Photo by Isaiah Mays, Malibu, California, April 2019
Bikini and Top by Yandy, use my code "meararose20" for a site wide discount.
As you may know, I wore men's swim trunks & a bikini top to the pool/beach for many many years. Even when I was "satisfied," with how "well" I was doing with my diet, or having lost some weight and feeling as though my stomach was flat and "acceptable," I still felt such intense shame about my big legs, booty, and cellulite. I didn't feel comfortable in a traditional two piece swimsuit bottom for many years; not since I went to the pool and sat next to boys for the first time when I was 12 and realized they were whispering about me (I would continue to chase men who didn't like my body for over a decade after that, which you can read more about in this post). I won't get into all the negativity from the past, but it's worth mentioning, that my perspective about my body has completely, and entirely changed, a feat that for the majority of my life, felt impossible.
You know what was one of the turning points in getting myself to wear a teeny tiny bikini and not care? Was it a huge self care breakthrough, a book I read, or the people I was spending time with at that time?
NO. It was TANLINES. Freaking TANLINES.
A few years back, I planned a trip to Puerto Rico (my first out-of-continental-U.S. trip) and I wanted a TAN-ASS......ASS. No giant epiphany, no grandiose discussion about body love, just... a nice even TAN.
So I went online, and bought the teeniest, lime green-iest thong I could find, very close to the day I purchased my flight. It was an easy decision, I didn't have to think through it much. Though, looking back on it now, it was the first step on a very long and winding staircase towards self acceptance for me.
It's absolutely absurd how we work (Or I do? I can assume I'm not alone) towards certain goals with gusto, climb the ladder, hit plateaus, get frustrated, and often feel like we're never going to accomplish our goals, and then, all of a sudden, we click into a higher gear, and it all comes together. We might not take a straight path to where we want to be, but with enough effort, goals are always met, either through actually accomplishing our goals, or realizing we had different goals to begin with.
One piece by Yandy. Sunbathing, the City Version. May 2019.
So I bought the thong, and the time arrived to throw it in my suitcase. We flew into San Juan in December of 2014 and I proceeded to feel the most beautiful I'd ever felt in my life up until that point. Something had clicked with me and my body, and of course, the Vitamin D (Capital D, ya heard?) and introduction to two of my favorite things (salsa dancing and Don Q Rum) also probably helped as well. Wink, wink.
Even my friend Tiffany (nicknamed T-Pain) was feeling good about herself (she struggles with a lot of the same body image issues that I do). One day, when we were exceedingly grateful to have found a health food store that served not only wheatgrass shots, but also had our favorite hippie foods we were accustomed to (that were hard to find in PR), she went up to the cute smoothie-maker and asked him out; with NO MAKEUP ON (for us, that was quite a feat at the time). He said yes, naturally.
T-Pain and I sunbathing in PR, 2015.
I'll never forget one of the funniest moments from my trip (aside from completely coincidentally meeting another Iowan while we were there, who was going to my alma mater, the University of Iowa, HA): I was strutting around the beach in my little thong-kini, and a man stopped to ask myself and my friend if we'd like to take a boat ride. We of course, declined, but as we walked away, he said to me, "You're so beautiful, you look like a retired model who is now a publicist."
Little did he or I know, two years after that, I'd become a real life model, here in NYC. Yes, I started late, and no, I don't look like most people's idea of a model, but life is strange, folks. We always meet our goals somehow, they just might change, and zig zag along the way.
Zagging back to the present (see how I incorporated a theme here?), I've found a relief in letting go of the pressure to feel confident all the time. I've also come to terms with the fact that I have a ton of issues, and I'm also the shit.
When I was in Los Angeles shooting this past April, it felt pretty great to just not care that much about how my body looked on any given day. This is the direction that I'm moving in as I'm getting older. A lot of body love has turned into a marketing tactic, with rainbows and sparkles everywhere. For many of us, the pressure to feel things like, "my belly is INCREDIBLE and I'm OBSESSED WITH IT," can be just as problematic as the pursuit of thinness. I find it a lot more practical, and graceful even, to strive to simply not think about it so often.
In the photo at the beginning of this post, you can see that I shot with the famous Isaiah Mays. We were out climbing rocks in Malibu to get to the perfect spot on the beach, and not once did it occur to me to try to control my thigh jiggle, or suck in my stomach while I was all "huff n'puff up the bluff." That was another victory day for me. Not exactly what my goal was, but by letting go of one goal and allowing myself freedom, I'm actually giving myself more room to focus on other parts of me that are also pretty cool; not just my body.
Shop this Yandy bikini here.
Fast forward to this past Memorial Day Weekend. I ran around in this skimpy bikini, around many people much thinner and tanner than myself, and I remained, as the kids say, unbothered. I ate in front of people, I enjoyed cocktails and I let myself relax. And that, my friends, is one of the greatest acts of self love there is.