Or as I like to call it, nipple-slip camel-toe permanent wedgie season.
My large-bottomed sister and I joke that our asses like to eat, because no matter the swimsuit style, after three steps toward the beach all we have left is a Sisqo fold and an overdressed butthole.
I’ve never found a bikini top with triangles that didn’t shift around like Scrabble pieces. The knot at the top pushes so hard into the nape of my neck that it aches for a day afterwards. Because of this, I’ve resorted to buying bra-style suits that manage my boobs like a cartoon grasping at a slippery bar of soap.
Maybe I should go back to the tankini. I was so relieved the first time I found a full-length top to cover what my brother lovingly used to refer to as “the black hole.” (My bellybutton).
At age 11 I found a purple printed swimsuit at Old Navy, a sort of half-tank with a flattering cinch to highlight my brand-new breast buds. I showed my mom and said, “I like it, but I’m just self conscious about my stomach.” She replied, “Why don’t you go lay outside for a little bit so you don’t feel like a beached whale?”
Her intention: A tan may make you feel slimmer.
My teen understanding: I’m a beached whale.
At 13 I wore my first bikini, one of many hand-me-down swimsuits from my flat-abbed older sister. The swimsuit was orange, with a hazy painted sunset. The bottoms never quite fit right and would at times slip side-to-side, providing a locker-room visual if I didn’t quickly readjust. It had pilling all over the butt from sticking to the side of the pool, but I loved it.
The first time I put it on, I weighed 74 pounds. Orthopedic surgery to correct my uneven legs kept me out of the eighth grade and on heavy narcotics (an excellent weight loss plan). I remember limping into the bathroom to look at myself before going out into the yard, and sucking in my stomach. I could see every single rib, and quickly let out my breath to hide them again.
By 16, I had put on enough weight to go through puberty a second time. I went on a trip to Israel with a hundred other horny Jewish teenagers, and nearly sharted in astonishment when I heard that boys liked me. Up until that point, boys had primarily treated me as the unavoidable tumor on a group of pretty girls, providing me with creative elementary nicknames such as “pot-belly-socks” and “peg-leg.”
Suddenly, these hot underage Jews wanted to rest their heads on my stomach, and invite me for back stairwell “PCs” (private conversations). My weight was almost healthy, nearing the triple digits, but I was still reeling from the sudden weight gain. The constant attention made me feel safe enough to wear a bikini, whereas my best friend on the trip ate one-third of every shwarma and wore Soffe shorts three sizes too big. We were two peas in a pod.
At 19, twenty pounds and s-e-x brought on a horror of self-awareness I had never experienced before, even in a bikini. Fucking was like reading a graphic novel featuring a fatter, clumsier version of myself. Captions read SMACK, CLAP, and SQUISH, and every issue ended with the heroine crying in the shower.
Looking back, my entire life revolved around looking in the mirror and seeing my body for the first time, every time. My life was like a really shitty dubstep version of “Mirror Mirror On The Wall”. I lost all ability to see myself clearly, and began depending on compliments- my clues to what I really looked like.
I wish I could say it was the strength of girl-power that changed my feelings towards myself, but the truth is that it took falling in love to disrupt my body dysmorphia. My post-college boyfriend honored my body with zeal that bordered on worship, and over time I began to see parts of my body the way he saw them. He didn’t call my legs “long” or my body “thin”, but he treated my ass like the third member of our relationship. I trusted his opinion of my body when I couldn’t form my own.
Now single and in my mid-twenties, the funhouse mirror has mostly straightened out. I have a general understanding of what I look like, but sometimes I still study pictures of my body hungrily, searching for new clues. In those moments, I try to recall the confidence I felt with a man who praised my cellulite, and helped me stop fucking in the dark.
When it comes to swimsuit season – accepting my body and all that – I may not have the confidence to buy a thong bikini, but my hungry ass will always be looking for a snack.
Lena Kazer is a Chicago writer best known for her platform shoes and affinity for swearing. An avid over-sharer, you wouldn’t call her an open book so much as a never ending gag reel. Her composition is 75% whiskey and 25% gummy vitamins.
Check out her personal blog at SheLikesBourbon.wordpress.com.