In preparation for an upcoming family weekend at an indoor water park, I made a bold move. I found my bikini tucked in the back of the drawer and put it on—in the dead of winter. Brave!
Shockingly, my pasty-white reflection in the mirror didn’t cause me to run screaming from the bathroom and into the first pair of sweatpants I could find. A month of hard training for a half-marathon has created definition in muscles I didn’t even know I had. Instead of cringing, I felt proud.
So why then, am I reluctant to wear said bikini to the water park? Why does wearing a two-piece around a bunch of kids feels mildly yet weirdly inappropriate? Why do I feel compelled to buy a suit with more coverage even though I don’t want to spend the money?
Because I’m 40 and I’m a mom. Those two seemingly unrelated facts have me questioning the appropriateness of a perfectly good swimsuit.
I don’t want to be that lady in the greying ponytails and miniskirt who other women comment about. If you are female, you know exactly the comments I’m referring to. We’ve all said them: “Isn’t she a little old for that outfit? Shouldn’t she dress more age appropriately? How old does she think she is?”
None of us wants to be that woman because we know others women will judge us—harshly. Yet, where is the line? My conservative halter top with its full-coverage bottoms is a far cry from the string bikini thongs worn on Caribbean beaches, and yet I worry it is too revealing for the kiddie pool.
I’m not the only one. I have a friend who after giving birth to three children still qualifies as a hot tamale (what my grad school friends jokingly called each other when we turned 30). She is a swimsuit connoisseur, buying at least a couple of them each year. She recently told me that this year, she purchased her first one-piece. She didn’t really want to, but like me, she felt mildly uncomfortable swimming with her kids in a bikini. Like me, she didn’t feel she had crossed that age appropriate line yet, but she wasn’t quite sure where the line is.
My question is why is there a line at all? If we feel good in what we wear, what does it matter if we bought our clothing in juniors or geriatrics? If we feel confident in a miniskirt at 50 or 60, shouldn’t we wear one proudly?
We’re told that age is just a number and it’s all about how young you feel. In the same breath, we’re told to act our age. I don’t know how to act my age because some days I feel 22 and some days I feel 72. Must my wardrobe reflect the age I feel each day? Seems complicated and pricey.
So, in the end, I’ve decided to pack the purple bikini and here’s why. One, I don’t want to spend money on a swimsuit when I already have one. And two, in the past month, I’ve run 60 miles, nearly every step of them on a treadmill. That’s the running equivalent of watching paint dry—even if you are watching HGTV the entire time.
I’ve earned the right to wear that swimsuit—and I’m going to try to wear it proudly without concern about judgment. After all, it’s only a matter of time before gravity wins and I won’t want to wear that swimsuit.
And next time I see a woman dressed “too young for her age,” I will resist the urge to raise my eyebrows at the friend next to me. Instead, I will think “You go, girl. You’re a hot tamale, inside and out.”