Speedos and Bikinis




Rain.  Rain clouds rain rain rain clouds rain rain rain rain.  And more clouds rain rain rain clouds rain and rain.  It is always around this time that the weather on Vancouver Island really gets me down.  I have been longing for Sicily from the day we flew home to Canada last September, but in March my longing turns into a profound ache for the sunshine that summer in Sicily brings.  And what comes with summer in Sicily?  Beaches and bathing suits.


For most of my life my relationship with the bathing suit has been a dichotomy – comfort versus shame, joy versus embarrassment.  I spent the years between 8 and 20 in and out of bathing suits on a daily basis.  I was a competitive synchronized swimmer and by the time I was 15 I was at the pool usually twice a day.  I wore my bathing suits more than any other articles of clothing that I owned.  I loved being in the water.  I was clumsy on land, but put me in a pool or the ocean or a lake and I was as graceful as any ballerina.  I loved, and still love, being in the water.  I was trim and athletic then; how could I be anything but, training up to 30 hours a week.  But, all athletes retire at some point from competitive sport, and so did I.

If you have followed this blog at all, and have seen the pictures of me, you will know that I didn’t stay the trim, athletic young woman that I once was.  I won’t go into all the reasons I gained so much weight – that is a book in and of itself – but I did, and my relationship with the bathing suit became much more problematic.

There is no way around it.  If you want to swim in most public places, you have to wear a swimsuit and for an obese person this is difficult.  I know many people who just don’t swim because they cannot face themselves in that damned suit.  For me, being in the water was so healing that, once I had pulled on my bathing suit, I closed my eyes to the mirror and scrambled into the water as quickly as I could hoping that once most of me was submerged I would become invisible.

The first time that Nick and my daughter and I travelled to Italy we, of course, packed our swimsuits.  My daughter had her bikini along with the t-shirt and board shorts that she and many other North American teenage girls would wear to cover up.  Nick had his suit – baggy shorts that hung down to his knees – and I had my typical “fat lady” swimsuit that covered as much of me as possible with gathered pleats in the front to “disguise” my size.

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A trip to an Italian beach is a shock for many North Americans.  Not all Italians are skinny models that have just stepped off the pages of Vogue.  They are normal people with normal body sizes.  Tall, thin, short, chubby – many are overweight however I would note that there are relatively few morbidly obese Italians compared to North America.  What shocked us was how comfortable all these Italians appeared to be in their bathing suits.  Skimpy bathing suits.  Very skimpy bathing suits.  Now, not all Italian women wear bikinis and not all Italian men wear Speedos, but you will rarely see someone covering themselves up with a robe or shirt after coming out of the water.  Italians seem to revel in their bodies.  I am certainly not an expert in the Italian psyche and so I will not hazard a guess at why this is, but the degree of body shame that many North Americans feel seems to be nonexistent on the Italian beaches.  To experience this was liberating.  A frequent  topic of conversation between my daughter and I, it led to my daughter shedding her t-shirt and board shorts.  It even eventually led to my shy husband buying and wearing the first Speedo of his life!  As for me, I decided last year that I would buy myself my first two-piece swimsuit since the time I was a toddler.  I intend to keep this promise to myself as soon as the stores bring in their swimsuit inventory for the year.


It just so happens that I have lost quite a bit of weight this year.  My body mass index no longer sits in the “obese” range.  I am now considered marginally overweight.  But when I decided to turn over the “swimsuit” leaf, my BMI was 33 – obese.  Sitting on a beach anywhere in North America, what I would have felt was shame, but sitting on the beach at Ericlea Minoa, my favourite beach in Sicily, I was buoyed up by the comfort the Sicilians around me had in their own bodies.  This summer, I am going to the beach in my new two-piece swimsuit and I am going to revel in the sun and the sea and the joy in just being me.







9 thoughts on “Speedos and Bikinis

  1. Great body confidence Diane, but as I approach my 50th in Cianciana, I don’t think I will share that confidence! It’s all downhill for me despite boot camp preparations for that sicilian pool and beach!!

    • I guess I have spent so much of my life as a very large woman that, even though I am still considered overweight, I feel teeny tiny when I look in the mirror. And after so much rain I am just looking forward to some beach time!

  2. II’m Sicilian and I live in the United States now. I’m shocked at how prudish (some) Americans can be. The human body (especially the male one) is grossed out. There is no crime in wearing a speedo. I wonder why they call it “the country of freedom” when there are so many moral rules about how to behave and what to wear.

    • I so agree with you. When I was a teenager and spent all my spare hours training at the pool, all the male swimmers and lifeguards wore speedos. It was no big deal to us. The other thing that I find interesting that it is considered sexy and attractive for a woman to wear a tight and skimpy swimsuit but for some reason it is, as you say, ‘gross’ for a man to wear a speedo. What are we saying about how we value men and women? Any why is anything remotely sexual taboo in North America but violence is okay? Big questions.

    • I so agree. I’m an american male and much prefer a “speedo” brief. Why is there such an attitude that woman can wear swimwear next to their skin but if a man does it is gross because it outlines his “junk”? Why is a man’s scrotum and penis “junk” when a woman’s body can be outlined with camel toe and nipples and be okay or beautiful?

      • I absolutely agree with you. I suspect that it has something to do with the way media portrays women as simply sexual beings to be objectified. It demeans not only women but men as well. We are all sexual beings, we are all intellectual beings, we are all spiritual beings, we are all multi-faceted and fascinating beings.

  3. Pingback: Eight Things I Am Most Looking Forward To When We Get Back To Sicily | My Sicilian Home

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