As I was planning my annual summer trip with my best friend to Ojai, I realized I needed a new bathing suit. (The other five I had were lonely.)
Every year, I think that a new bathing suit will transform my life, or at least my body. I’m in my later 50s, and I only wear bikinis. I’m what used to be called short, but is now known as petite, and one-piece suits seem to make me look even shorter, if that’s possible.
So I did what I usually do: ordered 10 suits in various sizes and colors. When they arrived, I stood in front of my full-length mirror and assessed how they fit my rear end from every angle possible. After what felt like hours, I decided which perfect/imperfect suit was up to the job and I returned the other nine.
As I placed this year’s prize-winning bikini in my suitcase, I wondered when I would have to wear a one piece, even if it didn’t look great on me.
When I turned 45, I didn’t give in. Then 50, then a few more years beyond that, and I still buy bikinis, even though I’m bombarded with what society or the internet has to say about women of a certain age. For now, I choose to ignore them and will wear a bikini until I feel that I no longer want to wear one, not because some person I don’t know tells me that I’m too old.
The day came for Emma and I to head off to Ojai. As we changed into our suits, we gave each other the usual friend compliments. “Wow, you still look so good,” and, “See, even in our 50s we can rock a bikini!” We headed to the pool, picked out the perfect lounges and peeled off our cover-ups. Then reality hit.
We were surrounded by women in their 20s and 30s in their tiny ― and I mean tiny ― bikinis. Not a stitch of cellulite, no dimples in their skin, no extra folds over their belly buttons. They marched to the bar, the bathroom, the jacuzzi without cover-ups. The parade of tight, amazing bodies signaling that we didn’t belong.
Emma and I looked at each other, and for a moment, we both thought about putting our cover-ups back on, but we didn’t. I sat with my insecurity and repeated a phrase that I had written on a post-it on my mirror at home: “Comparison Is The Thief Of Joy.”
I need to repeat that phrase a lot because when I do go down that spiral, a dark cloud hovers over me, throwing shade on everything that I should be proud of. As an author, there’s always someone selling more books than I am, or a friend who goes on better vacations, or someone with a “better” body. When I don’t compare, I live a life of peace and contentment, and not envy and insecurity.
I reminded myself that I have a body that has gone through traumas and loss, bore children and raised them to young adults. No one should be able to tell me what I can or can’t do.
The funny thing was that none of those young, beautiful women were judging me. They didn’t care what I wore or what I looked like or how old I was. I was the only one judging me.
As I continue to age, which is definitely better than the alternative, I will continue to feel good in whatever I decide is right for me. I can’t say I’ll be wearing a bikini when I’m 80, but if I decide that I want to have my long gray hair hitting my shoulders in pretty curls and my triangle tops holding my breasts up above my navel, then I’ll do that.
It’s my body and whether anyone likes it or not, I get to decide what I do with it and what I wear on it. Maybe I’ll go to Ojai and strut around, knowing that the 20- and 30-year-old’s will one day be where I am, and hope when they are that they, too, are proud of their bodies and confident in who they are.
Leslie Rasmussen is the author of the award-winning novel, ”After Happily Ever After” and her next book, ”The Stories We Cannot Tell,” will be released by Touchpoint Press. You can follow her at LeslieARasmussen.com, or on Instagram @LeslieRAuthor.