My bikini body is warm. Beneath the sun’s glow it is golden, bright, already beginning to show the first signs of burn, the areas of skin that the suncream failed to reach start to make themselves known. Typical of a Brit hell bent on returning home with the evidence of a holiday written all of their body.
My bikini body is wet. It glitters in the bright light, droplets of water; whether sweat or sea, I can’t be sure, rest in amongst the white blonde hairs.
My bikini body is heavy. Heavy with the weight of a good book and the sun up above. Heavy with the weight of no responsibility, of happiness, of ultimate relaxation.
My bikini body is soft. The salt water, the sun, the suncream and last night’s aloe vera. They combine to achieve a level of moisture that I am unable to find in a bottle. The hard patches on the bottom of my feet, evidence of places travelled and distance moved, they are eroded away by the grains of sand underneath them.
My bikini body is vulnerable. Vulnerable to the eyes all around me, those who I convince myself are staring at me, judging me, thinking to themselves about the imperfections that make me, me. Vulnerable to my own judgemental glare, critiquing gaze as I evaluate the effect that my normal life has taken on my physical form.
For years my bikini body existed only underneath my arms, the floaty fabrics I would reach for if it was required to do anything more than lie, flat, and let gravity take hold of the weight of my stomach and drag them down to the depths of what we have been taught society expects from us.
It was a source of shame for me; something that I would be embarrassed to expose, desperate to hide. It would be something that I couldn’t look at, wouldn’t look at. It was something that I thought was wrong. Different. Unlike the others.
My bikini body isn’t like that anymore.
Physically, it remains imperfect.
The stray dark hairs rooted deeply in soft and unexpected areas of skin.
The stretch marks escaping the bottom of my bikini, evidence of growth and maturity, beautiful underneath the setting sun, serving as an uncomfortable reminder that ti outgrew the body that I was meant for.
The rolls that make up my tummy; soft, shameful, perfect. Indicative of a life filled with good food and good fun. Such a small part of me and yet central to all that I am.
The moles that adorn my entire body. Every day another appears. Each a beautiful display of uniqueness, another reminder that they are the distinguishing features that make me, me.
The cellulite that moves as I move. That moves, even as I don’t. The flesh that sits on my arse, that makes up my arse. The skin that bunches up as I take a seat, buckles under the weight, emulates what it means to be a woman.
The breasts. Sometimes too big, sometimes too small. Held in place by tight fabric, a burden to my neck as it fights to hold them up. Moving, like my cellulite, often independently from my body, they too are covered in hairs, in freckles, in small identifying features, all that makes them mine.
My face, under such scrutiny at home, is left to it’s own devices here. Fed, hungrily a diet of nothing but saltwater and high SPF chemicals, it flourishes. Freckles materialise, a glow appears and all evidence of tiredness, of pollution, of age, it is erased by the golden hue that ensues.
My eyes. Relentlessly straining, always alert, they’re allowed to fall close when they want. Free from the responsibility of alertness, they’re allowed rest. They stare and they see nothing; nothing beyond beauty and calm and the things that, in a matter of days, will be nothing more than the most brilliant of memories.
My hair, brushed, pulled, tight, thirsty and tired at home, is free here. Free to tangle, to curl, to puff and to frizz. It isn’t controlled. It isn’t contended with. It is left, left to it’s own perfect devices.
The body that I spent so long worrying about, prepping, preparing, cursing, out here it is just that: it is a body.
It is a vessel by which I was able to enjoy some of life’s greatest pleasures. It enables me to feel the sand beneath my toes, the sting of salt on a fresh graze, the warmth that the fireball in the sky, critical to our very existence, emits.
It is the thing that allows me to spend time with my family, my friends, to experience all that life has to offer. To read new words, hear new songs, eat new food.
It is the means by which I am able to live; to feel and to love.
The insecurities that used to shroud this part of me, the entirety of me, really. They’re not here anymore. Well, they’re here; society and the toll that it’s taken on generations of women ensure that it will probably never truly leave me, but they’re not indulged, not like they used to be.
The way that I felt about my bikini body meant that I forbade it from doing so many things for me. I’d let opportunities wash over me like the waves breaking all around me; desperate to ensure that as few people as humanly possible were exposed to the hunk of flesh that I’d been told, for so long, was not right.
I’d dread the arrival of a holiday that I had looked forward to so desperately and spend the trip itself silently praying for it’s end and the opportunity to return to cooler climes and the protection that they enabled me.
My life was being taken from me by the fear I had of my own body.
My bikini body.
My holidays don’t look like that anymore. I won’t allow them to.
My bikini body, give or take a few moles and stray hairs, has remained the same. But the mind to which it is home, that has changed.
That has come to realise that with a finite number of beautiful memories to be made in this life, the opportunity to seize them with both hands must be taken, every time.
Cellulite or no cellulite.