As promised in my last travel blog, I wanted to take time to elaborate a bit on one of my favorite things I learned while exploring and beach bumming in Italy. Two weeks ago, The Mister Project and I were frolicking on the beaches of Sperlonga and Rio Claro, both of which are small beach towns visited mostly by local, Italian vacationers. Our cousins live there and have a beautiful restaurant right off the beach, so naturally, we made a trip out to visit them.
Knowing that we were going to be beach bums for a week, I re-joined Shred415 to, well, shred a few pounds, create some space for Nutella and pasta and get a little more comfortable with the skin I’m in before jetting off to Italy. I also bought this adorable high waisted bikini, reminiscent of the 1950’s, for two reasons. The first, because it’s chic and vintage and the second, because no matter how much I shred I think my consumption of wine has found a little, permanent home in my lower tummy right below my belly button. That or as my doctor told me, “it could just be genetic.” Sweet. This little extra pouch presented itself a couple years ago and is apparently very comfortable in the skin it’s in. We have a love-hate relationship, basically, I hate it and I want nothing to do with it. It’s the one part of me that I truly have an issue with. In any case, I put on my vintage inspired bikini, got to the beach with my cousins and The Mister Project and for the first time in a long time…I laid out in the sun and it felt good! Now, fast forward 3+ hours later and my cousin Valeria looks at me and says, “Lauren, you are so red.”…in her beautiful, laid back, husky voice thick with her Italian accent, followed by “it’s okay, Lauren. You’re American.” Ummm, not only am I American but at the moment I was probably the only American woman for miles and miles and I had a gigantic, bright red square on my stomach while the rest of me was bright white. Awesome. Just the look I was going for.
This ordeal was a bit of a bummer as well as a tad bit embarrassing. I must have forgotten how strong the hot, Italian sun was and with the beautiful breeze, it’s hard to tell. I had to fix this situation and the awful tan line I had created, so the next day I went back to the beach prepared. I showed up with a normal cut bikini ready to face the sun and sort this thing out. I slathered sunscreen on my bright red square then covered it with a towel with my lower tummy exposed. I’m very confident I looked like a total nerd. Now, contrary to the day before, when I basically slept under the sun in one position hence the perfect square on my torso, this time I sat and read The Girl on the Train (awesome book by the way) and took in some good old fashioned people watching. It was at that moment and for the next three days bumming it on the beach, that I had a huge epiphany. As I laid and watched the people stroll by and play in the sand I noticed something so incredibly different about Italian beaches compared to ours. I swear after five days on the beach, I saw perhaps a total of three one-piece bathing suits. Three. Women of all different shapes, sizes, ages, with smooth skin, saggy skin, soft tummies, six packs, stretch marks, cellulite, muscles, tall, short, chunky, skinny, perfect tummies, baby bumps, you name it, I saw it. Every one of them had on a two-piece, from babies to nonnas, the bikini has no age limit in Italy. And more often than not, they rolled a little bit of their bottom suit up their tan little booties to avoid major tan lines. Brilliant! And then there is me, who wore a high waisted bikini to cover a part of me I was self-conscious about and now had a big ass red square, which to add insult to injury, only accentuated my problem area perfectly. Life is such that everything changes in time, including your body. I do my best to keep myself fit and eat very well and for the most part, I love my body. I think self-love is very important. However, I have my moments of weakness and at times put myself down rather than bring myself up. But as that second day went by and the next day and day after that, I don’t think I have ever felt so comfortable in my own skin. I had my regular bikini on, with the bottom part semi rolled up my butt just like the locals and played beach racquetball for hours with The Mister Project. It was so awesome and so refreshing!
After seeing women comfortably walk the beach with barely a hint of a cover-up no matter what their bodies looked like, I have never loved another culture or my own body more. It was beyond clear that the women in Italy love the skin they’re in and are extremely comfortable in it as well. I thought it would be interesting to chat how different our beaches are to those of Italy with my cousin Valeria, so I shared with her my observations. The thought of every woman not wearing a bikini perplexed her. She proposed that what the media and American’s deem as “perfection” and the obsession with it, makes us obsessed with the body and even more so, too concerned with what we think other people may judge or say about our bodies. At the same time, this fascination with the perfect body provides some very unrealistic expectations and the wrong message for younger girls and women of all ages. She added that no one there really finds any point in hiding their body or their flaws because it already is what it is. How frigging refreshing are those words? Can I get an Amen?! Hallelujah! From my vantage point, Italians are too laid back and much less high strung to give two hoots about body image perfection and caring about what other people think. It’s truly a beautiful way of life.
So I beg the question: what is the perfect body? For me, the answer is… your body. However, it is, whatever it looks like…it’s perfect and we should all work on loving the skin we’re in. I know sometimes it’s easier said than done to love every inch of your body, I get it, the struggle is real for me too. However, if you need a little kick in the ass, go visit a European beach, roll that little suit bottom up your butt and embrace that body of yours. Try that or perhaps the next time you’re naked and looking at what you dislike about your gorgeous body, try pointing out what you love about it. And maybe the next time you’re at the beach or pool, throw on a cute, colorful bikini and rock that cool ass shit because your body is your temple and whatever it looks like, it’s YOUR perfect body.