Bikini Bodies and Me

You may have noticed that the admonishments to 'get that bikini body' have come especially early this year. Maybe you noticed it when you walked past the Women's Lifestyle rack at WH Smith and felt that familiar sense of Apocalypse-like foreboding. Maybe you noticed it from that anxious feeling deep in the pit of your (inadequate, flabby) stomach. However, there's a lot of conflicting advice in these rags. One minute you're supposed to be solely ingesting cabbage soup for the better half of a fortnight, the next you're supposed to be crying out toxins and achieving perfect thighs by shoving something plastic up your bum. To set the record straight, I've come up with my own definitive guide. I've collated all of the best life knowledge I have, and I've worked out the secret formula for your life in a two-piece.

How to get a bikini body:

1) Put on a bikini. And er … that’s it. 

PUT ON A BIKINI - if you want to. I know, I know - it can be quite difficult, especially if it involves one of those tricky halternecks - that’s why they have articles (and sometimes whole publications) on it. But the articles start at the wrong end: they start by telling you to change, and to buy various extortionate made-up products to facilitate this change. I’m going to tell you the opposite. That you don’t need to change. There, I’ve saved you the cover price of something that would have made you feel randomly inadequate. If you feel you owe me, I still accept cheques.

Here’s one thing: I wear a bikini, sometimes. And here's a thing that happens when you say, ‘I wear a bikini’ to a public audience: women say, ‘It’s all right for you, you [insert dubious compliment here].' You are thinner, taller, have skin, whatever. Sometimes, it’s as simple (and somewhat insulting) as, ‘It’s all right for you, you’re BRAVER than me’. It’s a signifier, that ‘It’s all right for you’. It signifies: ‘I’m not as good as you’ – and by God, if there’s one thing we do well, it’s putting ourselves down. My answer to that: you so ARE as good as me. You might even be ‘better’. But who cares? We’re not in some major rank-all-the-women-in-order competition. 

Here’s another thing, which is the thing that happens next: the non-bikini-wearer says, ‘Are you mad? Have you seen X or Y?', where X or Y are invariably the parts of their body they feel less confident about. They do that, I posit, in case it looks like they are super-in-love with themselves (because, y'know, self-confidence is a totally unattractive quality). But wearing a bikini isn't showing off, even if you do have the audacity to walk around inside an 'amazing' body. I’m giving 'amazing' the Inverted Comma Treatment because frankly, all bodies are ‘amazing’. I presume you know that your liver is like your own resident detoxifer? Yes! Amazing. 

But I digress. I’m not going to start listing all the reasons I shouldn’t wear a bikini, even though I’m 51 and my name is not Linda Barker. I’m going to ignore my inner Catholic hermit who is currently screeching WHY ARE YOU EVEN DRAWING ATTENTION TO YOURSELF BY USING WORDS? But I am going to admit to entirely normal reactions; that if I’m ever photographed wearing one, I cross my arms across my stomach, and that on a sliding scale of unhappiness, I’m marginally less unhappy being snapped as I reach for something from an imaginary top shelf. But it doesn't stop me doing it. 

What happens if you put on a bikini, without having the requisite ‘bikini body’? I’m here to report: nothing happens, you just have a bikini on. I’m here to report: these articles are bunkum. Nonsense. They are purely designed to sell stuff. It’s stuff that we don’t need, stuff with fake science in it that promises to destroy cellulite and make you 'wobble' less and even improve your digestive system through the power of yoghurt. It’s boswallocks. And of course, for companies to fully profit from women’s insecurities, they first have to make sure women are insecure. But we’re busy helping that market as fast as we can, turning in first on ourselves, and then on other bodies (yes, those are separate things.) 

Considering that I've taken a bullet for the Bikini Body cause and ventured out, 51 and all, in a tiny top and pants, how about you all join me in saying, ‘Nah. I don’t need a £50 smoothing cream for my thigh gap. I’mma live with it. In the OCEAN.’ How about we say, 'Actually, I’m NOT going to wait til I lose 2 stone/have my tits raised/get a cosmetically-altered belly button, because every time I WAIT, I waste time. Every time I WAIT, I’m not doing what I want to do. And let’s face it, we’re talking an item of beachwear here. Filling my head with this negative shit takes up brain space I could more usefully employ reading a book.' 

I’ll illustrate with a personal anecdote. I have a daughter. Once, when I was brushing her hair and telling her she was beautiful, my mother told me, ‘You have to stop telling her she’s beautiful, because she might get vain’ (and if you wondered why I have an inner Catholic hermit? There’s your answer.) My response - and I hope it would be yours but if not, feel free to borrow it - was that I wanted her to KNOW she was beautiful; that, in the words of the eminent philosopher Jim Bowen from Bullseye, ‘You’ve got that. That’s safe.' And thus, by banking that knowledge, she’d not spend time worrying about peripheral crap, but spend it instead employed in more useful endeavours: solving the debt crisis, for instance, or working out science problems, or character development in her next novel. She was only 7 at the time, so clearly this was a long-term plan. 

And yeah, I’ve checked my bikini-wearing privilege. It IS all right for me, because I DO have a body, and it's good enough. So do you. You ARE. Try it. Chin up, eyes forward, hands (if possible, after some practice), NOT crossed in front of your body. Awesome. Whether you're rocking a burkini or a two-way made of dental floss, you look bloody fabulous. 

But am I going to illustrate this article with a photo of me in my bikini? Am I hell. As I said, I’m not bloody Linda Barker.