Spending time in London a couple of weeks ago, I saw that the shops were filled with pastel colours, summer dresses and platform sandals. This pleased me. Finally I could stop looking wistfully a faux fur jackets and cowboys boots online. Hurrah, summer clothes have arrived!
This enthusiasm for summery stuff is recent. Until fairly recently, the beautiful first days of Spring were tinged with dread at the thought of casting off winter clothes and emerging, blinking into the unforgiving sunlight. Like a butterfly. A thread-veined, grey-ish white, butterfly.
I remember it actually used to make me ANGRY that at the first rays of London summer sunshine, men would be delightedly popping on their shorts for the first time with boyishly cute excitement. Whereas girls (or at least me) would start to feel anxious about the revealing long-hidden flesh and for the love of God what state are my toenails in?
But, despite now being fatter and wobblier than during my London years, this time, when I clapped my eyes on the sun dresses and sandals I didn’t get The Fear.
So what has changed? Well here, everyone is nearly-naked all weekend long, all year long. You might have to strip down to a bikini on your job interview (held on a boat). You might drunkenly run into the sea in underwear with lawyers from rival firms. You might see the Commercial Court judge pottering along the beach in his swimmers. There’s not much point holding your gunt in on a night out when everyone at the bar has already seen you in a bikini.
Also, Caribbean culture is also tolerant of ‘thicker’ women. Appreciative even. (This equal-opportunities appreciation can be a bit wearing when it comes in form of being accosted in the street but that’s probably a topic for another post.) That’s not to say that there aren’t a lot of fitties about: people down here are into CrossFit and endurance sport in a big way, and correspondingly there are a lot of flat, toned tummies at the beach bar, bafflingly (to my mind) guzzling frozen sugary cocktails. (I mean, where does all that blended alcohol and icecream actually GO? does it get turned immediately into abs?)
Which brings me to the purpose of this short blog post. Please, please don’t let the joy of spring be tainted by worries about how you look in less clothing. It took me moving to a hot climate to be forced to relax about this stuff. If I remained living in the UK I think I would still be cowering in palazzo pants and closed- toe shoes well into July. And it makes me feel sad to think that other girls are contemplating the first signs of spring with a sense of angst about stubbly legs and chipped toenails.
I wouldn’t put swimwear pictures on my Facebook or Instagram (somehow I feel this blog with its lower footfall is a less judge-y place). I signed up to go to a pool party the other day, billed as the hottest pool party in the BVI (never mind that it’s the only commercial pool party as far as I’m aware…). This is unusual: the nearest thing Tim and I experience to pool parties is reading our books in the pool at home, with Mrs Scruff looking on sullenly from a safe/dry distance. Perhaps some music playing very quietly in the background. Certainly no dancing. Anyway, once I made the pool party reservations, I immediately started googling burkinis and wondering if I would feel like a big blob around all the slim, fun girls. So I’m by no means a body confidence guru.
However, I reckon living in the year round sunshine has taught me a few coping mechanisms for getting into my smalls.
So here are my tips for how to feel a bit better about stripping off
- Follow body positive feeds on social media. I like Chidera @theslumflower and the classic Megan @bodyposipanda but there are loads. On the same note, if someone’s feed makes you feed weird about yourself, then UNFOLLOW.
- Gently does it. If you peel off your socks and get your hooves out in the park when the very first rays come out, it won’t feel like such a shock when the UK finally gets its three days of 25 degree heat and you want to go to the lido. You may have heard the bonkers expression that ‘summer bodies are made in winter’. Well, forget that and focus on the fact that summer body confidence is made in spring.
- Don’t starve yourself. You’ll just get grumpy. Also you’re not going to lose half a stone in 48 hours, so any attempt to do so is not likely to improve morale.
- If you are ample of figure like me, try Bravissimo swimwear. I found that normal swimming costumes flattened down bits that didn’t need to be flattened down (yes, I’m talking about ‘the girls’) possibly because I have a long torso and quite frankly the fabric was a bit stretched. Well-fitting swimwear makes a massive difference to how you feel. Bravissimo is not super cheap but they seem always to have a good sale on.
- Don’t forget your swimming costume so that you have to make an emergency purchase at a tourist shop where they only sell the type of cozzies that have sparkles and chains and cut-out bits, and you have to squeeze yourself into something that Shakira might wear (with considerably more aplomb than you) in a music video. Not that this happened to me recently or anything.
- Huge sunglasses and/or hat. For some reason this works to make me feel less conspicuous. Or maybe it’s just me who thinks if I can’t see everyone, they can’t see me.
- Get drunk. Some people might say this is the cheating your way to body confidence, to which I’d say that they are correct and that there is nothing wrong with that.
In sum, how to feel like a beach babe? As is often the way in life, a big hat and a stiff drink seem to be the answer.