Somehow, somewhere, maybe while I was sleeping… I decided it was time to stop wearing a bikini. At the sprite age of 32. Fine, I’m no spring chicken, but 32 isn’t exactly over the hill. I didn’t decide to stop wearing them because I can’t fit in them either. Actually this has nothing to do with how I look in my bikini. Or maybe it does. But it doesn’t have anything to do with how “good” I do or don’t look.
It just happened. I bought a tankini with a skirt. And I liked it. Here’s why.
1. Beauty is not related to flesh exposure.
I never would have said that I thought the more skin you showed the prettier you were. And yet, when one gets caught up in what everyone else is doing, it’s easy to go with the flow. The shorter the skirt, the tighter the top, etc. the more appealing to the opposite sex. Somehow, the idea that guys thinking you were “hot” was equivalent to being beautiful. Now, I think that’s way off. I think it’s easy to look “hot.” It’s far more difficult to let your femininity and modesty contribute to your beauty.
2. I just felt silly.
I have a few good bikinis in my chest of drawers, but every time I went to the pool or the beach with my three little babies I just felt kind of silly. I felt decidedly, un-motherly. Now, that is a ridiculous statement because being a mother has nothing to do with what you wear. But still, I just felt that covering a little more seemed appropriate. It was a gradual change but now, even though I can still wear my teeny weeny yellow polka dot bikinis, I just don’t feel the need to.
3. I am not on the market.
I guess it’s the same reason people say you get married and “let go” but I no longer dress for what other men might think. Sure, it’s nice to feel and look beautiful. There is no denying that. But my husband freely compliments me and he always wants me to be modest in front of others. Not in an oppressive-I-want-to-take-away-your-rights kind of way. But in an you-are-mine-no-one-else-needs-to-look kind of way. That doesn’t mean I’ll never wear a bikini again. It doesn’t mean I don’t wear short shorts from time to time. It just means that I’m entering into a new season of life where I’m embracing modesty more than ever before. And I’m okay with that.
One particular day I had the good fortune of being alone to swim some laps at the local pool and contemplate life. As you do at the public pool. I noticed a Muslim family of 5. The father and three kids were splashing around in the pool laughing and playing games, in “normal” swimsuits. The mother was standing on the side with a bathing suit unlike any I’ve ever seen. The pants went to her ankles, the shirt went to her wrists and she still had a head covering, though I could see her face. It was navy blue in swimsuit material with a beautiful design. She was laughing and playing and I couldn’t stop staring at her. She was so beautiful.
I couldn’t help but think it ironic that there, at a pool, the most beautiful person in sight was showing only the skin of her hands, feet and face. Then, as if God wanted to make the contrast Himself, a lady got out of the water beside her. She was at least twice her age, two or three times her size, and wearing a bathing suit with a whooooooole lot less material. And it was not pretty. And I had to laugh out loud at the two ladies standing so close yet being so totally and completely different.
I felt compelled to go tell her something. Then I thought how idiotic that would be to a total stranger. But, since I am fond of doing spontaneous idiotic things like this because I’m still not sure if it’s myself or God’s leading, I decided to go for it. On my way out I made my way to where her family was standing. Halfway to her table I wanted to back out because I saw there was, in fact, another family with them but I’d already gotten too close to go back.
I looked at her and said “Excuse me, this is going to sound weird, but I just wanted to tell you that I love your bathing suit.” So, it didn’t start too well. She kinda looked at me like she thought I was making fun of her. I mean, Muslims aren’t entirely amiss in thinking people are wary of their customs. So I clarified with, “Today when girls run around in barely anything with the aim of showing skin, you just look so feminine and modest… someone your little girls can be proud of. I know it sounds silly, but I just think you look beautiful.” I was scared to look at her husband because he was a big dude and, who knows, maybe I sounded like I was hitting on her. But when I did, he was stunned. Then I looked back at her, and her eyes were glistening. She was obviously moved, and was so warm and kind in her thanks.
That day I knew. Beauty has nothing to do with what type of bathing suit we wear or don’t wear. It’s about how we carry ourselves and how we value ourselves. I’m sure I’ll wear my bikinis again someday, but it sure won’t be for the same reasons I used to wear them.
- What I learned when my stroller had a flat in D.C.
- What I learned when I switched to the skirt swimsuit
- What I learned on a 36 hour journey wit lots of kids and even more bags
- What I learned during transition in childbirth (the near death experience)
- What I learned in my third 3rd trimester
- What I learned when I lost my daughter under the bed
- What I learned in my second 3rd trimester
- What I learned as a work from home (and stay at home) mom
- What I learned in my third 1st trimester
- What I learned when my 1 year old let herself out of the house
- What I learned when hosting a progressive dinner with 20 kids
- What I learned when my daughter woke up the entire 2nd floor of our hotel
- What I learned getting a urine sample from an 18 month old
- What I learned when my baby ruined my bedding
- What I learned at the public pool
- What I learned at a birthday party
PS. Whether it is wrong to force women to wear such attire is most definitely not my point.
Well said sweetie
P Powell says
I’m young and wear a swim dress because I find it embarrassing when men leer at my body so I don’t have to feel self concious in a swim dress
I love this.
Rachel Norman says
So you’ve done the switch yourself then? ;)
im reading your blog for the first time and i am loving so many of the articles. This one in particular. As a muslim woman its not easy balancing your life in a western world. You are insecure and doubtful and feel shy and judged. Im sure you being brave and approaching this family made a big difference to them. Thank u for bring brave :)
Rachel Norman says
Wardah this comment really means a lot to me. I think you are brave doing what you believe even if it goes against the tide!!
Love this post. It is exactly the way I’ve been feeling.
I was recently shopping for new swimwear (a tankini actually as I’m sick of showing so much skin while playing with my children) and the shop keeper kept trying to give me skimpy bikinis to try on and saying it would make my ‘boobies’ look great. I finally had to say ‘but I don’t want my boobies to look great, I don’t want my boobs hanging out of my cossie while bending over building sandcastles with my children’!
I think I also decided I didn’t want to wear a bikini anymore as I don’t want my young daughters to be wearing such skimpy swimwear either and it’s about time I led by example.
Rachel Norman says
Amy, isn’t it funny that people will actually push things on you? I agree! I’ll keep my bikinis around and wear them if I feel like it, but what I like is that the DESIRE to actually wear them really has faded a lot with time.
Katelyn Fagan says
What an awesome story!! And I love that you actually did it. I do think thoughts like that should be followed. It really could be the spirit leading us. And chances are, if it’s a good thought, than it is.
And I totally agree with this post. Reminds me of the one I wrote a few months ago about why I wear a “Mom Swimsuit” but it isn’t because I’ve “given up.” I had a employee at a store tell me that I had when I went to purchase my current suit….
Rachel Norman says
Ha, given up. And you a runner!
I stumbled onto your blog a few weeks ago — and immediately kept it in my favorites…so this morning I decided to take some ‘mommy time’ and navigate around your site…and I loved reading this article…As a muslim woman, I love how you infuse God into your posts, and I really appreciate your honesty and willingness to approach this muslim family — you gave this woman a message from God — one that perhaps she needed as much as you did! I truly believe that nothing in life is accidental nor coincidental. Keep on blogging and sharing your intimate moments, it has helped a mother like me, also far from home, keep my spirits high.
Rachel Norman says
Amina, thank you so much for your encouragement. I wondered if she’d be offended by me saying my thoughts, but realized that since I truly meant what I said it was definitely worth saying. Thank you again for taking the time to comment. It made my day :)
Thank you, Rachel, for boosting my confidence in wearing modest swimwear at the pool in a world where looking sexy, tan and hot at the pool seems critical. I am observant Jewish and usually am the only person at a pool in a full coverage swimshirt (Lands End calls it their “rash guard” shirt) and a knee-length swimskirt with discreet bike shorts built in. Being around the “normal” people at the pool always made me feel like I stood out. Before reading your article, I felt that everyone else was looking at me with confused looks. Now I feel that there could be other women feeling like they might wish that they didn’t have to bare so much skin and I feel fortunate not to have to almost bare-it-all for strangers anymore. Thanks again!
Rachel Norman says
Laura, you are most welcome and I am right there with you. I actually saw a really cute rash guard shirt at some store a while ago and really wanted to buy it. I may take the plunge. But I totally think that being modest, even if you’re the only one, is truly the most beautiful thing.
As a woman approaching 70, my thighs are not my best feature…nor are my upper arms, etc etc. lol. Plus, seeing how my skin has aged and simultaneously moving to GA from Ohio, I felt like my Irish skin was under attack in this hot sun! So, I started wearing rash guards and swim pants. I’ve since hemmed the pants to below the knee, but I have had some looks. I feel great in the suit, it is so comfortable. I see many people wearing bikinis that shouldn’t but that’s their business. I takes guts to look different at the community pool, but I’d rather get looks for my suit than my cottage cheese thighs. Lol
Rachel, I loved your article. It was great what you said to that family. I used to wear bikinis when I was younger and then switched to tankinis. Well, I was on the fence about wearing a swim skirt. I almost 70 and decided I’m going to take the plunge, I’m going to get a swim skirt. Thanks.