Thursday, 1 July 2010

Put them away, love


Oh, Maddie ... I thought I was the only person who had noticed the striking similarities between bikinis and the standard knickers and bra combo worn by most women, most of the time, underneath their clothes.

Nevertheless, I do like the sun, and with age I am getting fonder and fonder of flopping around in it with a cold beverage and a book. For this activity, the bikini is perfect for exposing human flesh to the UV rays, while being, hopefully, devoid of uncomfortable fastenings and restrictive seams. Still, it is also borderline indecent. So I only sport mine in the privacy of my own garden (and close friends’ - at a push, provided the number gathered there does not exceed four) and specially designated areas eg. the beach or poolside of a holiday resort.

It’s part old-fashioned prudishness and part genuine fear that if I did just amble out into the street or wander around my local recreation ground in a revealing two-piece, small children would run screaming from the sight. Despite my moderate commitment to watching what I eat and engaging in vigorous exercise, the overall of effect of me in one of these outfits is not an aesthetic joy.

And I’m not alone. Unless you are incredibly, incredibly lucky (or blessed with a suntan which, admittedly, can do wonders), the chances are you will not look at your best with your wobbly bits covered with only small triangles of stretchy fabric trying to battle gravity and other repeatedly proven scientific principles.

I’ve just arrived back from a beach holiday and have sufficiently topped up my people-watching to feel like an authority on the matter. From my lounger I watched all creatures, great and small, in their swimwear, rubbing in lotions and bravely showing scars, imperfections and the badges of age. While many of these people wouldn’t be chosen to grace the cover of glossy magazines, there was nothing offensive about them going about the business of suntanning and general beach relaxing.

That is with one exception, the one sub-group of sun worshipper at which I draw the line: the topless sunbather. This isn’t about age, weight or general quality of breast. I don’t care if you could be the next WonderBra model due to your perfect bosoms; I still don’t wish to see them wobbling around the place as you bob in the sea or, even worse, order drinks from the bar.

Yes, I know in some cultures it’s traditional for women to be bare-breasted but last time I checked that didn’t extend to the Brits. It’s far too cold here for that behaviour. I’m pretty certain these ladies don’t whip off their bra at the park, but get them on their holidays abroad and it becomes perfectly acceptable to them to have no clothing on from the waist up.

Live and let live, you may say. What does this have to do with me anyway? Technically, nothing. So why does it bother me so? Because it is just so unnecessary: the shops are packed with all sorts of strapless swimwear this year, so the most dedicated tanner can get a decent colour without worrying about lines. It’s not uncommon or offensive to see sunbathers lying face down with the back of their bikini undone, ensuring an even tan on their back.

Furthermore, it makes you wonder why these women require such comprehensive tanning. Excluding glamour models, strippers and all others forms of sex worker, the average person won’t be able to show off their gloriously bronzed breasts, so really, what is the point?

Instead you’ll just have two weeks of making people uneasy. The gawky poolside waiter who doesn’t really know where to look as you vigorously sign the bill, the beach hawkers wrapped up from head to toe to stop any sunlight getting at them and therefore think you’re mad, and the all the others who, while engaged in totally innocent activities likes daydreaming as they paddle in the waves, suddenly and unexpectedly come face-to-boob to with you.

Possibly the thing that encourages topless sunbathing is just exhibitionism; a chance to feel freer and less repressed in a different place where people don’t know you. However, I can’t help but wonder: would it still feel so liberating if you knew it made so many others downright uncomfortable? Read more by Rosie.

Image: Suat Eman /