Jews/Jewish/Judaism/Orthodox Judaism · swimming

It’s Almost Bikini Season…or Not.

“Come on ladies, it’s almost bikini season!” my Aqua Aerobics teacher likes to yell whenever she reminds us to “engage our core muscles” during our weekly class. [My doctor makes me go to these water aerobics classes because they’re very good for my joint hypermobility syndrome (HMS) and my fibromyalgia (FMS) . Before I knew I had HMS, I learned to swim at age 27 to help my fibromyalgia but discovered that swimming was hard on my as-yet-undiagnosed HMS and while in the water I’d feel pretty okay, I’d get out of the pool and explode into higher levels of fibro pain.]

Honestly, I haven’t worn a bikini since 2005. Even though, I made the decision to finally begin the Orthodox conversion process in a bikini on the beach in Santo Domingo while reading one of my all-time favorite books, “Path of the Just” by Moshe Hayyim Luzzatto.

Along with Hannelore Marx, the Holocaust survivor who I met at age 13, along with my inspiring college best friend who became frum/religious in his mid-20s and lent me the aforementioned book to read on my family vacation, it was Luzzatto’s book that inspired me to finally make the leap into the official conversion process. (You can read more about the people who inspired me to convert and during the conversion process in this piece: “Conversion is So Not Original”.)

But I digress, back to this bikini season stuff. I know those of you who got snowed on for April Fool’s Day  on the East Coast feel like Spring is far, far away, forget summer! Here in LA, we were blessed last week with 85 degrees that left me with a red neck despite the SPF 60 I slathered on.

I have Orthodox friends and family who have different takes on the bathing suit issue. Some wear regular bathing suits with t-shirts and shorts over them but I’ve found this is really difficult for water aerobics or swimming. Others, I know, avoid the pool and beach at all costs. “Too much of a hassle.” Some make the decision that the beach is the one place where it is appropriate to wear a one-piece suit or a tankini suit or even a modest, if there is such a thing, bikini. Last year, I made the decision to wear a regular tankini with shorts bottom swimsuit around my girlfriends during “Women’s Only” swim hours at an outdoor pool but I doubt I’ll do that too much this year since I’m so sensitive to the sun.

These days, whether I’m in the pool or at the beach (even in Santo Domingo which last visited in 2007 after my conversion), I wear this lovely Aqua Modesta 4-piece swim suit (Style #2604B) in black and brown. Because of the piping, it reminds me of those 1970’s Adidas suits I inherited from my mother as a teenager and wish I still had now so I could have been Sue Sylvester from “Glee” for Purim.

One Orthodox family member who saw me in my Aqua Modesta suit asked if I was was wearing it for modesty or personal reasons. I could tell she thought I was being distastefully “too frum,” which was funny to me because she was in a tiny bikini because we were just around family–male and female–and she’s the one who always wears these gloriously gorgeous sheitels and covers every bit of her body up on land, if not water. The Orthodox women who usually criticize my swimsuit, I feel, are projecting their own issues about what they wear in the water since it’s only women in bikinis who seem to have a problem with my swimsuit. So, let’s be clear: I really don’t care what you wear, I’m just telling you what I do and why.

I explained it was a little of both. I wear my Aqua Modesta swimsuit for modesty and personal reasons. I don’t miss having my goods on display for all the world to see. I mean, other than the Speedo, men’s bathing suit’s are pretty modest compared to what you see on the women’s rack. I definitely don’t miss having to slather on a fortune of sensitive skin sunblock on my body. (I inherited my father’s light skin that reddens in the sun, not my mother’s dark skin.) Also, I love that the suit keeps me warm in cool water and doesn’t get in the way of any water aerobics exercises or any kind of swimming I want to do.

TMI (Too much information!): The ladies reading this blog will probably read further into this and note that being covered up also means I don’t have to go through the ritual torture of painfully being waxed into a pre-puberty state during bikini season. But thanks Carrie for sending me a coupon just in case I did want to GO THERE. NOT. This story is a whole other blog in itself.

When I was 21, recovering/suffering from body dysmorphic disorder, I wore as little as possible on land and in the water. I remember the embarrassment of sinking down into the bottom of the sand under the sea and coming up with my bikini top undone. Wardrobe malfunction! And I remember being both ashamed and sickly happy that strange men ogled me and made completely rude comments that both objectified me and “complimented” my body. At the time, I tried to deal with how much I hated my body (a perfect size 0) with showing as much of it as possible.

At nearly 31, married and a near perfect size 6, there’s only one person in my life that gets to see the goods. And enough trips to the dermatologist have taught me that I need to be more careful in the sun that most people. So I don my Aqua Modesta swimsuit proudly and comfortably everywhere there’s water nearby. Criticism be damned. My husband jokes that I can walk out of the pool and jump in the car without anyone knowing I’m wearing a swimsuit since it can easily pass as a dress and dries so quickly.

I also love that Regine Tessone, the Orthodox Jewess who designs these swimsuits, went to the Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT). I almost went there, too, but at the last moment I decided to major in English at Fordham University instead of Illustration at FIT after years (I’ve been drawing since 3 years old) of thinking I would grow up to be an artist and…maybe write on the side. Most of my friends attended FIT and to this day, I am still pondering the road not traveled.

Depending on the crowd, non-Jewish or Jewish, my swimsuit has drawn curious questions, suggestions or praise. Just this week in my aqua aerobics class, when the pool was a bit too cool, many of the elderly–but way more buff and tough than me–women asked after my swimsuit and whether it kept me warm because their teeth were chattering in their one-piece suits in the too cool pool.

So, this is just a long-winded way (this is what happens when you’re away from writing too much, you can’t remember how to be concicse!), I love Aqua Modesta swimsuits and cover-ups. Whether for modesty, health or other personal reasons, these suits rock and last for years if you take care of them right. They definitely don’t disappoint!

Please check out other styles of Aqua Modesta swimwear at: http://www.aquamodesta.net. You can enjoy FREE SHIPPING this month by entering coupon code: freeship at checkout.

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