"Should I do it? Is it time?" I asked my friend who shares the same name as me, Céline.
"I'll make it easier for you," she says, and untied her top. Easy for you to say, I thought. Our similarities pretty much end at our names. Céline is a tall Belgian beauty for whom topless sunbathing is nothing out of the ordinary—plus, her girls would make any man stop in their tracks. They would just walk straight past me, not noticing I'd even removed my top.
Hmm. There's a comforting thought.
"Nobody cares. Look around you," she says. It was true. There were young ladies laid out, letting the sun's rays shine on their chests. But there were also women who could easily be in their 60s strolling down the beach with not scrap of fabric on their bountiful bosoms. "Besides," she adds, gesturing to our friend Alain who was swimming in the sea, without a care in the world, "if he can wear speedos, you can totally go topless."
I cracked up. Okay fine, it's time. I quickly loosened the strings on my top and before I could change my mind, pulled it off.
I was topless.
Everyone went on with their lives, unmindful of the milestone that had just occurred in mine.
I relaxed and laid back down on my towel, letting the sun and the wind get acquainted with this part of myself that had never seen the light of day before. It actually felt really nice. Natural. Free.
Sunbathing topless must seem like an odd thing to add to a bucket list. I put it there because I thought of it as a step towards full acceptance of the body that I've been given, with all it's imperfections, and being comfortable in my own skin.
As the years have gone by I've come to accept things that I used to be insecure about. I've come to like being tiny even though it means I could never be a beauty queen, as I dreamt of as a child, or even a flight attendant, as I would've wanted as a wanderlusting twenty-something. I don't mind being constantly complimented as "cute", even if it means that in this lifetime I'll never be described as "statuesque."
I've also come to accept the way I look. When I was growing up, the standard of beauty in the Philippines was fair with Spanish features. While I was born with pale skin, you can tell from my appearance that my ancestors preferred the company of Chinese traders over Spanish colonizers. But now, I like the way I look—even though it means enduring "konnichiwa" and "wǒ ài nǐ" catcalls (and the occasional "job offer" to be a schoolgirl/dominatrix). I think the way I look makes me unique, and I'm happy with that.
The insecurity I had to yet to overcome was that of being less endowed. There's really nothing, short of surgery, that can be done about it. That I've been in good shape these days from running and pole dancing has only reduced my cup size to a more miserable state. I learned to cope throughout the years with the invention of push-up bras, but adapting isn't really the same as acceptance, is it? So I had to do this one thing to embrace what I have and say to the world, "This is me, just as God made me, without any cheats or enhancements. I'm fine with it."
So I did it, and it was one of the most liberating experiences of my life. It felt refreshing to be one with these women who are so comfortable in their own skin and unfettered by worries of what other people think. It was a statement, not so much to the world in the end but to myself, that I am happy with what I have and I'm not going to spend any more time being insecure. Because even though I may lack in this aspect, the sum of all my parts are worth so much more than a cup size.