So I walked into a department store last week and there they were: Rack after rack of swimsuits. Aside from the fact that it's hard for me to get into a swimsuit frame of mind when there are piles of snow outside, I found myself filled with a growing sense of dread.
I need a new swimsuit. There will be no putting it off this year.
Nothing puts the body image to the test like picking out a swimsuit. I'm OK with wearing one -- it's choosing one that I struggle with.
I ask: Does having a healthy body image mean having no qualms about showing lots of skin?
We live in a culture that equates skin with sexy, and implies that if you don't want to show lots of it, you must not be comfortable with your body. We live in a culture that is OK with this -- in fact, we're raising a generation of girls who think they need to show skin to be sexy. Just yesterday, I was driving through town when I saw a high school-age girl walking with a guy. He was bundled up in a jacket and knit cap.
She had on a bright red spaghetti-strap tank top.
Please don't tell me she was just trying to cool off. It was 35 degrees out.
But back to swimsuits. My husband fondly remembers the hot pink bikini I wore back when he and I were dating -- you know, 20 years and two kids ago. Back then, I wore it proudly and felt great. That suit suited me, if you know what I mean.
Today, when he happens to be with me when I'm shopping, he'll often steer me toward suits I'd no longer wear with the encouraging words, "You could wear that."
Of course, I could wear it. But I don't want to.
That suit no longer suits me.
Healthy body image means accepting our bodies today, as they are, and dressing in a way that makes us feel confident and comfortable. Frankly, I resent the idea that showing more and more skin is a marker of confidence. I also think that kind of pressure leads to situations like this.
After years of body image struggles, I demand the right to dress in a way that makes me feel good. It's not about giving something up; it's about recognizing what works for me. Showing skin is perfectly fine if that's what makes you feel good.
What do you think? Is a show of skin always a sign of healthy body image? And how do we teach our daughters not to cave to the show-skin pressure if they'd rather not dress that way?