It was hard to feel sexy in my tankini.
A trio of young Australian women had just set up their towels nearby, and now they had their phones out. Wiggle. Pose. Click. Just another perfect Boomerang of a 20-something, suns-out-buns-out, hasn’t-had-kids kind of body. These were the kind of girls who would show up adorning the beautiful sea views on Instagram’s top results for #croatia, #hvar, #adriatic.
I tried to ignore the girls, tried not to compare. Instead, I tried to focus on the stunning blue-green of the Adriatic, where my husband was snorkeling with our son and his friend.
I’ll try gratitude, I thought. That always makes me feel better. So I tried conjuring gratitude for the Things That Really Matter: my health, a strong body, the belly that nourished and birthed our miracle son. Because of course, we all know life’s all about the Things That Really Matter. But it’s hard to be grateful for all that when you’re having a “moment” at the beach!
As I sat there baking in the sun, a pervasive judgment rose up within me, whispering in my ear…
… you’re too old for a bikini… and maybe that tankini
… you should put on a cover up
… your belly looks like a melted candle
… you don’t belong here
It was an uncomfortable afternoon.
Later, we went to a different beach, crowded with people sunning themselves on the rocks. Croatians are big on being topless at the beach, and this place was no exception.
Except that the sunbathers weren’t all Insta-famous swimsuit models. Sure, some were seemingly flawless, but what really got my attention was the older women — women in their 70s and beyond — who were topless or in bikinis.
I nearly cried with delight: a place where grandmothers get to wear bikinis!
Back here in the US, most people would be appalled: how dare they! After all, the grandmas’ bodies were well worn by life: tummy overhangs, stretch marks, dimpled thighs, bat wings.
And yet here they were, emerging from the sea, matter-of-factly squeezing water from their bikini tops and boobs as if they were kitchen rags.
As if to say: why should I hide my body? Why shouldn’t I enjoy the sun and sea on my skin? Who says my body’s not worthy of these pleasures anymore?
Men show off their broken bodies without judgment. Why can’t we?
Well, we can. And we should. Because every body is worthy of pleasure, regardless of age or aesthetics.
I love you, Croatian grandmothers. Thank you for being bikini’d and unapologetic and free.