November 24, 2017

To Bikini or Not to Bikini by Ann Van De Water



Image from sportsbasement

By Ann Van De Water

No, don’t worry.  I am not planning on subjecting anyone to my 43 year old body in a bikini. Although 43 may be the new 23 for some women, no one informed my thighs, stomach and bottom of this phenomena.

My 9 year old fraternal twin daughters (and the source of several of my physical signs of ahem maturity, mostly my striated abdomen) decided they wanted bikinis this swim season.  We went shopping for bathing suits.  They REALLY wanted bikinis.  I REALLY did not want them to wear bikinis.  I showed them every cute ruffled one piece I could find.  I showed them adorable polka dotted tankinis.  I raced around the store scooping up every floral, Hawaiian, and rainbow non-bikini I could snatch as if I were a frenzied winner of a bathing suit shopping spree.  And still, they REALLY wanted bikinis.

Daughter 1 wanted the blue and green striped bikini.  She tried it on and preened in front of the dressing room mirror.

Daughter 1:  Do you think I look pretty?

Me:  You look very pretty.

Daughter 1: Then why can’t I get the bikini?

Me:  I just like one pieces or tankinis better.  I think bikinis are for older girls.

Daughter 1:  Do you think my stomach sticks out?

Me:  No.  You look great.

Daughter 1:  Then why can’t I have the bikini?

Me:  I know you don’t like putting on sunscreen and you’ll have to put on a lot more with a bikini.

Daughter 1:  I’ll be really good about putting on sunscreen.

Daughter 2 wanted the tie-dye pink, aqua, green, purple bikini.  And she wanted it bad.

I finally gave in.  This may be the only time in their lives they think they look pretty great in bikinis.  There will come a day when they will find fault with every inch of their bodies.  Who am I to put the kabosh on their ability to enjoy wearing bikinis?

So if you see us around the pool or beach this summer, we’ll be easy to recognize.  They’ll be the ones splashing around in colorful bikinis while I run after them spraying sunscreen, wearing my modest Lands’ End slenderizing, tummy controlled tankini with the sensible skirt.

I wish we all could be California girls!

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Ann is a former English teacher who is now a stay-at-home Mom of 9 year old twin girls.



  1. Oh Ann, I can just hear that conversation, funny! Alana can wear a bikini IF the sun is behind the trees or she’s wearing a rash guard shirt. I hear you, I hate putting on sunscreen!

  2. Oh goodness!! What those of you with girls have to worry about!! How funny…. Loved reading your story! Write more! XOX

  3. I am disappointed that you “caved in” based upon your own body image issues. Sexualizing young girls is a problem in our culture today. I do appreciate the humor…but the bigger picture isn’t humorous.

  4. “There will come a day when they will find fault with every inch of their bodies.”

    There will? You say this as if it’s a fact, or in this case, a self-fulfilling prophecy.

    • Ann Van De Water says:

      “Every inch” is an exaggeration. However, most girls will be critical of their bodies at some point. I taught teenagers for 10 years and was at an all girls’ school for half that time. I am well aware of what I am talking about. I certainly exaggerated my point for the piece. I believe I have a healthy body image overall. I do not think my girls see themselves or their bodies in or out of swimsuits as sexual. I think it is fine to let them wear two pieces now and perhaps not allow that later. Or only let them wear them in our backyard. What is appropriate now is not necessarily appropriate now, whether we are discussing bathing suits, table manners, bedtime, etc.

  5. With 3 grown children and a brand new granddaughter I thought I would add my two cents. Please do not be in a hurry to have your children experience more than their little souls are ready for. Cherish and honor their childhoods by providing what is age appropriate. It is alarming how our society has sexualized our youth at a younger and younger age. Once they are exposed to certain things there is no way to turn back the clock. Choose wisely.

    • Ann Van De Water says:

      The irony is that I allowed them to get bikinis because I saw they were happy about their bodies in them and not in a sexual way. I did not want to squash that so I let them get them.

      I wonder what is inherently sexual about a bikini. In many cultures, women and girls just wear the bottoms of bikinis and nobody but the Americans on the beach think anything of it!


  6. Oh, and one more thing…it is very difficult to swim and play in the water with a bikini….which is (hopefully) the point when you are nine years old.

  7. I totally agree with Dr. Laura and Kate. I think it is totally ridiculous that when I went shopping this spring for bathing suits for my daughters I had to run around to 5!!! different stores before I could find a one piece! The world sexualizes our girls at a younger and younger age. As a mother trying to raise 3 girls with good morals, self-esteem , and respect for their bodies in our society today, I will not give them the choice to wear bikinis and short skirts!! I think more ”mothers” need to be mothers than buddies. And I’m sorry but I was absolutely floored that a 9 yr old would be worried if their tummy stuck out too far!!!

  8. Heather Stokhaug says:

    We wear rashguard tops and bikini bottoms at our house (and now have discovered wonderful swim shorts!). But all bikini bottoms come with bikini tops! So, my rule is — bikini top and bottom are okay in the backyard, but rashguard with bottoms in public.
    On a side note — I had to have a serious talk with the sales rep at Gap last week, because my 5 1/2 year old wears a size 7 and all of their one pieces were really inappropriate (she even told me not to even have my daughter try on one in particular because she knew it was too low cut). I told her I was appalled at how “sexy” little girls’ suits are. She thanked me and told me that the district manager has a meeting with them every month and listens to customer feedback. So, don’t keep your mouth shut when shopping — tell the manager what you’re looking for — maybe we’ll see it next season!

  9. Jessica says:

    I only let my daughter wear one piece swimsuits. The brand I have purchased the last 3 years is Submarine and offers a ‘shorts’ style one-piece. It resembles a vintage swimsuit from the 1920’s. It has such full coverage that you don’t even need to worry about their little bottoms showing and it’s great for sitting on the side of the pool and not burning their cheeks.

  10. Striated or solid, 9 y.o. or 43, sticking out or flat… Bellies are beautiful, powerful, life-giving. Embrace them. Wear your belly with pride, and your daughters will do the same.

    • Ann Van De Water says:

      Thank you! Maybe next year my girls and I will go European and just wear the bottoms of bikinis. I can write about that in an essay and really incite Dr. Laura’s groupies! Ha ha!

      • I find it interesting that your (Ann’s) rationale for whether the bathing suits are appropriate or not is “someone else does it” (i.e. Europeans only wear the bottoms). You do not appear concerned with whether there are solid standards of appropriate/not appropriate, and I wonder what your response will be when your daughters ask to do something under the rationale of “everyone else does it.”

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