovely legs. So even though I know that bodies come in all shapes and sizes, the ones I see tend to be all rather fabulous.

I am comfortable with my body, which is lucky because there’s not a lot I’m willing to do to change it. But it doesn’t mean I’m comfortable being semi-naked in public. Which is why my last two holidays – a hen’s week in Bali (not somewhere I’d normally go) and a week over NYE by a river in Tongaporutu in NZ – were initially challenging, but then reminded me of how wrong I am about what bodies look like. Bodies with cellulite, bodies with stretch marks, bodies with wobbly bits, bodies that have created babies, white bodies, tanned bodies, spraytanned bodies, muscular bodies, yoga-ed bodies.

I’m probably going out on a limb here, but I reckon my friends like me for who I am, rather than what I look like in a bikini. So why am I so nervous about being in a bikini around them? They might notice the big bruise on my thigh from where I clocked it on a railing (note to self: don’t walk around corners while looking out the window), they may notice my tats, they may notice my scars from an infection I picked up somewhere, and they may notice my cellulite. But they’re not going to care. And if they do care, well, it’s unlikely I’d have much in common with someone who would judge me by my arse.

Now, can you all remind me of this post in November?

36 responses to “Having a body in public

  1. Rhiannon Saxon

    Hell yes, especially if you can remind ME!
    This year I drove myself to the beach on my own. It was as milestone because I had never been in a car on my own, and never been to the beach on my own.
    Is it shallow of me to say I was extremely relieved that there were a bunch of elderly people at the beach?
    I LOVE going to beaches that have lots of parents, kids and old people (for a give value of ‘lots’..I don’t like crowded beaches), because there is not a ‘look’.
    And I only wear swimmers that have a little skirt or shorty legs.

    However I was relieved and grateful that when I EXPOSED MYSELF! to some new friends in my swimmers they wolf-whistled. *wipes brow*
    As I am roughly 20 kg more than I “should be’ (according to the medical profession) this is reassuring.
    I also have pale-blue-person skin, and tatts, and freckles, and underarm hair, so over the last ten years getting used to going to the beach has been a little confronting, but I am getting there. At least it is something I can now do on my own without having to wait for visitors from Canberra!
    yet again an incoherent and rambling response, but that is what I am capable of, just before rushing out to pick up 5 year old from school!

  2. I have shoe envy.

  3. This was so inspiring! Thank you. I loathe beach days but being married to a outdoorsy type it’s something I am regularly faced with every summer. I’m so pale I look like an extra from a Twilight film and my boobs are so small I make Kate Moss look like Dolly Parton. I don’t “measure up” and end up covering myself in a long sleeve kaftan and knee-length boy’s surfer shorts under the guise of “sun protection”. Thank you for reminding me that no-one could really give a toss (and who cares even if they do?) and they’re all probable much more busy having fun – like I will next Summer. Thank you!

    • Isn’t it funny the way we see ourselves? Ness, you think all those things but I think you’re gorgeous.

    • Rhiannon Saxon

      There are probably women hoiking up their boobs that have slid down the inside of their non-underwired swimmers envying you.

      • Thank you NWN!
        hahahaha Rhiannon! True. It’s all about perspective. On the upside, at least I can run for the bus without having to hold things in place!

  4. You could be stark naked except for one of your fluorescent merkins but if you were wearing those shoes, I’d be looking at them.

    Moral of the story: you never know what someone else is going to be looking at. So make like a three year old, wear your swimwear inside out, back to front, a size too big and don’t give a shit.

    Love this post a lot.

  5. Son came home from afterschool care and said Mum I want to go to XY in the holidays. Never heard of it I said – L at care found it on her i-phone he said. So I googled it. Turns out XY is a couple of hours from here, it’s a camping resorty style place which is also nudist. Explained to him that people walk around without clothes on and maybe July is a little cold for that? We could go when it’s warmer he said. Not sure Mum and Dad are ready for that we said (they do allow children and have children’s rates).

    We wander around nude at home but somehow doing it in public, not so sure. Plus I’m not sure I could look the parents of the kid who told my son about this place in the eye…

    • You’d have to look them in the eye if they were there at the same time…

      Jokes aside, we stayed in nudist camps a few times when I was a kid. In the off season so no one was there. There’s seven of us and we’re loud and yell and fight a lot, so my parents always took us camping to quiet locations. And really, how many people are going to be nude in July?

  6. I had a ridiculously long reply…

    Lets just say, I love that post by xojane and just, yeah.

    All bodies are beautiful. They are amazing things. I know I should love my body more than I do, not because of how it may or may not look but because of the amazing things it does for me each and every day. Bodies are amazing even in the things they simply won’t do or can’t do. (There are times I’d give my eye teeth for a vagina with such remarkable aim I could pee standing up)

    • Rhiannon Saxon

      I’d give my remarkably-aiming-vagina for a set of eye-teeth.

      (No actually I wouldn’t, I just thought it was funny. I can’t pee standing up.)

      • Me neither. I’d end up peeing on my shoes.

        • I have enough trouble not peeing on myself whilst squatting let alone standing. The man and I have ridiculous discussions on peeing abilities more often than an adult couple should. He loves fishing and camping and whilst I quite enjoy it too, I am constantly reminding him that my centre of gravity (read fat ass) just doesn’t permit me hanging my naked arse off the side of the boat to pee. He was born with the picnic pack, not me.
          I once admonished the man for missing the toilet. (I mean really, did the man really want leave himself open for jokes regarding aim and circumference?) I was also admonishing him for needing the toilet light on. To which he bluntly reminded me that aiming in the dark is near impossible unless you’re peeing at point blank range…so if I didn’t want to be woken by the light then I’d have to put up with the best approximation he could make which is to simply aim in the right direction. Apparently suggesting to a grown man that he simply sit and pee that way is just not something one should ever do.

          Ahem, and once more I have managed to bring the tone of the conversation down to the sewers.

  7. I would suggest that one night at a swingers party, Saints and sinners if less adventurous, would quickly adjust your vision to accept the beauty of all bodies and the myth of the beach body. Have also seen great shapes with curve revealed at pole dancing not simply lithe muscled 20 somethings.

  8. I have plenty of body hang ups such as my ducks disease (arse too close to the ground), wobbly post baby belly and bingo wings. But I LOVE the beach and for some reason don’t give a fuck about my body at the beach. My normal body neuroses get pushed aside by my enjoyment of overheating, swimming and tanning. Interestingly,my pregnant body was my favorite ever beach body.

    I always find that a spot of public nudying up, like Korean baths, helps dispel any myths that the world is full of Marie claire type bodies.

  9. Surely you nude down, rather than nude up? To me, nude up implies adding something. You put on make up, you get dressed up, so to get nude you must nude down.

  10. You can be comfortable with being semi-naked in public, it just takes practice.

    If you need inspiration (and if I may blatantly toot my own horn), check out the swimsuit tag on my tumblr (http://heyfatchick.tumblr.com/tagged/swimsuit) or this post I did last year (http://corpulent.wordpress.com/2010/10/04/two-piece-swimsuit-two-middle-fingers/)

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