I hate all black lingerie set of my bikinis. All of them. They live in a drawstring sack in the farthest outpost of my wardrobe, a tangled heap of lost hopes and abandoned dreams. Each year, around now, I peer into its depths, and it’s like looking into a pit of snakes.
I know, I know. It’s just a few triangles of blameless polyester trapped in a bag. Some of them are actually quite nice (the turquoise Melissa Odabash is brilliant, particularly when it’s lying there on the bed in all its 2D glory). No, it’s not the bikinis I hate so much as the body I’m about to shovel into their unforgiving embrace. Like you, like almost every woman I’ve ever encountered, my body will never rise to the challenge of a bikini. I haven’t got it in me, in the same way as I don’t have the patience for chess or the cheeks for the trombone.
When I was 18, I distinctly remember gazing at my bikini body and thinking the same sinking thoughts. Back then, I now know, I was a total babe. I had curves and swerves and men who’d whistle when I walked one way and sigh when I walked back again. In those days (again, unknowingly), I also had acres of time to invest in myself. As the beach beckoned, I would burnish, polish and scrub (I only do that to kitchen floors these days) – and even then, I always reckoned the finished product looked third-rate, desperate for a kaftan cover-up and a large shady hat.
Getting very-nearly-naked in front of very-nearly-strangers is one of the great hurdles in a woman’s fashion life
Which tells you something of the crazed psychology of the bikini. It’s a veil of delusion. No matter what you see in the mirror, you’ll probably loathe the reflection, chiefly because getting very-nearly-naked in front of very-nearly-strangers (or – worse – friends) is one of the great hurdles in a woman’s fashion life, whatever your age. It’s even tough for those thoroughbred swimwear models who get paid to wear tankinis while everyone tries to catch a telltale glimpse of cellulite or un-mown edges.
And we all look, don’t we? I was in the Maldives a while ago, staying at a gorgeous place called Moofushi, where the bar served interesting cocktails all day and the white sand/azure sea combo took your breath away. There was sailing, diving, snorkelling and exquisite spa treatments delivered by beach gods. There were darting blue fish, reef sharks and baby manta rays to watch in the lagoon. And what did I do all week? I checked out other women in their bikinis. When we go on holiday, we go compare. Blokes don’t. I find they spend their beach time thinking about the next drink, a possible snooze, and how good they might look if they tried kite-surfing. Women, by contrast, think: Gosh, look at her bum; God, I hope no one’s looking at my bum; Is her bum better than my bum? And so on, ad infinitum, bum, belly, bum, until it’s dark and time for the first G&T.
Next time I’m black lingerie set in Moofushi – and, please heaven, may it be soon – I’m going to stop judging (me, them, whoever) and start forgiving. With a little help from that fabulous Melissa Odabash on the bed.