[Aries shell bikini, CAli Dreaming swimwear.]
Here’s a swimwear wardrobe recap, just in time to get them all on sale off-season—you’re welcome!
I’ve noticed something as I’ve grown up and found my own flavors of happiness: the happier you are with yourself, the easier it is to be happier for other people. It’s that simple—because why wouldn’t I be happy for someone else who’s happy? It makes you feel good.
I can’t say it was always that way. I’ve had chips on my shoulder—for celebrities who look marvelous and fit because they’re paid to be, when I can barely muster the energy after work to go to the gym; for people I know who have more than me but don’t work; for people who were halves of happy couples when I was trying to be both happy halves for two. But when you let it all go and just focus on you and taking the things from life that are important to you and not worrying about anyone else, you find that little space of peace inside and lose that knee-jerk reaction to be, well, a jerk.
[Tavik Swimwear minimalist bottom—and I mean, when it’s laying flat I can’t tell which is the front and which is the back. It’s incredibly liberating! And, as it turns out, when you have a flat, non-butt butt, wearing less fabric gives the illusion that you do have a butt. Beats all the diaper-like bikini bottoms I’ve been hiking up for the last 21 years.]
After what happened to me last year, I’ve been careful to never feel that I deserve anyone’s pity or sympathy. Acknowledgement of my struggle and pain feels great, but I haven’t used it to my advantage, and I certainly haven’t used it as an excuse for despicable behavior. Maybe some too-early-in-the-day drinks, but it hasn’t been my carte blanche to be a dick. If anything, it’s made me a better, more understanding person.
Turning mantras over in my mouth like “second chance” and “got out while I’m still young” and “met someone way better” “not your problem anymore” and “you won” and “living in the light of truth” and other mantras people have lent me, I decided on one to own: to be happy and be proud of being happy, whatever that looks like. I’m not going to pretend to be miserable to supplement my pity bank, or to be a shrine for other miserable people to commiserate around. The world needs less of that, as far as I’m concerned.
I work hard, I practice kindness, and I reap what I sow—including the right to have my boyfriend to post a photo of me happy, alive, enjoying my life, topless yet covered up, underwater, without a hateful, self-righteous bitch I don’t even know littering her uninvited, spiteful comments all over the place. Put down the Haterade, lady—even the thinly veiled attempt to make me look somehow careless and tasteless couldn’t hide your real problem.
That, and, a little underwater underboob should be no big deal. As you’ll see below, this trip’s bikini wardrobe left little to the imagination—but no one approached me on the (topless) beach (where I was never topless) and asked me why I didn’t just let my vagina hang out, too. I mean, we’re all adults here—I think.
[Cali Dreaming Grus top—which I received no short of 12 messages about. Farts! Guess we’ll all be twinning out in it next summer?]
Here’s my question: What do women want? Rather, what do women want for each other? Really? Because a lot of platitudes seem to be thrown around, but the underlying song remains the same. The movie wasn’t called Mean Girls because no one had ever used the phrase before.
Be great, but not better than me. Be beautiful, but not prettier than me. Be happy, but not too happy. Be strong, but don’t intimidate me. Be smart, but approachable. Be sweet, but not spineless. Be powerful, but don’t threaten me. Stand tall, but small enough that I can still look down on you.
I’ve watched women try to gain ground through various means and messages for decades. I went to an all women’s college, I’m not living in a bubble. In recent years, and with the power of social media propelling us forward (and sometimes, backward), we’ve been taught to celebrate our flaws, celebrate each other, be support systems for one another, shatter the glass ceiling, shatter inequality, live freely, free the nipple, form a loving sisterhood, tear down the patriarchy, and also, completely tear down one another, given the tiniest window of opportunity.
Tear to the ground, and with great pleasure it would sometimes appear.
I’m not innocent here, but I do have certain standards and a general “live and let live policy”—one I maintain for those I can’t begin to relate to but harbor no ill will towards. You do you, I’ll do me, and we’ll all be fine. It’s seemed to work for me, for the most part.
[For Love & Lemons St. Tropez top and Tavik bottom.]
I’ve found a simple solution to a lot of things in this era is that if I don’t like it—if it doesn’t contribute to my happiness or wellbeing—I don’t look. It’s amazing how it frees you from being a judge when no one asked you to be on their jury. Because nothing about simply seeing something puts you in a default position to police it. Just. Don’t. Look.
However. When it comes to vapid women, no. When it comes to totally irresponsible assholes like the Kardashians, coyly posting bathroom mirror photos of their weird, altered bodies that are creating entirely new, impossible beauty standards for millions of young women, flaunting absurd levels of wealth so it can be ripped off them at gunpoint, etc.—I will not be as generous. But just because someone looks better than me and is proud of that, they haven’t earned my vitriol.
Even my imaginary arch nemesis Ratajkowski—I have no right to come down on her, depsite the fact that she’s flawless naturally by god’s design and frankly her existence is literally somewhat dangerous to me in that it teases up things inside me that took a lot of therapy and medication to extinguish. Rather than hate her guts (and mine), I do something simple: I don’t look at her. I don’t follow her. I remain grateful for what I have—namely, all my limbs and properly functioning organs. Thank you, organs! [Listen to the lovely podcast in that link, especially 1:11:50 and 1:12:36 at the end.]
She had to come back onto my radar recently—specifically, when I had to search for an essay I knew she wrote but I’d ignored, Baby Woman. She’s addressing the fact that people think it’s effed up she’s marching around topless with those huge cans and just flaunting beauty and sensuality—and I’m pretty sure that’s just because they’re jealous, or feel like she’s somehow tearing down a respect other women feel they’ve worked hard to earn. Which is bullshit.
Look. I don’t look like her. I don’t get paid to be topless. I haven’t staked my career and earning potential on how I look, and that people want to look at me. But therein should be the cool part of me having the balls to briefly, while no one else is around, and with zero ROI, take a photo like I did, then share it—in a total celebration of being happy, alive, and embracing the sexuality that for almost a decade had felt more like a mistake, something to be pushed aside and ignored, something that made me feel like I was somehow broken and undesirable.
If that sounds hypocritical, like I’m indeed using what happened to me as an excuse, allow me to add one more reason: I’m approaching 36 and I’ve never felt better in my life. And it’s hard-earned. I won’t always look this way. In fact, with every single day, hour, and minute that goes by, I’ll look less like I do in this moment. And rather than hate what’s there, I’ll love what is while I can. I think that’s something worth celebrating.
35 and still alive.
A funny thing happened to me the other night. Someone who had seen the photo came up to me and was very cool, and made me feel like a million bucks by telling me how much she liked it. This sparked a quick conversation, and in moments the husband of a couple I’d just met had thrust his phone into my face, showing me some super, super racy photos of his wife naked on the beach. I mean, I had just taken a sip of my first drink and there were her stark naked ass cheeks wrapped around a pole, right under my chin.
I gotta admit—I laughed despite myself, how uncomfortable it made me and how similar it all was. But then I did what my haters did not: I slowly nodded, complimented her (frankly stunning) figure, told him he was a lucky dude, then handed him back his phone. That’s really all you have to do—just be nice, right? Be happy for someone who’s happy?
In a world where we can rally around Dove commercials, the awesomeness that is more full-figured models, lingerie-clad transgender women, and Demi Moore topless and pregnant (vive the 90s!), I find it despicable that my harmless photo elicited this remark: “What’s next, vagina pictures?” This from an openly liberal woman—they back a platform in support of women’s rights, no? I prefer a vagina-free dialogue, myself.
And it wasn’t just her, or people who supported her—what Jon Ronson, author of So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed would call “the coward’s retweet.” [Does this book ever cease to be relevant?] It was apparently numerous people in town. Someone said they’d come upon 3-4 groups of people who didn’t know me personally discussing this photo, and came to my defense. I found this just astonishing—really. How bored are you guys? The amount of nearly nude photos I see daily on my Instagram feed, in the name of fashion, tanning creme, fitness modeling, whatever—how is it that I could possibly be THAT shocking? Why has this created a conversation about me, when perhaps, if I looked different, it could have created a different, more positive conversation?
I mean, is it that I have a wonky eye? Holding your eyes open in salt water is hard, guys.
I can’t unequivocally say I’d see a topless photo of a peer and jump to comment on how great I thought it was, but I can say this: I wouldn’t openly shame her for it.
Dear women: Think what you want. Be what you want. Do what you want. But for god’s sake, be consistent about it.
And if you don’t like it, don’t look.
If you haven’t already, peep the trip vid!