enjoy the beach with any body typeWhen you’re thinking about bathing suit season, do me a personal favor, OK?

Start appreciating your body before you start disrespecting it. Your body — including your thighs, your upper arms, your stomach and your tush — is not your enemy.

When somebody asks you whether you’re feeling good about heading to the beach, don’t make a sad face while grabbing them by the wrist and explaining the concept of “back fat.”

Tell them you can’t wait for summer because you’re going to slather yourself in sunscreen and head toward the water, wearing something comfortable to keep the sand out while keeping seagulls and cops away. That’s all a bathing suit needs to do.

If somebody has the nerve to ask how you feel about the way you look, tell them that your pituitary gland is drop-dead gorgeous and that, despite everything, your liver’s still functioning. Tell them you enjoy “looking within.”

Celebrate those parts of your body that keep you going. The rest are best left quietly to deal with themselves.

If you hate your body enough to talk trash about it constantly, just imagine how it’s tempted to react to you. You want to talk to your body the way the late, great Joan Rivers talked about trashy starlets in bad outfits? You think that’s the way to have a healthy relationship with either your inner or your outer self?

You say enough nasty stuff about your upper arms, they’ll start aching every time you pick up that 400-pound purse you insist on dragging everywhere. Soon, in solidarity, your elbows and ankles will receive the upper-arms’ memo and start protesting. They might develop just a touch of arthritis or arthritis-like symptoms to prove their point.

When I was talking with other women how we might best go about refusing to let swimsuits sink our self-esteem, I came across a new concept that made all the other vanities seem almost benign.

A bikini bridge is defined as “When a thin woman who has a flat or concave stomach” — that’s when I initially stopped reading, but keep going — “lies down, her bikini bottom should be suspended across her sculpted hipbones, leaving a shadowy gap.”

HAHAHA, whew, haha. Why can’t they come out and say “If you’re a woman over 30 or you weigh more than an even 100 pounds, please wear a full-body hazmat suit while approaching any beach, park or, not to put too fine a point on it — public area.”

My bikini bridge would, of course, be the Verrazano. It’s got 12 lanes, takes E-Z pass and has a sign saying “Life Is Worth Living.”

I’m not even kidding.

Then I started thinking about how “bikini bridge” sounded like a title, as in “Bikini Bridge Over The River Cry.”

Professor Chad Stanley at Wilkes University suggested “Bikini Bridge Over Troubled Waters” and a pal from Texas thought “Bikini Bridges of Madison County” would work, but only if Meryl Streep used her Italian accent.

But whose attention are we hoping to get, really? Some random guy who strolls along the shore staring at women while they’re napping, trying to get a glimpse of anatomical architecture? That’d be a great story to tell the children. “Your Daddy loved my bikini bridge and that’s why you’re here.”

The whole idea of girls and women striving to be desirable while not expressing desire isn’t such a hot idea, no matter what the season.

Do you know the real reason we worry about how others think we look at the beach? It’s because of the unflattering remarks we’re making in our own heads about other people.

That is where this starts — and that’s where we can help it end. Be generous instead of “judge-y.”

Instead of tsk-tsking in a sanctimonious whisper, “Whoever told her she’d look good in THAT?” we could think, “There’s somebody who enjoys her food! I wanna sit next to her!”

Don’t say it because you’d look better in comparison, either; say it loud because it’s the truth.

That person will have the best picnic on the beach.

And that’s how to start a fun summer.

Gina Barreca is an English professor at the University of Connecticut and a feminist scholar who has written eight books. She can be reached through her website at http://www.ginabarreca.com.

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