Now that the great snow piles of 2015 are melting, it’s time to get our six-packs on—or at least that’s the watchword at the local YMCA. You would expect this kind of twaddle from fashion magazines, but not from the members of my Y, who are a veritable mishmash of every type of human being you’re likely to come across, including goodly swaths of the over-forty, over-fifty, over-sixty, and over-seventy set.
The last thing my own over-fifty body wants to do is firm its posterior, lose inches around its middle, or tighten its triceps. What it does want to do, and in fact insists on doing despite God knows how many hours I put in at exercise classes devised by Satan, is to soften, expand, and sag. Yet, according to this chatter, the problem must be that I’m not exercising hard enough.
Trick question: who do you think flocks to all the butts-and-guts, back-to-abs, and Pilates classes that in recent years have sprung up like so many dandelions in May? If you guessed women, you get an A-plus. Among other things—menstruating, giving birth—men seem to have next to no experience with what has long been known to American women as “the swimsuit season,” and to everyone else as “summer.”
Like young men of Victorian times, whose knowledge of female anatomy often came from Greek statues, our own young folks seem to think that there is something wrong with all the various sprouts and bulges and curves and jiggles that are the natural expressions of female bodies in all their endless, yet standard, variations. In an age where it’s pretty much all out there on public display, we’re still supposed to look like Greek statues, only a lot thinner.
Hence, the requisite bikini waxing—of course I want to have the hair on my inner thighs and all the way up the sides of my privates pulled out by hot wax, don’t you?—as well as exfoliating, pre-tanning, and bicycle-crunches, to name just a few of the things we gals do in order to prevent our barely-clothed bodies from humiliating us.
But who ever said that a bikini—or for that matter, any skimpy bathing suit—was ideal for anything other than getting ogled? Wearing a bikini means that you can’t frolic in the waves or swim without fear of losing a top or bottom. And that’s because a bikini has nothing to do with swimming, or any kind of physical freedom, and everything to do with display. Wearing a bikini is just another way that women have bought into the notion that our exterior bits and pieces, rather than our interior selves, are what count, the spandex expression of feminism gone awry.
The female body is perfectly designed not only to last decades and encase vast intelligence, but also to make babies, nurse them, and carry them. But rather than respect our bodies, let alone enjoy them, we wage war with them.
You know who really rocked swimwear? Grandma did. Grandma’s bathing outfits were baggy and comfy, ideal for frolicking and designed to accommodate, without hiding, the female form—with bodices, skirts, bloomer-type shorts, and all kinds of fashion-forward graphics. No tugging, no shaving, no waxing, no spillage, crunches, bird-dogs, or squats needed. You look at those old sepia-toned photos from the ’30s onward, and what do you see? A bunch of absolutely standard-sized, perfectly imperfectly shaped women looking beatifically relaxed.
My daughter and her cousins are stunningly lovely, with perfect figures, all curves and no bulges, without blemishes or wrinkles. They wear bikinis. They look like movie stars. And as they tug and adjust, worry and fret, and restrict their movements for fear of slippage, I just want to cry.