I can’t give you many details about the couple I am writing about. They will shoot me. They did give me permission to share this part of their story. I will say this. He is a Midwestern man. And she is a feminist. They’ve been together about 6 years and were recently married.
But first, I have to tell you my own story.
I was packing for a beach vacay with my husband. Jamaica, for a friend’s wedding. My packing process means I have to try on everything seasonal before I put it the “maybe” pile. Here’s the thing, I was smaller, then got bigger. And now I’m smaller again, but still not as small as I was when I was really small, so some of the clothes fit and some don’t. Then there’s the stuff I bought for bigger me has to be tailored to accommodate my current size. So everything has to be tried on to figure out what fits now.
This is a long process. But one husband enjoys. When I start up with packing, he moves from the living room to the bedroom to watch me try on clothes.
So we get to the swimsuit portion of the packing, his favorite.
I try on a bikini that I bought in Brazil. It’s white and extra skimpy for maximum tanning. It fits well. I fold it and put it in the maybe pile.
Husband: That ain’t going to Jamaica.
This is not the man I married. I have been on plenty of beach vacays with Husband before he was Husband. In Cape Town, we went to a nude beach, which is way less exciting than it sounds. And in Cancun, I spent the better part of five days lying around sans bikini top, because why not? He never said a negative word. Who is this man making a sudden fuss?
Husband: You’re not wearing that in Jamaica.
His logic is that it’s a family vacation, and my white bikini is not a family-friendly bathing suit. That’s for romantic beach getaways when it’s me and him, not when all of his friends and some of the parents of his friends may be present.
Me: You sound nuts.
He’s adamant. The bikini shows too much skin, he says. It’s cut too high here, and too low there, and it’s white and he fears it will become see-through in the water. (It won’t)
I mean, it’s a beach. People, of varying sizes and shapes, wear two pieces on the beach. I could see if the grand plan was to just walk around Brooklyn in one, or even walk around the resort in just that, but I have caftans and cover ups. This bikini is specifically for the beach, the place where everyone else will also be walking around in a least a bikini. And I am positive that as small as this bikini is, there will evidently be bigger women in smaller bikinis. Never fails.
Husband: Everyone else ain’t my wife.
So we argue. Because look got dammit, I’m grown. My daddy is somewhere on a golf course in Maryland. And even he didn’t tell me what to wear. He mighta made a comment like, “not a whole lot to that dress, huh?”, but he never told me to go change. Married or not, I wear what I want, when I want.
That said, I am reasonable. If there’s a valid reason not to wear something, say, it’s unflattering or it’s not fancy enough for the event in question, then no, I won’t wear it. But not put on an outfit or a bikini, just because Husband doesn’t like it? No. That’s not what I signed up for. The “obey” part was stricken from my vows intentionally. (I’m not joking.)
Also, because I am reasonable, this whole conversation also would have gone over better if Husband had asked me not to wear it instead told me I wasn’t going to. I probably still would have taken it, but I would have been mindful not to wear it around family and friends.
We argue to point that we’re both pissed, and finally I tell him, “so here’s how we’re going to do this. I will put on my white bikini and I will go to a secluded part of the beach. If it so happens that I am wearing it during family and friends time, and people begin to ask you where your wife is, you tell them exactly what you’ve told me. Tell them that your wife is wearing a bikini that you don’t like and you don’t want her around your family and friends, so she won’t be joining the group. Go say that nutso sh—to other people and let them look at you like you’re a wild animal. Let me know how that goes.”
So. I’m telling this story to one of my favorite couples over a long, late brunch weeks after our vacation, and I’m expecting a, “Yo. Husband is bugging! How is he like this?” as a response. But they’re just sitting there looking at me when I get to the part where I realized my husband was out of his mind.
Her: Yeah. He (by which she means her husband sitting across the table) doesn’t allow me to wear bikinis.
Me to her: Come again?
Her husband: *shrugs* Nope.
Me to her husband: Explain.
His logic: I don’t want other men looking at my wife in her bra and panties.
Me: It’s not a bra and panties. It’s a swimsuit.
Her Husband: A bathing suit covers the same amount of skin, if not less.
Me: Ok. But…
Her husband: I’m a man. I know how men think. I don’t want another man looking at my wife lustfully. And I don’t want pictures of my wife in a bra and panties to end up on social media.
Me: Who is going to take pictures?
Her husband: Anyone could take a picture. People are always taking pictures.
Me: So if someone takes a picture, tell them to take it down.
Her husband: What if it’s not someone we know? I just don’t want a picture of my wife half naked on the Internet. Once it’s out there, it’s out there. And I don’t want to be asked about my wife, by other men talking to me about my wife in a bikini.
Me: Wait. Who does that?
Her Husband: You’d be surprised.
Me: Has this happened before?
Her Husband: [describes time when wife was in the midst of a media “scandal” (she was fully dressed) and he was asked about her activity while he was at work.]
Me: Okay. But that’s entirely different scenario. A wife was seen on a beach in a skimpy bikini. With who? A man! What man? Her husband! There’s no story. That’s not a scandal.
Her husband: But it’s still a picture of my wife half nekkid and people who were there when the picture was taken saw my wife. I know how men think. We’re terrible, we’re animals. I don’t want men looking at my wife that way.
Me to His Wife: Is he serious right now?
Her: Yup. *sips wine*
Me to Him: You realize you have the same ideology for why women should wear burkas, right? Like men are animals who can’t control themselves, so women must cover up so men don’t go crazy.
Her Husband: I never thought about it like that, but I’m fine with that.
Me to her husband: You sound crazy.
Me to her: And you’re okay with this?!
Her: I choose my battles. And I have amazing one pieces at this point.
Her husband: So you wore the white bikini in Jamaica or nah?
The first three days, I wore one pieces, starting with the most coverage on “family day” (when everyone we knew was hanging out by the pool), and dwindled down to the least coverage—the white bikini—on our final day. I didn’t do it to appease my husband; I did it for the sake of my tan lines. It just so happened that the final day was also Monday, the day after most of the guests who were in town for the wedding had headed back home or to other parts of the island.