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  • Writer's pictureLeah Kostamo

Swimwear for Eighty-year-olds

Updated: Aug 17, 2023

My mother-in law wears a bikini. She is 80-years-old and decades of gravity have done their work. But she wears a bikini nonetheless, with a devil-may-care nonchalance to what others her age are more inclined to cover in sarongs, ruffles and cruise-wear.

She’s my hero.

Her OK-ness with her body has a two-fold source. First, she’s Finnish. Do you know any Finns?  Untouched by Puritanical prudishness, Finns share a continental European lack of modesty concerning the body, but to the extreme. While other Europeans are going topless on the warm and sunny beaches of the French Rivera, the Finns are flinging themselves buck naked from their saunas into the SNOW. There’s a reason to take off your shirt in the south of France — it’s hot!  But why subject your whole bare self to the crunch and scrape of ice in the dead of winter?  Whatever the reason, the point is, Finns are a people profoundly OK with their bodies.

As a woman weathering the sometimes choppy seas of middle-age (and all the physical changes that come with it) I am inspired by the historically Finnish disregard for Western capitalistic views of the body. What courage to eschew shame of the Great Thickening (as my friends and I call it) and instead adopt the kinder approach of accepting one's body -- in all it's glorious sagginess!

This is an excerpt adapted from Leah's book Planted: A Story of Creation, Calling, and Community📷 (Cascade Books, 2013).


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