Time to draw line in sand – all this bikini propaganda is false and oppressive
'Are you fed up with having no confidence and being constantly worried about your body? Does the thought of wearing that little dress or getting ready for a romantic night out make you dread getting done up? Do you dread the summer months when the thought of having to wear a bikini and slinky clothes makes you feel very paranoid?" Not really, but I kind of am after reading my first bikini-body advert of the year.
It's an advertisement for a dedicated bikini-body bootcamp course. I don't think I've had a bikini body in 33 years but I can get one now in just six weeks that will ensure I look so perfect on the beach that I will never be unhappy again. And it's an increasingly necessary precaution in case the beach-body police turn up at my sun lounger to arrest me and imprison me securely inland.
When women first started wearing bikinis in the 1960s, the garment was a symbol of liberation, of sexual emancipation. Back then, women didn't feel any need to starve themselves or even to wax before slipping into a two-piece.
Sadly, this has changed utterly and now this teeny garment is only associated with forgoing dinners, physical suffering and extreme anxiety.
Almost half of us try to avoid wearing a bikini if we can get away with it and even if we do find the nerve to put one on, almost three-quarters of us will feel very anxious about it, even if we're just wearing it on holiday with family or friends. In fact, we feel so anxious about it, that we put "wearing swimwear in public" above "intimacy with a new partner" as a reason for body shame.
This is all according to a poll by Nivea last summer that found only 6pc of women will feel confident wearing their bikini. This summer, stress is mostly caused by our bellies, followed by our thighs, although 16pc of women said that they are worrying about revealing all their body parts. The survey also concentrated on beach-body prep too and found that 39pc of us book in for some weekly grooming whether it is at the salon, spa or hitting the gym.
Still, we're all going out and buying women's glossies, magazines whose bread and butter is to critique the bodies of the rich and famous and peddle diet tips and fitness tips and all-round body dissatisfaction. As sure as summer follows spring, there's a rash of them coming over the next while with covers promising "six weeks to your perfect bikini body", illustrated by an airbrushed model with sea-sprayed hair utterly removed from the fuzzy frizz sea water turns real human hair into.
The minute you say "bikini body" or "beach body", you are making a distinction between a body that is supposed to wear bikinis and a body that isn't. But in a world that faults stretch marks, cellulite, fat and hair anywhere but on our heads, it's surprising that any of us can find the courage to go near a beach. I've fallen for it too. I've imagined my boobs are too saggy, my thighs are too jelly-like and my tummy is too squishy to wear a bikini.
Besides, starting an exercise programme with such a shallow aspiration is very sad. Working out shouldn't be a punishing bootcamp with the sole purpose of firming up your bottom. Physical exercise has powerful effects on the brain, it's life-affirming and it's enjoyable. It's a necessary part of life that's not just for summer.
This year, let's not bother getting "bikini ready". We could chance going to the beach as we are, accessorised by mosquito bites and two small triangles covering our nipples. And not care. It really is up to us. There is no such thing as a bikini body. There are only women who want to wear swimsuits to the beach and we are not asking the world to judge our body parts.