When I was little I wore a tiger paw bikini that I loved.
In the late 60’s terry cloth suits for kids were the rage and mine, white with a paw shape striped like a jungle cat’s fur was my ultimate favorite swim wear. In photos of me and my 5 brother and sisters and 11 cousins clustered around our 4 aunts and uncles, 3 sets of parents and our (maternal) grandparents sitting for cocktails on a Maine beach, the suit features prominently in slides my mother either took or had a beach walker take with her leather-bound Nikkormat camera. Mom, in her paisley cover up and grecian style sandals, wore that thing like jewelry. She loved taking family pictures. And I’m just like her.
But taking a photo of myself in a bikini hasn’t happened since those days clustered around my grandpa back at Goose Rocks Beach. I was either too modest or too pregnant to even think of putting on a two piece. Then I got breast cancer and along with it, a double mastectomy. Now I have no breasts–and I don’t mean small ones, or fake ones, I mean ‘no’ ones; nada, zilch, zero. I made the difficult decision to do without a fake pair and just live as I am.
Many times my lack of breasts isn’t even noticeable, as I try to stay slim, eat well and exercise. And anything that emphasizes nipples and curves kind of highlights the situation and so has been a no-no on my shopping list. So when a friend recently suggested I bring a bikini to my beach getaway with my cousin, I thought she’d lost her mind. The upper part of a bikini is basically a piece of cloth designed to thinly veil the sexuality beneath it. Assuming you have sexuality beneath it.
Which brings me back to me. I’ve lived as a breast less woman in America for 7 years now and I’ve graduated slowly from baggy shirts to high collars to solid print scoops to sleeveless v-necks. Now fighting metastatic breast cancer, I am trying things I’ve never had the guts for in the past because I’m still here and to put it simply, because I can.
I suppose we all decide we simply can’t do things–we’re either not smart enough, not tall enough, not brave enough, not rich enough. And maybe that’s in part true but in reality, we put a lot more restrictions on our movements than anybody else ever could. Once you tell your mind it’s out of the question, then even picking up a pencil is now truly out of your reach.
Blah blah blah–what’s my point? My point is that today, 40 years from the last time I did this, I put a bikini on. I borrowed it from that friend who told me I could do it. She even said I should do it. I’ve been working out and doing my anti-cancer diet and the good news about eating nuts and twigs for a living is that the body doesn’t hold onto much fat. And she’s right, I’m looking okay these days.
I took the suit, packed it in my bag, and pulled it out and looked at it. But until I told myself I could do it, I still couldn’t.
So today, I told myself I could. (see below)
And I hope whatever it is that you’ve been thinking you can’t do, some one of these days you can tell yourself that you can, too.