We all have at least one “mom swimsuit.” You know the one. It’s our Old Faithful, the one we feel most comfortable in—maybe because it covers everything we want it to, or maybe because it allows us a full range of motion for chasing after little ones at the pool. Either way, it’s our go-to. And it’s usually always a black bathing suit, right? Or a similar dark color? Because how often did we grow up hearing “black is slimming?”
Well, I’m here to tell you that’s a bunch of b.s. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with loving your black bathing suit, however. Nothing at all. But I fear that most of our comfort-zone bathing suits are borne from established insecurities about our bodies and how best to cover them up. Body acceptance is hard for all ages and stages. It’s especially difficult to feel confident after undergoing the radical physical transformations of pregnancy and postpartum life.
Whatever you need to do and whatever you want to wear during any phase of your life is up to you, and you should feel utterly unapologetic about it. But I want to share a radical realization I had during the past year: what if I wore—gasp!—a bathing suit that wasn’t black?
What if I didn’t buy the same old swim dress-thing I always do? What if I didn’t buy the bathing suit that best hides my body and instead, I buy one that I really, really like?
When I was a kid, I gravitated toward the brightest-colored swimsuits with the coolest patterns. I wanted to stand out; I wanted to be seen. As a teenager, I often bought the brightest neon bikinis I could find. Two of my most favorite bathing suits in memory are a bright white two-piece with tropical flowers on it, and an aqua swimsuit with a matching sarong. I felt good in those swimsuits. Knowing those feelings have been lost for years fills me with overwhelming sadness. I still love summer as much as I always have; what happened?
In my twenties, my body completely changed as a result of an eventual PCOS diagnosis. Suddenly, I had an insulin-resistant condition that made me tired, gave me irregular and painful periods, and it made my weight fluctuate. I no longer felt that I belonged in a two-piece swimsuit—I felt like I had to hide. The instinct to camouflage my body only intensified after two pregnancies. While I loved many things about being pregnant, once I was no longer hosting the precious contents of my womb, my body felt like a shell of what it used to be.
For the last five summers that I’ve been a mother, I’ve fallen into the Black Bathing Suit Hole. I have the Mom Skirtsuit, the Vintage Silhouette For Curvy Girls Swimsuit, the High-Waisted Bikini I Can’t Summon The Courage To Wear, and the Full-Coverage, Practically Duggar-Approved Modesty Suit With A Cute Print. Guess what color they are? You know it: ALL BLACK.
Spending an entire year mostly isolated from the world in order to survive a global pandemic gave me, a chronic over-thinker, an exorbitant amount of time to think. Earlier this year, I was terrified of this summer. I feared that I had “let myself go”—whatever that means—and that my body should basically be covered in a tarp in order to be suitable for public consumption in hot weather.
It’s ridiculous. It even feels ridiculous to type that out. Thankfully, those feelings didn’t last long. I began to really unpack and process what was behind my bathing suit insecurity (thank you, 16+ years of therapy!), and the broader answer is, unsurprisingly: diet culture. Basically, we live in a society that values thinness in almost every conceivable way. But you know what? I’ll be damned if I let diet culture strip me of one more summer of my life. I survived a global pandemic. I kept my family safe, healthy, and alive. I’m healthy. After living through that, and seeing how fleeting life is and how easily we can all be robbed of ours, why on earth would I let my insecurities about my body keep me from something as simple as wearing what I want to wear?
I accept that I have cellulite and a lot of it. There’s no black swimsuit on earth that can disguise it. I have big boobs and a big butt that, no matter how delusional I can be, are not minimized in any way based on the hue of my swimwear. Last month, I loaded my online shopping carts with a white tropical swimsuit, an olive green tankini, and a bright red one-piece. I love colors! All the colors! And I’m tired of looking at other women and envying their gorgeous bathing suits because for years, I’ve felt like those colors weren’t for me.
Those women deserve to wear whatever they want to, and I do too. I’ll probably go back to having a black bathing suit “just in case,” but this year I’m ditching it altogether. I want to see how bright life can be beyond my comfort zone—and if this is what you needed to read to give you a little nudge outside of yours, then I wrote this for you, too.