Swimsuit season for the enlightened! (And the rest of us.)

Last week, plus-sized model, blogger, and all-around temptress Tess Munster told the world that she is looking forward to swimsuit season. Why? Because she rocks everything she puts on her big, yummy bum, and it is big, and she is not ashamed of that, and if you don’t like it, you can kiss it.

Tess Munster gets a shit-ton of hate-mail. Now let’s all just stop acting surprised and indignant about that before we even start. That kind of thing happens all the time, even with most of us walking around pretending to be all enlightened. Tess Munster makes people uncomfortable. She is a threat to how we’ve always done things. She must be stopped. Because …

Hells yeah.

Hells yeah.

How dare she love herself in a swimsuit.

How dare she love herself, period.

How dare she be immodest (vain, even!) when she’s clearly … fat.

Shouldn’t she hide under a muumuu and just read self-help books until she loses a hundred pounds?

Shouldn’t she be apologizing for something? Anything?

How dare she give other heavy women permission to love themselves in a swimsuit, or in anything else?

How dare she suggest that she is healthy and happy in her body. Right now. Not a hundred pounds from now. Not ten or twenty. Right now.

I’m not fat. But sometimes, all I see in my mirror is someone who is not ready to be seen. Someone who falls ten or twenty pounds short of worthy.

Tess Munster thinks you shouldn’t have to wait to be beautiful. Wear what you feel like, with confidence, on your body. Now, not later. Including and especially a swimsuit. Or a pair of tight yoga pants. Or a hat. Or anything that says “I’m not going to hide under a rock so you don’t have to notice that I’m here, and not perfect.”

Swimsuits are especially interesting, because women are always waiting to be worthy to wear them. “It’s almost swimsuit season!” said every fitness instructor, everywhere, every spring of my whole life. “Are you worthy of enjoying a day at the beach, (perhaps ten more Zumba classes from now)?”

We have all kinds of interesting attitudes about women who dare to bare lots of skin at the beach (which we never say out loud).

These attitudes vary depending on body size, and they go a little like this:

1) If a woman is reed thin with tiny breasts, we think she is a poet-hippie-dreamer and we long to spend long hours staring at her perfect clavicles and talking about creative nonfiction. The less she wears, the better. She is just expressing her creativity!

2) If she is large-breasted and thin, we think she is flaky and fascinating, but also a bit slutty. And while we wrestle with our conflicting emotions about her, we can’t stop staring at her sternum. The less she wears, the better! (Though she shouldn’t be surprised that everyone is staring at her sternum. Serves her right for dressing all slutty.)

3) If she is kinda heavy, we think she has a right to be at the beach (with her kids, anyway), but wish she had the appropriate Land’s End cover-up so we don’t have to see any cellulite. Except cleavage. Cleavage is totally acceptable.

4) If a woman is really heavy in a swim suit, we think she should run home, hide under something earth-toned, and eat only broccoli until the rest of the world can abide her impossibly smug and irritating lack of self-loathing.

Me-freaking-yow, bitches.

Me-freaking-yow, darlin’.

Tess Munster knows people feel that way, and she doesn’t care. She is just all leopard-printed, lip-glossed and fabulous on a beach towel somewhere — waiting for the world to catch the hell up to her. Knowing we probably never will.

So, I’d tell you to go find Tess Munster’s site and give her some love, but she doesn’t actually need it. Not as bad as the rest of us.

Do it anyway, of course, and look at her. Look at that gorgeous face. Can you hear her? Those big dreamy eyes beseech: “Wear the swim suit. The hat. Wear nothing. Stop fussing. Be beautiful.”

I’m working on it, Tess. Truly, I am.



  1. Mandilyn says:

    There’s no way to keep it secret: I’m a bigger woman. I don’t glam up, but I dress in clothes that fit relatively nicely and I do try to look nice in general, just because I feel better when I do. Once a year we go to the ocean on vacation. It’s about more than the beach when we go; We do window shopping, aquariums, fancy restaurants, etc etc. But when we DO go to the beach itself, I put on my tankini top thing, and a pair of swim bottoms. Sometimes repurposed short-shorts. They don’t always match either. Why do I wear that? Because it’s comfortable. I’m more worried about not swallowing a jellyfish and avoiding sunburn than anything else. You see, my skin practically reflects sunlight like a mirror and yet still manages to burn in the process.

    But sometimes, in between crazy floundering dips into the water, I look around the beach to people-watch. And I realize: I am usually the only fat girl there. At first I was utterly baffled; this isn’t California Beach Body Heaven, we go to normal beaches in normal places with normal people.

    I’ve asked a few people why they think this is, and the answer is usually something like “Well, maybe they’re not as confident as you are. Maybe they’re embarrassed.” Here’s the weird thing though. I am not like Tess. I am just me. And I am fat and I am not terribly confident. But I also like to play in the water, and it’s a lot easier to do that in lightweight material made for swimming. I just try not to worry about what other people may think. And if they’re thinking point #4, they really can kiss my wide behind.

    • Caroline says:

      That is why Tess inspires me. Not because she is glamorous, but because she’s not waiting for anyone’s permission to be glamorous. It is also awesome that you’re not waiting for anyone’s permission to go to the beach and have a good time. There is no crime in being heavy, so why should anyone be imprisoned by it? You are gorgeous, Mandi. And it makes me so happy that someone as sophisticated and smart as you are is reading my blog.

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