How To Be 70: Part Three – Body Confidence

The saltwater infinity pool at Finca Buenvino, September 2019, during my 70th birthday celebrations with friends and family.

You see before you four women – 64, 44, 70 and 69. All in bikinis, and all standing proud. (And in my case, gripping on to the others and whimpering nervously incase I fell into the water…)

Every year I buy a swimsuit, and every year I don’t wear it. Every year I hear the voices, ‘At your age? Put it away, love.’ I really did think that this would be THE year – the year when I gave up the two-piece and hid behind the sticky, wet Lycra curtains of M&S’s best offering. At the beginning of this season I asked my 30-year-old daughter, ‘Do you think my guests will feel a bit uncomfortable seeing me in a bikini, rather than a swimsuit? Is it unprofessional?’ ‘Well, you could go and buy a new one, spend some money, go shopping?!’ She had a point but I hate shopping for clothes on- or offline. Most of my outfits are either charity shop, years old or inherited from my daughter’s ‘don’t want’ pile with the addition of the odd piece – yes, you Ganni orange lace – that I’ve spent a small fortune on for a special occasion. But that has worked out well on the cost-per-wear so guilt assuaged. The thought of spending the day in Westfield getting naked in blaringly-lit changing rooms made me feel decidedly queasy, so I gave in and decided to stick to the black Boden triangle top and Topshop bottoms that I acquired three years ago.

Earlier this year I was on the beach in Crete, where all shapes, sizes and ages of women were in bikinis. I was on the coast at Cãnos De Meca in Spain, too – bikinis, topless mostly, and some nude. When you get out in the sun, you realise that we are all gloriously imperfect, we all have bits and bobs that we worry about whether varicose veins, bingo wings, flabby tums or cellulite. Unless we are prepubescent, Photoshopped or ‘refreshed’ we will. It’s called life, pregnancy, ageing or just too many cream cakes and not enough jumping up and down. I want to try and convince you that it really does not matter what we wear as long as we are comfortable and I find swimsuits incredibly uncomfortable unless I’m attempting widths in a municipal pool. What is important is that we are alive and laughing and that we celebrate our friendships with other women because we are all in the same boat…and I do believe a brown tum is infinitely more attractive than a pasty white one, anyway. Vanity, thy name is Elaine.

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