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I Gained 60 Pounds and Didn’t Wear a Swimsuit for Five Years—Until This One

I used to look forward to swimsuit shopping. My college town in Missouri didn't have many places to go, but thank God there was a Target. This was back in the late 2000s, when talking about Mossimo meant deciding between colorfully printed mix-and-match bikinis—not college bribery scandals—and when I was a size 6.

Buying a bikini was never exactly pleasant. When you're working with boobs above a C-cup, it rarely is. And regardless of your size, no one wants to stand half-naked in a poorly lit dressing room with a piece of sanitary lining crinkling against their crotch. But back then, when I'd walk into a stall with nine different options, I was fairly certain I'd come away with at least two suits.

Missouri might not have an ocean, but it has rivers, and let me tell you, we know how to make the most of them. (Google "float trip" and enjoy.) But when I eventually left to move to New York, the amount of time I spent in a swimsuit went down dramatically. Public pools were far too crowded, and as an entry-level millennial in a bad economy, I sure as hell didn't have any big vacations planned. The few times I did have the chance to put one on, I'd throw on one of two former spring break purchases I'd brought with me to the city: a black-and-white polka-dot halter and bright blue leopard-print string bikini (2009, lol). I wore them until the spandex gave out and the strings snapped.

That was in 2013. I didn't buy another swimsuit for five years.

pYour girl emlovedem her Target swimsuits.p

Your girl loved her Target swimsuits.

A year flew by, then another, which corresponded with the rise of two things: Instagram culture and my weight. I won't go into the details (getting a runner's injury, changing jobs, losing a parent, struggling with depression), because they ultimately don't matter to this story. What did matter—to me, at least—is that in the five years between when I threw out my two swimsuits and last summer, I had gained a total of 60 pounds.

Over that time, as my body changed, my procrastination to buy a new suit took on a life of its own. I didn't just dread it; I feared it. What if I couldn't find a suit that looked good with my 34E boobs? What if I couldn't find a suit that fit at all? I was already having a hard enough time finding size 12 jeans I could squeeze my ass into. I didn't have the mental energy to find out whether the same would be true for swimsuits.

Not only that, Instagram (as it is today) didn't exist the last time I'd been in a swimsuit, and neither did the pressure to take 50 snaps to get the perfect "influencer walking into the ocean" shot. (You know the one.) Every photo I'd taken of myself in a swimsuit up until that point had been with an arm around a friend or in a group. It was about capturing the enjoyment of the moment, not staging it for likes. I wish I could say the latter didn't effect me, but it did. Profoundly. I cared about how I looked, and even more about what others would think when the photo of me scrolled across their phone.

My solution was simple: I simply didn't buy a swimsuit.

I spent summer after summer making up excuses for why no one ever saw me in a bikini. On work trips (which, perks of the beauty industry, are often to spas or tropical resorts), I'd fake being mad at myself for "forgetting" to pack my swimsuit. ("How could I?!" "Damn, just go without me. It's totally fine.") On weekends with friends at beach, I'd point to my sunburn-prone skin as the reason why I wouldn't take off my cover-up, knowing fully well I had absolutely no intention of revealing I had on only a regular bra and underwear.

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