Let's talk about what it means to have a bikini body, shall we??
In case you don't know me, I'm not just a head shot. I do have a body, and I'll just tell you, I'm not a small woman. As my grandmother used to say, we are a lineage of sturdy, big-boned, baby making ladies. I don't know if I like the term sturdy. I prefer to think of myself as curvy. However, I'm sure you get the point.
Because I'm curvy, honestly, I'm more comfortable in a bikini than I am all bulked up in winter clothes. When I have too many layers on, I start to look a bit like the Michelin Man. So, when the weather is warm, I am more than happy to put on a sarong over my swimsuit, throw my shoulders back and at least pretend I'm rocking it.
On our last day of a recent vacation in Hawaii, I was walking to the restroom when I passed a mother and her teenage daughter. The young girl looked up at me from her Kindle and said, "I really like your bikini.". I smiled, thanked her, and walked on. I didn't think much about it. However, when I was coming out of the restroom her mother stopped me and said something I've been thinking about ever since.
Mom was a beautiful woman, probably in her late 30's, with long dark hair and sparkling blue eyes. She was striking actually. She was wearing a coordinated one piece with a matching cover-up, that had her body fully covered up. She also had a towel wrapped around her waste.
"Hey, I wanted to thank you." she said. "Thank you for wearing your bikini so confidently." I kind of laughed, and told her it was my pleasure. Then she continued. "My daughter got out of an eating disorder clinic three weeks ago. We are here to celebrate and relax. When we arrived in Hawaii I immediately realized this might have been a mistake. What kind of mother takes her daughter to the beach to celebrate recovering from an eating disorder?"
"A mother that likes warm weather?" I replied.
"Maybe. I guess. Anyhow, I wanted to thank you. My daughter doesn't have very many women in her life who are good body-positive role models. I can't say I'm the best. However, when she noticed you in your bikini and complimented you, I felt like maybe this being in Hawaii thing was ok."
I've thought about this exchange a lot since I've been home. I'm the first person to blame advertising and media for telling women they aren't good enough. However, when it comes right down to it, it's also on all of us to stop the madness.
Women need to start owning their right to be beautiful now. As adults, it's on us to set the standard for the women who will follow us. We can't leave it to the media and marketing machine to change the dialog.
Sports Illustrated just put the first full sized model on the cover of the swimsuit edition. This has caused a lot of conversation in the modeling stratosphere about who looks unhealthy. Some models have said at a size 16 she looks unhealthy. Many of complained over the years Sports Illustrated promotes unrealistic body images by putting women on the cover who are very thin. This has become a divisive debate in the modeling industry itself.
What's clear to me is WE need to step up and be the role models and swimsuit models. As real, human-sized adult women we have a duty to own our space, and our bodies, no matter the size and show up confidently. Young women aren't stupid.
Girls and young women know what they see in advertising isn't real. They look to us to set the real standard. They're looking at me on the beach and they're looking at you.
Our daughters are looking at us, and for the record, so are our boys. Our boys are learning from us what a beautiful confident woman looks like also. That's also massively important.
This morning when I was doing yoga I remembered a conversation with a neighbor a couple of years ago who found out from another neighbor I used to teach yoga. She said to me, "When I heard that I started looking at your body to see if you had a yoga body." I remember wondering what she meant by that. I still do.
However, this morning as I folded myself into child pose on the mat, I reminded myself I love my yoga body. I also love my bikini body. I love this baby-making body. I really do. It's my job to remember that and model it by living it every single day.