I was flipping through the latest Swimsuit Issue of Sports Illustrated when I stopped on the smiling face of someone I knew immediately was not another 20-something posing mostly naked on the beach. It was 54-year-old Paulina Porizkova, who said she is now the "oldest core girl" to be featured in that issue.
That was cool.
Full disclosure: I didn't buy this magazine; it was gifted to us for Christmas, and while I have enjoyed a lot of the articles, I was tossing this particular issue in the recycling bin when I saw 45-year-old Tyra Banks on the cover. So I opened it up. And I'm glad I did, because it made me very happy to see both Tyra and Paulina frolicking on the beach with women half their age.
You could certainly argue that by including two models over 45 in their swimsuit issue Sports Illustrated is just pandering to older women, hoping to distract us from the reality that it mostly serves as soft-core porn that gives everyone unrealistic expectations of what women's bodies should look like at any age. But I don't care why they included them. I still like that they did.
You might argue that women should neither want, nor be asked, to show their bodies for money. But as Paulina explains in her essay printed in the issue, modeling is just one part of her life right now, and she was more than pleased to be asked to pose in a swimsuit again, despite some blows to her ego in the process.
You might also argue that such a magazine shouldn't exist at all. But it does, and it comes to my home. And if it's on my kitchen table, I'd rather it feature a 54-year-old woman proudly posing in front of the camera instead of tucked safely out of view.
And I want to see that happy, beautiful 54-year-old not just to show middle-aged me what is still possible, but for teen-aged me, who studied magazines like they were maps to happiness. I want her, and all the other 14-year-olds who might still read magazines today, to know that 40 years from now, you can do more with your body than hide it under the beach umbrella while you wait to apply more sunscreen to your grandchildren.
You can put that sunscreen on yourself and join them at the waves in whatever swimsuit you like. Even a bikini.