Caitlin McBride: My ode to the humble swimsuit - and all the magical confidence I never knew it could bring
You know that warm and fuzzy feeling you get when you first fall in love?
You get butterflies from the excitement at realising how lucky you are that this new, exciting, wonderful thing has been brought into your life and you question how you have gone your whole life without this before?
Well, that's how I feel about swimsuits.
For those of you lucky enough to have recognised the infinite power that comes from this somewhat small piece of cloth, congratulations! I'm very jealous of your foresight.
For the rest of you, please take a moment to hear me out.
In the year 2018, at the age of 31, I have completely undervalued the power the swimsuit holds. Like most people, I was led to believe that bikinis were the only appropriate attire for fun in the sun and one pieces were for those 'of a certain age' who don't look like Helen Mirren and therefore didn't have the confidence to go for a two-piece.
I was, obviously, very, very wrong.
Growing up, I never saw adult women in bikinis, and in films, no one except the uptight woman who has yet to enjoy her end-of-movie makeover wears one.
I have, perhaps, mostly due to my own complicated relationship with my body, always felt compelled to keep up with others, even when I was clearly uncomfortable in what I was wearing. This is something that, thankfully, I have managed to bury as I’ve gotten older.
But still, I would insist on wearing a bikini on the beach even though I hated every second of it. I would constantly compare my on-display pale, wobbly tummy to the tanned and toned torsos on display, a characteristic that Spanish women seem to have imprinted in their DNA.
I believed this (admittedly very stupid) idea that a two-piece was required because it was the most feminine; even if it meant you felt extremely uncomfortable. I would slap a smile on my face and hit the waves (while fiercely holding on to my bottoms and bandeau top).
Ugh, what is it about the beach that brings out the worst in our self worth?
In my day-to-day life, I am bursting with confidence and conversation, but slap a bikini on me and suddenly I’m reduced to that same insecure 16-year-old who is skinny, but hates summer because she can't wear anything sleeveless because the acne on her back extends past her shoulders.
Every year, I sit on a beach, reading a book (this year it was Cat Marnell’s How To Murder Your Life - read it and thank me later) and compare myself to every single woman that strolled past me, holding their heads high, most of whom were probably (hopefully) oblivious to the fact that I was doing this.
Or even worse, Instagram - the place where girls who 'don't work out' show off the fruits of their non-labour in an endless array of choreographed pictures. Spoiler alert: girls, we know you're lying because the only people who have six packs are the people who work their socks off for it.
In 2015, my friends and I went to Ibiza - the home of gorgeous people - and here I was in an ill-fitting strapless black swimsuit alongside my bikini clad friends, who pride themselves on healthy eating and fitness.
I hadn't worn one since childhood and I wouldn't wear one again until three years later.
This year, I was lucky enough to enjoy two separate trips in the sun and during both trips, I knew I would be in a group of girls who were a lot less slimmer than my size 16 waist and 36D bust. This was, for my many months, the cause of much dread for me - being the biggest girl in a group on the beach is honestly my own personal hell.
I could make a million excuses why I didn’t hit the gym before to boost my confidence, but the truth is I’ve been equal parts busy and lazy.
So, imagine my surprise when we all arrived, unrobed and everyone was wearing swimsuits - even the slim girls!
The resistance was finally upon us and I had missed the memo.
For years, I never would have had the courage to put a picture of me in anything remotely beach-ready on social media (not that anyone was looking anyway) under the false guise that I’m a professional and as such, it’s inappropriate for me to have pictures of me parading around in bikinis floating around the internet. But the truth is, you could not have paid me enough money to publish a picture of me in a bikini anywhere. Not even a selfie with all the right angles and lighting.
Not to be dramatic, but I would rather die.
But in a swimsuit? I was invincible! How had I never known its power after 31 years?
And people were complimenting me! And no one ever compliments me on the beach.
I shared not one, but two pictures! And I felt great.
In a monochrome halterneck, I told my boyfriend I felt like I was in the French Riviera in the 1950s (I have an overactive imagination), envisioning myself wearing kimonos, wedges and boater hats. He politely nodded.
In reality, I was wearing an old, strapless cotton top and racer shorts from H&M, adidas sliders and greasy hair, but it didn’t matter - I finally felt that summer confidence that had eluded me quite literally my entire life.
I’m sharing this ode of my new summer essential that you too can feel the magical confidence it brings. If you don’t feel comfortable wearing it, or anything, at the beach yet, that’s okay too. But if it's because of your size, f*** it, this summer was hot and everyone deserves to feel that confidence at least once in their lives.
Now, the obvious part is that the confidence was within me all along, but I finally had the environment and wardrobe to encourage this self-acceptance; but if even one other woman can brave this beach attire, then all my rambling was worth it.
So slap on that swimsuit and hit the sea before the temperature plummets and I’m writing my 754th article on transitional coats.
And no, I won’t be sharing the pictures here because - and this is really true this time - this is actually my job and I really, really don’t want pictures of me parading around in a swimsuit all over the internet, or at the very least, my place of work.