I can think of only three reasons why a woman my age shouldn't wear a bikini on a public beach:
1) She lives in a country where doing so will get her thrown into the slammer.
2) She's in the witness protection program.
3) She cares what other people think.
Fortunately, I have no such problem. What I have is a positive body image—meaning, whatever my body looks like, I'm cool with it. Sure, some parts of my anatomy are less perky than they used to be and I am not immune to the effects of gravity. Even my knees are lower! And I wouldn't be surprised if that cellulite farm on my thighs qualifies for a federal tax deduction. However, I refuse to label these normal signs of aging as flaws" To me, they are badges of courage.
I love the freedom and youthful spirit of a bikini. Even the jiggle. Nothing is more liberating than strutting my stuff along the ocean's edge wearing nothing other than a wisp of fabric and a smile. (Would I go topless on the French Riviera? You betcha.)
I welcome appreciative glances from men, as well as "who does she think she is" glares from women. Interestingly, these negative reactions usually come from women my own age who hit the beach as covered up as nuns. I'm not an exhibitionist, I just prefer the comfort of a bikini. One-piece swimsuits feel like slingshots. They either ride up and give you a wedgie, or they squeeze your innards like an 18th-century corset. The worst offenders are the so-called "miraculous" suits. Who designed them? Torquemada? Think about it, anything that promises to give a pear-shaped woman an hourglass figure isn't just a marvel of engineering—it's excruciating. Plus, you end up with weird tan lines, as if only your arms and legs went to the beach and the rest of you stayed home.
'You're so brave to wear a bikini," gush female friends, as if their more modest swimwear disguises the fact that they spend more time at Dunkin Donuts than on the treadmill. It doesn't. Even a head to toe scuba suit would reveal their fondness (and mine) for Bavarian cremes.
The wonderful thing about being 50 is not giving a damn. I don't compare myself to my peers or, for that matter, to Heidi Klum or Beyoncé (they're Photoshopped, ya know). With me, what you see is what you get: the surgical scars, Marshmallow Fluff belly and so on.
Half the fun of rocking a bikini is the surprise factor. No one expects it of a woman my age. I love showing up at pool parties in a demure coverup, then tossing it off and diving into the deep end—in more ways than one. I think of it this way, no one judges men my age for wearing swim trunks that blatantly display pot bellies, saggy boobs or backdoor cleavage. Until they hide their imperfections, I'm flaunting mine.
My comfort with my body goes back to art school where models were often mature women with Rubenesque figures. I learned to see the natural beauty in fleshy, curvaceous bodies that were the antithesis of the supermodels of the day. While my genetics denied me the lush abundance of a Renoir nude, I never strived to be thin. What I strived for was to be healthy and to be happy in my own skin. Wearing a bikini is an outer sign of my inner well-being.
Will I ever stop wearing one? Absolutely. As soon as nude beaches are legal.