I know this isn’t timely to the show Girls, but it is relevant to bathing suit season. Girls, wear whatever you want. If you feel better in a bikini, wear it.
Doing a pop culture segment for a radio station this past year, I’ve noticed there is a lot of controversy over Lena Dunham’s body. Apparently she wants to show it and people don’t want to see it. I watched the first two seasons of the show Girls, and it didn’t speak to me the way some shows do. Maybe because I’m not a single twenty-something trying to make rent in New York City, or maybe because all my favorite shows have aliens and/or murders. I still enjoyed the show, the setting, the dialogue, and the general feeling it gave me. A younger Sex and the City, for much less accomplished women (like me). My first run of watching the show I wasn’t a fan of Lena’s nudity. I hate to say, I was in the camp of “why does she need to be naked all the time?” Not only that but, why does she need to be in the bathtub for this scene? And why is she wearing a crop top to do laundry? I just figured it was because they were on HBO and they could do that if they wanted.
Recently, I decided to pick the show back up and watch seasons 3 and 4. At first I had some of the same negative body shaming thoughts. Why is she tucking her pants into that shirt? It just shows of her pear-shaped figure more. Why is she naked to make cereal? Why can’t she just put on some pants? She really needs a pedicure. I bet she has enough money by now to get lipo. From one girl to another, those are some hateful ass thoughts. Terrible…I know.
Then there was an episode called Beach House (Season 3, episode 7) where the four main girls had a weekend getaway in a beach town. For almost the entire episode Lena Dunham’s character Hannah was in a bikini. I thought, “Oh, not this!” The two skinny girls (Marnie and Shoshanna) wore bikinis too, but they’re skinny, so it was okay. And the in-between girl (Jessa) who is small but not emaciated wore a one-piece. Not only did Hannah wear the bikini to the pool and the beach, but to the town, where she was denied entry into the grocery store for being barefoot. She was ridiculed by a group of judgmental gay guys in it. She learned and performed a choreographed dance in it. Part of my brain was saying, this is overkill, nobody wants to see her in this bathing suit the whole episode. Why is she the only one not dressed?
Then something weird started to happen. I stopped looking at her body like it was something repulsive that needed to be shamefully hidden away. I started comparing my body to hers. I have those underarm rolls too, and I’m always afraid to show off my back. I have big thighs like that too so I hate being in public in a bathing suit. I don’t have a flat tummy either which is why I never wear a two-piece. My boobs are too big to wear a triangle top, I would spill right out of it. That’s when I realized that I didn’t have a problem with Lena Dunham’s body, I had a problem with mine. Everything I wanted her to cover up was something I hated about my body. They were my flaws to hide and conceal, and there she was showing them to the world. People are going to see that! Then I realized, she doesn’t really look bad in a bathing suit, she just doesn’t look like a model in a bathing suit. She looks like a person. Any person I would see at the pool or the beach. She could be my mom or sister or friend. I wouldn’t want them to feel self-conscience or judged. I would want them to feel comfortable and have fun.
For the rest of the series, I saw their bodies differently. There was no shock at Lena’s body. I saw it as a normal body. When the skinny girls were onscreen, instead of wishing for their waistlines and imagining how much weight I would have to lose to be their size, I thought, they’re too small! Nobody is that skinny! They must not get to eat anything. Then there was Jessa, who I consider the in-between girl. She had a sex scene where she was on top so you could see her stomach rolls. Instead of thinking how self-conscience I would be if anyone saw my stomach rolls, I thought, she’s hot! She likes how she looks which makes her look amazing. Her confidence does more for her body than any yoga class or juice cleanse because it’ll always be there. It can’t be cancelled out by a box of donuts.
It’s been said a million times before, but from an early age, girls are conditioned to think beauty equals skinny. I thought my brain would be washed for the rest of my life to think that way, and there was no going back. But I think one 30 minute episode of seeing Lena Dunham in a bikini fixed me. All the damage was undone, and all the wires uncrossed. The very next day I was getting ready to go to the pool with some friends, all of which have better bodies than me. I looked around for my one-piece but remembered it was in the laundry. Then I thought back to Lena, and pulled out a top and bottom from different bathing suit sets. I looked at myself in the mirror. I looked wide. My thighs touched. My underboob was spilling out. My tattoo with a typo was visible. I had eaten A LOT for lunch. Who cares? I went out to the pool and didn’t think too much about my body, or what other people were secretly thinking about it. I didn’t look at other people’s bodies and secretly judge them either. I just enjoyed the day and the company, something I hadn’t been able to do before Lena Dunham was naked on TV.