First the backstory.
I was the chubby, poorly dressed, semi-ugly girl in my Hawaiian high school. Sad but true. I was NOT one of the slim, popular, Asian girls with their perfect skin and gorgeous thick, straight, hair. They had no butts, and no body hair, while I had plenty of both, and while booty has come into fashion lately (thank you J Lo), that was the eighties and back then, booty was just called fat.
[Cue 80s teen angst soundtrack]
Okay. Fast forward fifteen years. I used to have a job in South Beach Miami, a place where people grocery shop in their thong bikinis and everyone looks fabulous, even the people who really, really don’t. I don’t know why that is, but it’s true. I could take off from my NC airport feeling blah, and at touch down in Miami, wearing the same body and the same clothes, I’d feel like a million bucks. Is it something in the air? Inquiring minds!
But, anyway, one of my co-workers was this totally hip, mid-40ish, gal from Spain who had that European comfort with her body that astounded me. I think she was used to going topless on Mediterranean beaches, so she was actually covering up for Miami in her tiny bikini. She was just so comfortable in her skin, playing volleyball in said bikini, for example, heedless of any…um…flopping that may occur. I was amazed. “You have to coach me,” I said to her one day. “I want to be fearless like you.”
So she playfully started helping me mimic how she moved. She’d say, “no, no, no you have to sit with your legs apart, be loose in your joints, not stiff. Don’t act like you have anything to hide. Hiding is shame, and you want to be shameless, right?” To which I would answer, “I can’t do that! What if, like, [stage whisper] a hair pops out?!” And she would roll her eyes and say, “So what? If you’re worried about it, get it all waxed off.” To which I would shriek in horror, and she would laugh, and I would laugh, and it was great time, all around.
But under her tutelage, I eventually bought one of those tiny, brazilian, string bikinis. No kidding. So there I was one day, walking along South Beach with my friend, wearing my new, expensive, emperors-new-clothes, and it’s okay, I’m on a beach full of similarly dressed folk, so it’s cool, I’m managing my anxiety using hardly any medication at all, okay, maybe a daquiri, but that’s it, just one—
—when, whammo, the totally hot, also Brazilian, jet-ski instructor, the tanned, muscled guy that all the single gals had been trying to bed, or at least seriously flirt with, caught sight of me and stopped what he was doing. “Maya!” he called out, open admiration and surprise on his face. And then he jumped up and beat his chest. And growled.
Can you say Full Body Blush? But he was serious! All of a sudden, I was the girl in that soda ad, you know the one, she climbs out of the pool in slow mo, all dripping and tan and perfect, and all the guys watching drop their jaws, and their plates of food, etc. while she walks by like a goddess. Holy shit, was I her? I was her? No freaking way! No. Freaking. Way.
My friend, sly smile under her sunglasses, said, “See? I told you you had it in you.”
Can you imagine? Me, the dorky, bookish, chubby girl had just been handed a nuclear weapon.
And THEN, as if that wasn’t enough, another guy, this gorgeous, shirtless, pitch-black dude with dreads, riding by on his bike, watching me walk down the beach, hit a rock or something and fell over. That’s right, my momentary bodaciousness caused a guy to fall off his bike.
“I promise not to use the Power of the Bikini for good,” I said. “Not at all.”
“The power isn’t in the bikini, my little idiot,” said my Spanish friend. She really said that! She was so cool.
Every woman should have a moment, somewhere in her life, when she feels beautiful and invincible. It’s a rule.
But let me be perfectly clear: it wasn’t the guys. It was how I felt, what I was willing to believe about myself, that was the potent part of that moment. I mean, we’ve all received compliments, totally sincere appreciations, that we have let roll off our teflon shields of denial. The Bikini Moment was the opposite of that. No teflon. It felt amazing.
Okay. Fast forward another six years. And two babies. And well, I look at the dental floss that is that bikini and let’s just say, I doubt I will ever wear it again. That’s okay. Things change. But here I am, and as any mother of small children knows, working out is a thing of the past, I can’t remember if my hair got washed yesterday or the day before, and my clothing is graced with food smears, mud, and probably boogies.
From Dorky Teen, to Goddess, to Frump Monster. Life is a roller coaster, isn’t it?
But here is the question at hand. Do I accept entropy, or do I fight it?
I have this sweater, olive green, wool, full of moth holes and tears and stains, it’s pathetic, really. I’m guessing just about everyone has an item of clothing like this, something you wear frequently, but that your spouse would like to burn. I really should retire the sweater, and I keep thinking I will, but then it’s morning, and I haven’t had my coffee yet, and the laundry is piled up like mountains I have to climb, and I’m cold and there it is, my faithful sweater, ready and willing to warm me up as I shuffle into my day. So I keep it another year, and another, and it gets rattier and rattier and, I fear, so do I.
Because, wearing that sweater, I feel a million miles from the Bikini Moment. I figure my inner Bikini Girl is still in there somewhere (maybe), but the sweater is kind of an Anti-Attractiveness-Cloak. With Self-Esteem Draining powers. I know, my friend said the power wasn’t in the bikini—which, by extension, means the power isn’t in the sweater, either, right? But still, maybe it’s time for the sweater to rest in peace…? Am I succumbing to the fraying effects of domestic life and ‘letting myself go?’ Or am I getting older and wiser and realizing that being a Soda Ad Girl isn’t where true happiness lies? Choices, choices….
Or maybe I could find a pretty, funky, cool version of the sweater to replace it with….? I mean, there have to be options here I haven’t considered.
I was describing the sweater to another friend of mine on the phone the other day. In fact, that conversation was the inspiration for this post. Her response? “Maya, you need to get out more.”
I said, “No way, this is universal, everyone’s got one of those sweaters.”
“Maya, if you blog about that sweater, it’ll be the red zone that tells us we are just about to lose you. We’re going to have to do some kind of emergency extraction. Red Alert, she’s blogging about the sweater! Get her out of there before her mind completely liquifies!”
“That does it! Now, I HAVE to blog about the sweater.”
“Don’t do it!”
“I’m doing it, you watch me!”
“Extraction team, stand by!“
(You know, as I type this, I’m wearing the sweater.)
(No, I will not be including a photo.)