In the summer of 1961, according to various sources, a monster was born. It didn’t look like your typical monster. In fact, people were led to believe it looked rather nice, particularly in summer photos.
It had a “High firm bust — hand span waist — trim, firm hips — slender graceful legs”. It had what its creator enthusiastically described as “a Bikini body!”.
Yet, instead of causing mayhem and mass destruction like any self-respecting monster, it spent its days sunbathing at the beach. Or sitting quietly by the pool.
It was happy, smiley, friendly and it joined in. It was fun. It was almost like one of us. It looked completely harmless.
Fast forward fifty-eight years and that same monster is still here. It’s bigger. It’s all grown-up. Yet, it looks almost identical.
Maybe it’s a little more toned. A little more tanned. Maybe it’s a touch more athletic. However, look a little closer. It has flawless skin. It hasn’t aged a day. It has perfect nails, lips and teeth. Its eyes are bright and lively. And that hair. Wow. So full, healthy and shiny. It’s really moved with the times.
It was an American weight-loss company that, allegedly, gave birth to that little monster in their ad campaign during that fateful summer of ‘61. Half-a-century later, what at first appeared innocent and harmless, has now mutated.
In countless ways, under many different guises and guided by many different hands, the idea of that little monster sporting its “bikini body” has gone on to cause more damage and destruction to our body image and self-esteem than perhaps anything else since. How? Well…
We’re gonna need a bigger coat!
Ever seen “Jaws” the movie? Now that’s a trip to the beach we hope you never experience. Ever catch “Baywatch” on TV? Now that’s a trip to the beach many, perhaps, would love to experience.
But, while dodging David Hasselhoff and massive rubber sharks sounds like an interesting day out, for many of us, those kinds of days at the beach can be chock full of horror, fear and shame.
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Why? Because there’s a little monster there. With a mirror.
And it’s pointing at us.
And, what it’s showing us, what it’s desperately trying to show us, is that we’re not up-to-scratch. And we’ll never be up-to-scratch. Because imperfect people like us don’t deserve to wear a bikini. We don’t deserve to be at the beach. We don’t have the right. Because we don’t have the…
There’s no such thing as a “beach body”. Actually, perhaps we should rephrase that:
There should be no such thing as a “beach body”.
Because, believe us, after nearly 40 years of printing summer pictures, we know what we’re talking about. There are just bodies. There are just beaches. There are bodies on beaches. There are beaches on bodies. That’s it. Fact.
In this age of ever-present social media, worrying obsessively about perceived flaws in our physical appearance is something nearly everybody can relate to. If you’re confident in your own skin, you’re now the lucky one.
Media and advertising messages bombard us all year round with unattainable versions of perfection. When summer approaches, those messages change. The little bikini-wearing monsters are put to work. Preying on our insecurities. Preying on our fears at a time of year when we’re most vulnerable. If we’re made to feel extremely self-conscious even when fully clothed, imagine what we’ll feel like at the beach. In summer.
When our kit comes off
For some of us, it’s terrifying.
Every bit of sand is there to be kicked in our faces. Every bead of sweat magnifies a flaw. Every gentle breeze finds that giant solitary leg hair. Every whap and slap of a wave is a one-two punch to our apparently imperfectly-formed abs and our even weaker chins.
Everybody knows it for what it is. Everybody suspects it’s unjust. It’s socially limiting and it’s mentally debilitating. But it’s still allowed to happen. And it’s happening not just to women, but men and children too.
It’s happening to every body, everywhere.
And it’s time it stopped.
We don’t know what it would take for the beach to be neutral territory for our deflated body image and bruised self-esteem. Perhaps we should all just agree to treat the beach like we did as children. As a place of fun, enjoyment, excitement. A place to be free. To be at one with yourself and nature, naturally. Without judgement. Without shades.
Without Sand Cuffs
Remember when you were a child? That beautiful sunny day? You’re at the beach. There’s a cool breeze. The sand is warm and golden. The sea is every colour of blue and looks so, so inviting.
You throw down your towel. You throw down your bag. You throw off your clothes down to your cozzie and slowly, proudly and with unshakeable confidence and perfect grace, you walk out into the waves. Ahhhh! Bliss.
Only to have under-estimated their size, get thrown flat onto your back and, spread-eagled and with a mouth full of seaweed, get washed back up the beach with a wedgie.
You were in shock. You looked around. The beach was packed. Everybody was looking. Everybody saw what just happened. What did you do? Hopefully this.
You got up. You raised your salt-crusted face to the sky. And you laughed.
Laughed like there was no tomorrow. Really let rip. If bits wobbled, they wobbled. You didn’t care. You didn’t even notice. You just thanked your lucky stars you were at the beach at all. Especially in summer.
That’s what you did. And, If you were really lucky, you heard something click. Some body was there with a camera. And you still remember it now. How come?
Because it was something really worth remembering. That’s what life is about. That’s what summer and summer photos are all about.
Life’s a Beach
Don’t look for a body that’s beach-friendly. Don’t look for a beach that’s body-friendly. You shouldn’t care. It shouldn’t matter.
Even if you’re told it does every imperfect day, in every imperfect way. And, bear this in mind too. Thankfully, hopefully, times are changing. The tide is turning.
The term “beach body” has been seen for what it is and is dying out. Body image issues are being tackled. And rightfully so. And, although other terms will still regularly emerge that try to tempt us down the same unhealthy paths, when you see them remember this:
It’s just the same monster in a different bikini.
It’s time to kick sand in the face of that vacuous show-it-all. Let’s show it what a real relationship between the seaside and our bodies should be. A personal one. A true to life one. Not one in which the outside world is allowed to interfere, or pass judgement. Why?
Because it doesn’t deserve to be part of summer pictures. Of your summer pictures. The one of your perfectly imperfect body. At the beach. With a wedgie. Click.
Now that’s something to remember.
Truprint: The Perfect Beach Buddy