What I Learned Spending a Day on the Beach in Italy

Preparing for a day at the beach with my three girls means lots of sun screen, plenty of beach toys, hats, sunglasses and for me, my trusty black one-piece bathing suit with its adjustable straps and shirring across the boobs and through the waist. It’s the kind of suit that stays put throughout a day of sand castle building, shallow water wave jumping and all the bending, squatting and lifting that comes with playing with, looking out for and chasing after kids on the beach. In other words, it’s the classic mom bathing suit.

It’s also the swimsuit I wore for our day at the beach on the glorious Italian Riviera this summer.

IMG_3211We rented a cabana at one of the many beach clubs and let the kids loose. My husband was on duty first, so I laid out my towel, dug around for my book, squashed my enormous SPF 70 sunhat on my head and took in the view. That’s when I felt like a fish out of water.

Teenagers frolicked in the shallows, women walked in twos and threes along the shore, families clustered at the water’s edge, lounging in the sand or digging holes but not a single person wore a one-piece bathing suit. Skimpy, brightly colored bikinis owned that beach and women of every imaginable shape and age wore them. All kinds of bits and pieces hung out and nobody cared. Even the moms playing with their kids in the sand wore tiny triangle bikinis, strings dangling, large swaths of skin exposed for all to see.

I have never felt more self-conscious in a bathing suit as I did that day. People looked at me strangely in my prudish black one piece. Why was I so covered up? Was something awful going on under all that fabric? A terrible scar of some sort? A skin disease?

No.

The only thing I was covering up was my own insecurities. After all this time, I am still body-obsessed, still held hostage by unrealistic standards, both cultural and personal. I am still worried that my body is not and never really will be “bikini ready.” I am still reluctant to expose my stretch-marked belly, soft from three pregnancies and pale from so many years undercover. I still have a hard time accepting the beautiful, hardworking body I have even though I often encourage other women to do just that.

The Italian women, young and old, seemed body confident in a way that meant they hardly thought about it at all. Instead, their thoughts landed elsewhere: on the moat they were digging with their kids, on the conversation bouncing back and forth between cabanas, on the midday cappuccino being delivered on a silver tray from the beach club café by a smiling server. So what if their saggy boobs were showing? So what if their thighs were dimpled and their bellies a little droopy? Some women were absolutely stunning but they too didn’t seem to notice. Obsessing about their bodies didn’t seem to be what these women did.

What a relief that must be.

I wondered if I’d ever get to that place with myself, where I could delight in the whoosh of the waves over my body without worrying about the folds of my stomach or the girth of my hips. Lying there in the sun on that beautiful Italian beach, I decided that life is too short not to try. Being “bikini ready” isn’t really about what you look like. It’s more about respecting and loving the body you have. That’s a goal worth working towards.

I sat up and shaded my eyes, scanning the water for my girls. I spotted them knee high in the ocean, the two older ones holding hands with the three-year-old, scooping her up and over the gentle waves as they rolled in. They were all wearing their bikinis.

I hope they always will.

This post is a Finish the Sentence Friday post.
Your hosts: Kristi Campell from Finding Ninee and Stephanie from Mommy, For Real.
Guest hosts: Kelly from Just Typikal and Katia from IAMTHEMILK.

This week’s sentence was: “Life is too short for…” 

12 thoughts on “What I Learned Spending a Day on the Beach in Italy

  1. Hi Lisa: What a great perspective! Although I’d have to say that if you were comfortable in your black swimsuit, then why worry about bikinis? I hear you about your struggles about body image. I’m a little shy myself, but on the whole I’ve sort of gotten over a lot of the body image thing. Not sure how it happened. Kind of like what happened with me and tuning up my eating and health habits. It just sort of evolved over time. Hope to see you posting during the next round of FTSF!

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    1. Hi Anna. You have a good point. I do appreciate my black mom swimsuit, but I guess I wonder why I always default to consciously covering myself up rather than unconsciously feeling comfortable with my body. I think starting with being healthy is a great idea and as I get older, I’m getting there 🙂 Thanks so much for reading!

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  2. I think you can love and appreciate your body without having to bare if for all the world to see. There are parts of other people I don’t like to see and would just as soon they cover up. But I do admire people who are just comfortable and confident. in whatever they are wearing . Keep the black suit – you have good practical reasons for it.

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  3. I am so jealous that you went to Italy. A life-ling dream for me. The beach looks amazing. I too admire the confidence of these women – it is so sexy (who cares what they look like) – Confidence baby! And me – I will never have that, especially in regards to wearing a swimsuit.

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    1. You must get to Italy – it’s really lovely. Hold on to the dream! I’m finding the areas where I do feel confident are shifting as I get older. Maybe it’s not in the swimsuit department at the moment, but I feel more confident in my parenting, for example. Sexy is a whole other story 🙂

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  4. What a lovely holiday. I’d love to go there. Cringing right along with you in the bathing suit department. I’d have worn the same. It was the same situation for me in Chiang Mai, Thailand a few years ago. All the women in the skimpiest of bikinis and I was garbed in folds of black. They’re probably still talking about me …

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  5. This. This this this this. This is so beautiful and such an important reminder that all of us are beautiful no matter what we look like. I struggle with how much I, and all of us, struggle with our bodies. I now am very overweight FOR ME. But I’m not actually THAT overweight. Like 10 pounds and I’d feel good. But really, sigh. yes. Thank you SO SO much for writing this and for linking up with finish the sentence friday. I hope you’ll be back. We have a facebook group if you’re not in it. Because I want to read MORE OF THIS.

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    1. Wow, thank you so so much Kristi 🙂 I’m hyper attuned to body image — my own and that of my girls — and I too struggle all the time with it and what it should really be about. I will definitely be back for FTSF again. I love how everyone approaches the prompt from a different, unique angle. Thanks for hosting! Off to check out the FB page…

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