A formerly overweight newlywed discovers that feeling sexy on her honeymoon is not about being thin.
Tucks of skin trickled out from a pink, tropical bikini top. My half-naked body glared back at me from the unforgiving gleam of a fitting room mirror as I modeled a two-piece suit, gripped to the grooves of my body.
It was the day every woman dreads, the day we wish we hadn't eaten that cheesecake the night before, the day we regret skipping last week's workouts, the day we subject our naked bodies to bright lights and full-length mirrors. It was bathing suit shopping day. Staring perplexed at my reflection, I tugged at the corners of bikini number twelve. Eleven failed attempts at finding a sexy suit swung from plastic hangers on the hook of the door.
"Well, how's it looking?" my best friend Pamela asked from outside the door.
"Flat, saggy, and hopeless," I thought to myself as I took one last look.
At the time, I was running four miles a day, panting through countless crunches, and bleeding sweat on the Stairmaster at the gym, and for what? Well, like every other woman in America, I wanted to feel sexy. But more than that, I wanted to look sexy for my soon-to-be husband. I was two months from getting married. My hunt for sultry lingerie and swimsuits for our Cancun honeymoon had sent me into hysterics.
I was also a virgin, so in a way, the stakes were even higher for my wedding night. No Sex Before Marriage? He Made Her Wait
Nothing fit right. My breasts looked as shapeless as deflated beach balls and had the texture of tissue paper. My tummy was scarred with spidery stretch marks and excess skin. 7 Greatest Things About Having A Small Chest
Three years before, I'd had epic breasts. Robust double Ds had poured forth from my voluptuous V-neck when I weighed my heaviest: 230 lbs. But despite the bounty beneath my brassiere then, guys wanted nothing to do with me. They say that "it's what's on the inside that counts," but years of dateless Friday nights made me feel as hollow as the empty tube of Pringles at my bedside. Inner Beauty: What Men Don't Tell You
At nineteen years old, I had never been kissed. My girlfriends said I just hadn't found "the one," but I was convinced it was because I was big.
Never before had I wanted something as badly as I wanted to be thin, so during my sophomore year of college, I decided to chuck the fake cheese for good. A $20 gym membership and a pair of Nikes eventually helped me shed ninety pounds. At last, at 20 years old, I slipped my hips into a size eight.
A couple of months after I'd lost the weight, I got my first kiss. It was on the beach at sunset with a guy I didn't end up dating, but he was handsome and kind. More importantly, he liked me. And that was a feeling I'd never experienced. How To Kiss Well
Suddenly, getting attention from men was fantastic, but what I didn't know was that when I said adios to Oreos, I would also be bidding adieu to my darling D cups. My once buoyant, bouncy breasts are now stretchy sacks of skin that bob over my rib cage. I dolled them up in push-up bras and padding for three years after losing weight but eventually learned to love them for what they are: no longer round and robust like tomatoes, but withered like wilted leaves of lettuce.
My fiancé had seen the stretch marks, and he still wanted to marry me. We met when I was 20. I was wearing a pretty party dress when he introduced himself to me, and several months later we became a couple. He never knew the girl I was just a year before, shrouded in hoodies and oversized T-shirts. He sent me a friend request on Facebook, and our shared love for Hemingway and Radiohead had me hooked. After sharing a pizza one night, I asked him if I was his girlfriend. He said yes.
The first time he saw my belly was while wearing a bikini at a friend's house. I'd left my swimsuit at home and borrowed the unforgiving two-piece from my girlfriend as a group of us lounged in her hot tub.
He said nothing about my stretch marks or the way my top sagged, but I brought it up on the drive home.
"If you wondered at all, I have stretch marks from being overweight. I used to weigh a lot more than I do now. My skin has changed and I hate bikinis because of it," I admitted awkwardly.
"That's part of weight loss; I get it. Not a big deal," he replied coolly. I couldn't have been more relieved.
Still, he had never seen what I actually looked like before. For a long time, I kept the pictures from back then hidden in my desk like a stash of crack. The first time he saw one, it was an accident during a dinner date.
"Whoa! Is this you?!" he screeched in disbelief, staring at my debit card. I had offered to pay for our sushi that evening and slipped my check card to the server before I scooted off to the ladies room. I came back and the server had returned my card. A spicy tuna roll turned in my stomach when I realized my double-chinned face was pictured in the corner of the card. No make-up, a sloppy ponytail and a greasy grin, my boyfriend stared at the picture in shock.
"Yep, that's me. I used to be... big."
I was mortified, but later I showed him a few more pictures. In every case, his reply was always the same: "You're beautiful."
Each day I strove to see myself as he sees me, but there were some days I just didn't, especially when they involved trying on bikinis. I was incredibly nervous about being naked on my honeymoon, but I realized I had to accept my figure or I would never enjoy sex.
As I tried on bikinis that day in the dressing room, at first I thought the enemy was my floppy breasts and scarred tummy. But then I realized that the real enemy was the voice that tried to convince me that those things kept me from being beautiful and sexy. It's the voice that speaks to us in our weakest moments as women, telling us that until we look perfect, we'll never look good enough. Lingerie Men Love
I got myself dressed, grabbed the twelve bikinis on their hangers and walked out of the stall.
"How did they work out?" Pamela asked.
"They just didn't fit right," I said as I handed them to the clerk.
So, no, I did not take home a bikini that day. Part of me wanted to sulk and complain that my belly couldn't be bared on the beach. But as I walked away from the fitting rooms with my best friend, I did something I should have done back in fourth grade when I hated my furry eyebrows: I stood up to my enemy.
I had lost ninety pounds, and that was something that warranted pride and happiness. Maybe I couldn't prance around in a slinky two-piece, but so what? It's not breasts or abs that ultimately make me sexy, it's the voice I choose to listen to. And that day, as I walked out of the store, it was the voice of my best friend.
"So, what, you're not perfect? Who is?" Pamela said. "Don't let a piece of clothing determine how sexy you feel. That job belongs to you."
Two months later, around three o'clock in the morning on June 18th, I checked into a quiet hotel in Florida with my new husband and had sex for the first time. I knew it would feel weird and uncomfortable as a virgin, but as I picked up my panties off the floor the next morning, I felt satisfied. I may not be Halle Berry, but with the help of a glass of good wine and the realization of my imperfect beauty, the sex was breathtaking, literally.
At 19, I had thought being thin would solve everything. I'd get a boyfriend, shop at trendy stores and wear whatever I wanted. But these were not the things that changed my life. As a size eight I could still feel insecure about my belly—or about a host of other things. Confidence and finding my inner sexy is what changed me.