Coney Island Bikinis

il_570xN.320490452Summers as a family-free NYC teacher can be pretty sweet. You might not have the cash of Wharton-graduated peers to go play in Manhattan, but you’ve got time. Summertime. Even the temporary feel embedded in the sweaty, lethargic hours of teaching summer school feels like a vacation after juggling teenagers and administrivia and department politics and fluorescent lighting for ten months. And if you’re not teaching or serving drinks or painting houses over the summer, Ooh La La! Those summer months are heavenly.

A fellow teacher and I spent a lot of afternoons on Coney Island in bikinis. Not the Coney Island of the Wonder Wheel and Nathan’s — we went farther west. The high-20′s in the land of senior housing were perfect for us. We had a clean and lesser-used bathroom hut and free parking on the street. Away from the goggling and gorging of the boardwalk, there was nothing flashing or thrilling to tempt teenagers who might recognize their teachers. And the Fudgie guy still came by at least once every couple of hours. Perfection.

Waking up past 6 AM was delicious. And soon we’d be on the beach with frozen grapes, PB&J, and foil-wrapped water bottles. Hot sand and blazing sun disinfected and relaxed us. Instead of being inspected by critical teenaged eyes for seven hours a day, we melted into towels and blended in with the other sun-worshippers who didn’t care about seeing or being seen.

These summers early in my teaching career were the only times I ever wore a bikini. During my high school years on a swim team, I never considered wearing a bikini; it made no sense to me. I loved diving and dunking and swimming hard without feeling self-conscious. Bikinis slip and slide and move over a few awkward inches, hardly conducive to water sports. But the Coney Island West beaches were different. Lounging and reading and wading in the waves is made for bikinis. And even my self-conscious body awareness felt pretty darn good when surrounded by octogenarians and retirees on low beach chairs.

I also learned to stop giving a damn about jiggling bellies and wobbling thighs from the strutting women who hailed from Italy, Gravesend, Puerto Rico, Russia, Canarsie, and more confident locales both near and far. Bodies were meant for mobility and soaking in the sun. Bellies were meant to grow warm and brown under the sun. And thighs propped up magazines or gurgling babies; size didn’t matter.

It was during those long, lazy, hot, belly-jiggling summers that I gained a self-confidence in my body that I’d never found during seasons of swim teams and short spans of a belly flattened (temporarily) by diets. I’ve heard that comparison is the thief of joy, and I believe that in many cases, it’s true. But on the beaches of Coney Island during the late 90′s, comparison taught me to appreciate small moments and helped me to love and accept bodies of all shapes and sizes. Including my own.

image from korpita on etsy.

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About That Unique* Weblog

Adjusting to the car culture, dealing with leaving a career I love, and spouting off along the way.
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25 Responses to Coney Island Bikinis

  1. Ah, summer vacation *sighs longingly.* I am a teacher, but several years or more back in Japan, the public complained that teachers shouldn’t be getting summer vacation on the taxpayer’s yen, so we have to come to the office all summer even if there’s nothing to do.

    Sounds like you’ve got a pretty healthy body image though, I respect that. Beaches should be for relaxing, not worrying about how you look in a bikini!

  2. Oh, I do miss having summers off. Of course, I did graduate work and led workshops, but who cares. The schedule was more relaxed and there was more time for reading and margaritas.

    • Exactly! Even the summers during which I taught, the schedule was just different. It’s similar to offices closing at 1 PM from Memorial Day to Labor Day…anything different is just delicious. :)

  3. Martha B says:

    I completely agree with the notion that being on the beach in a bikini actually makes you less self conscious. I always feel my most beautiful there, despite whatever jiggle I have going on. It’s really liberating. Excellent post as usual.

  4. Pam Huggins says:

    It’s been so long since I’ve been to a beach. Your description of the sun and sand make me long for it. It’s been years since I’ve worn a bikini… don’t miss that at all. :-)

  5. Stacie says:

    I grew up wearing bikinis but then stopped. I just bought two last summer for my trip to Greece, knowing that people are less self-conscious in Europe and a tankini might look weird! Your summers sound like they were perfect!

  6. jenbrunett says:

    This sounds soooo wonderful. Right now especially. I didn’t realize there was a part of coney island tucked away. I went there a few times and thought how could it be fun on this beach with soooooo many people around? And I agree about how hanging out with other beachers (is that a word?) could help with the self consciousness!

  7. gennaclaire says:

    Perfection!! I beautiful post that made me long for summertime, beach-sitting, and less body consciousness. :)

  8. jennbird77 says:

    I love your last paragraph. So true. I’ve been to Hawaii twice and it’s always been kind of a bummer when I go to the beach where all of the tanned and waxed college students hang out. Next time, I’ll take my cue from this post and hunt down some seniors.

  9. Christine says:

    I love this – both for the message and the memories. I spent a lot of time on the beaches of Connecticut as a teenager, but not much as an adult. In my head, beaches are for young people. I wonder what it would be like now?

    • I do miss going to the beach — but with kids it’s all sand in the eye and bathroom trips and whining. And sunburns. I’ve been avoiding it. :(

      • Christine says:

        Lucky for me (maybe?), trips to the beach in Oregon are more likely to involve rubber boots and raincoats more than sunburns. :) And even the locals don’t swim in our frigid waters!

  10. That sounds like the perfect summer! I’ve never wrapped a water bottle in foil though. Am I missing out?

  11. i like your last paragraph. for me, comparison can be lethal, if it leads to envying what others have or do not have… i realize that comparing myself to others denies me of the acceptance that i am blessed, and am beautifully and wonderfully made by God. (in essence, no need to compare!)

    so i appreciate how you write that comparison actually led you to appreciate these things, and to appreciate your own body too.

    props!

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