Yesterday at this editors conference I'm attending, I heard a really interesting talk from Chris Jones, who is a writer for Esquire. He broke down a fascinating piece he wrote that you can read here. One of the things I couldn't help thinking as I heard him talk was how masculine his work is, just because you would never EVER read a long piece like his in a women's magazine. Ever. You want good nonfiction writing in a magazine, the most unisex you will get is the New Yorker or New York. There, you can read a nice long serious piece from Susan Orlean or another female writer but for any women's magazine I can think of, you will not read a long nonfiction piece unless it has something to do with motherhood or a diet or trying plastic surgery or getting divorced or something like that. I feel like I can't complain that much about this because I'm not doing much to change this system, but it was hard not to observe.
This is a kind of serious lead-in to a silly thing I want to talk about, which is bikini bodies. But here is a great tie-in. I was going to the Women's Health website recently to try to read an article about whether the pill makes women depressed or not (because it sure did for me, post-baby, but that is another story) but before I could read the article I had to click through this ad:
I mean, this is hilarious. It's like if you went to the Esquire website but before you wanted to read Jones' article, you were strongly advised to access an article on a 21-day plan to make your penis bigger, and if you didn't, you had to click on a link that said "No thanks, my penis is already more than adequate." Actually, scratch that, not Esquire, let's say Men's Health, i.e. a publication that ostensibly was about informing you about how to improve your health. This is why, when it comes to physical fitness publications, I readÂ Runner's World and not Women's Health, which might as well be titled Women's Magazine Designed To Make You Feel Inadequate #2423234.
Which leads me to my second awkward transition of this blog post, which is to announce to nobody in particular that I'm going to wear a bikini this year, and my public encouragement to EVERYONE to do so. I'm going on vacation in May to a tropical island and I've been putting in some effort to look kind of okay. Working out, avoiding delicious pasta, etc. This trip to New Orleans I've been on, well, that's derailed it some, but I'm going to try and look at every little imperfection and remember, "That was a French 75.Â That was a beignet. That was soft-shell crab with garlic mayo. And you loved it all."Â
But moreover, this winter has been so, so long. We all know this. It's been about six months long and so hard. And I've discovered over the years that a one-piece swimsuit is not a solution to body consciousness--it's just another punishment. Feeling the sun on your belly is like a hug from the universe. It is not something a person should have to earn because she did a lot of crunches or avoided a lot of food or was blessed with a nice metabolism. We should all feel it. And we should really all feel it after this winter, because goddamn. I'm wearing a bikini, Women's Health, and even if you published a National Magazine Prize-winning article explaining to me why I'm not ready to, I'm going to.
Join me this summer, women of the world, women of any part of the country that got punched in the face by winter.
If you're feeling reluctant, I recommend you make a trek to my beach this summer. My beach is the Foster Street beach in Chicago. where the median body type is an overweight 40-year-old working mother of three. Going to an urban beach like mine, you feel the freedom of a world where people are at the beach to have a good time, or, more likely, to try and have a few minutes of good time while attempting to wrangle kids and find a good spot to set all the gear up and not be too hot nor too cold and to avoid getting sand in everything. If you can find those few minutes, there simply isn't time to also worry about how you look in your dumb uncomfortable swimsuit. I certainly am not going to the beach to judge those women and begrudge them their nice times. I'm trying to do the same thing they are. If you're going to a beach where the people aren't of the same mindset, your body isn't the problem--it's the beach, or possibly the fact that you haven't reached the mindset where you think "Screw all those other people."
So my beach body philosophy this summer is going to be, hell yes I deserve to feel the sun on my belly, and if you don't like it, look away. Look at a magazine instead.