Helen Mirren — I want to be like you at 62. Hell, I want to be like you today.
From the NYT in “The Bikini as a Badge of Fitness”:
As our culture increasingly enshrines physical perfection, the bikini has come to inspire dread and awe. It wasn’t always so. In the 1960s, when bellybutton-baring suits first became popular in America, “it was a youthful phenomenon definitely,” said Sarah Kennedy, the author of “The Swimsuit: A History of Twentieth-Century Fashions.” Then the high-fashion set and movie stars began to put on bikinis, and by the ’70s, she said, the bikini was “worn by all ages.”
And a few extra pounds didn’t disqualify anyone, considering the fitness revolution was still roughly a decade away. (In the book there’s a 1940s photograph of a fresh-faced still-brunet Marilyn Monroe looking smashing in a blue-and-white striped two-piece, a roll of pale flesh at her midsection.)
Back then, bikini preparation was starkly laissez-faire by today’s grooming standards. In her recently published literary memoir, “Art and Madness,” Anne Roiphe wrote that in 1965, she suspected that a suitor was into her because of, not in spite of, the “tufts of dark hair that stuck out of the top of my bikini.”
But today it’s assumed that only the lean, muscular, hairless and ab-defined will feel comfortable in a bikini. “It’s become difficult to feel natural with a normal body,” Ms. Kennedy said. “Fatism has taken over. It’s O.K. to be mean to lumpy, lardy people. It’s a sort of subtle intolerance towards people that’s very bad.”
Thanks to the ubiquity of cameras, wearing a bikini is now scary even for gorgeous celebrities. Remember how Jennifer Love Hewitt was pilloried in 2007 for the crime of wearing a bandeau without being a size 0? Helen Mirren was accused of having had surgery when she dared to flaunt her (taut, toned) 62-year-old stomach in a tomato-red bikini a year later.
“It’s about everyone everywhere having a comment, and they are anonymous,” said Gabrielle Reece, the former volleyball star and now a fitness guru, who has also been captured bare-stomached by the paparazzi. “The bathing suit is really a metaphor for all the ways we can approach a lot of things,” she said. “Why would we punish ourselves when we don’t have to? Why dread that?”