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Ahh, it’s finally spring. The hyacinths and tulips are blooming. The snow is melting. Bears and squirrels are waking up after a long winter’s nap.

And if you listen very, very carefully, you can hear the faint shrieks of women realizing that it’s time to start getting in shape for swimsuit season.

A quick Google search gave me 625,000 hits for the phrase “swimsuit season horror” and 3.6 million hits for “swimsuit season hatred.”

My inner 7-year old thinks this is very, very sad. Because come on, people. The things you do in a swimsuit are incredibly fun. You can:

  • swim

    My babushka. I doubt she ever wore a bikini, but I could be wrong.

    My babushka. I doubt she ever wore a bikini, but I could be wrong.

  • snorkel
  • paddle board
  • dive
  • waterski
  • float on an inner tube or other inflatable do-hickey
  • whomp your brother over the head with a pool noodle

But you’re not going to do any of those, are you? Because it involves wearing a swimsuit.

I get it. I grew up on a lake, but refused to wear shorts in the summer for most of my teenage years. I wore a swimsuit occasionally, but only when absolutely necessary. Like waterskiing. Because, you know, street clothes might be a little uncomfortable in that situation.

My mother rarely wore a swimsuit, although this was mostly practical. She was very fair-skinned, and even in Minnesota, she slathered on sunscreen for her roughly annual journey into the yard to sunbathe. For about 10 minutes. My mom was terrified of water, so there was no real reason to need a swimsuit except to sunbathe. Once a year.

Even in my twenties, it never really occurred to me that regular women could be unself-conscious in a swimsuit.

Until I saw the babushkas in bikinis.

In an old issue of National Geographic magazine, there was a story about beaches in Siberia. Siberia? Beaches? I shouldn’t judge – I grew up in Minnesota, which is mightily misunderstood by much of the country. (Yes, people really have tiny houses on frozen lakes for ice fishing. No, they cannot do that in July.)

Three elderly women with swim capsAnd even more refreshing than the idea of beaches in Siberia were the totally free-wheeling, frolicking babushkas in bikinis. Women of a certain age and a certain size luxuriating in the sun. In bikinis. No cover-ups. No sarongs. No beach towels wrapped around their waists.

So un-American.

And so delightful.

These women would probably have been harassed on an American beach. Compared to a whale, perhaps. I looked at those photos for a long time, smitten by the freedom they represented. This was before I ever knew I would be doing the kind of work I do now, but it planted a seed.

Ultimately, the lightheartedness and carefree attitude of those women is what I hope to help others achieve.

Because would all those kickass babushkas want you to feel self-conscious in a swimsuit? Nyet.


 

Unfortunately, I cannot locate that inspirational photo. But click here for other lovely babushkas enjoying the pool. (No bikinis, though.)

 

 

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