Countdown: 13 Months Until I Turn 30
Confession: I spent the first 28.9 years of my life carrying major beach baggage. Sea and sand and all its paraphernalia—bathing suits, skin, near-nudity—inspired terror in my body dysmorphic mind. To be so close to naked in front of so many friends and strangers seemed nothing short of torture.
On Friday, my boyfriend put on his suit suit to head to work. I wiggled into my bathing suit, the better kind of suit, to join my lovely girl friend for a day on Jones Beach. The first miracle of the day was that I did not have a panic attack at the prospect of the bathing suit or the sight of myself in its scant blue stretchiness in my bathroom mirror. (I did feel a little guilty that I was going to lounge with my juicy book and my feet in the sand while my guy was going to sit at a desk in his office.)
As a kid, I was first girl in my class to get breasts. They just kept growing and growing. My mom took me to one of those no-nonsense, anti-sexy bra shops. The ones where the old lady bra mistress barges into your dressing room unannounced while you’re half-naked to tug at your boobs and your would-be bra and pronounce it untenable. I hated those places. I wanted to wear little lacy numbers from Victoria’s Secret like seemingly everyone else, but my chest demanded more. My bras were of nuclear strength.
Maybe these stores have gotten less awful over the years, or maybe I’ve slowly, reluctantly surrendered to the fact that a quality, well-fitted bra makes everything better and that these are the very establishments that sell such goods. A more recent revelation is that the same principles apply so swimsuits. Last summer, I sucked it up and went to the one on the Upper West Side and bought myself a one-piece with a single strap and good support. The bra mistress nodded her consent and I startlingly didn’t disagree.
On Friday, I threw a summer dress over the suit. My friend and I took the wrong train after our transfer in Jamaica, so ended up cabbing the rest of the way to Jones Beach. We rented those lovely lounge chairs and read our books and ate chunks of pineapple that left my hands sticky. The sand was soft and the waves were soft. It was sort of a perfect beach day
.It was also a first for me. I didn’t hide under my clothes. I noticed that my thighs rubbed together, just a little, on my way from lounge chair to Atlantic Ocean and I—gasp—didn’t really care! Instead of envying skinnier, less chesty ladies frolicking in their itty-bitty bikinis, I made a new observation. Please forgive me, because I know it’s quite obvious. Still, it occurred to me as poignant. And although I may have objectively understood this fact before, I never really felt it to be true.
So, here goes. Sure, there were tiny, happy people in their swimwear. And there were likewise non-tiny people rocking their bathing suits, also seemingly joyful, laughing, relaxing, swimming, soaking up the rays, making out, building sandcastles, etc. Old and young. All the sizes, shapes and colors. All of them. And nobody gave a damn.
It was the best beach day I ever had because I got to have it without self-loathing, or at least obsessive self-scrutiny. It’s 13 months until I turn 30, and only now am I beginning to truly understand that the point is not to look awesome on the beach. The point is to enjoy the hell out of the beach. This applies to every day. I want to live, love, feast, write, help, talk, listen, laugh with my whole heart, which I can’t really do when I’m busy worrying about my stomach.
I never feel beautiful in the bathroom mirror. I feel beautiful when I’m living life, maybe exploring Brooklyn with my boyfriend or dunking my head in the salty sea on Friday. The sky is so blue it looks fake. I don’t mind it has taken me 28.9 years to have a perfect beach day. It is deeply perfect. And there are many, many years and beach days to go.
Written by Hannah Howard
Hannah Howard is a writer and food expert who spent her formative years in New York eating, drinking, serving, bartending, cooking on a hot line, flipping giant wheels of cheese, and managing restaurants. She writes about delicious things for a living, appears in food videos, teaches cheese and cooking classes, and hosts culinary events. Her memoir, Feast: True Love in and Out of the Kitchen, is forthcoming with Little A in 2018.
Hannah’s work has been featured in VICE, The New York Times, Thought Catalog, AMEX OPEN forum, Serious Eats, New York Magazine’s Grub Street, refinery29, SELF and Cheese Connoisseur.
Hannah mentors women recovering from eating disorders on building a happy, healthy relationships with food and themselves. Hannah lives in Brooklyn, New York.