Swimsuit-Free Summer Dates

You don’t have to be model-perfect to wear a swimsuit, but wearing one on a first date can be intimidating. We’ve got some modest — yet fun — warm-weather date ideas that’ll keep you covered.

By Mark Amundsen

survey reported in London’s Daily Mail last summer revealed that women in the United Kingdom spend “on average, £285 million on new swimsuits every summer … yet 45 percent are never worn.” Why, you ask? More than a quarter of
And if there’s a nude beach in the area — um, let’s not even discuss it.
those surveyed admitted that wearing those new, expensive swimsuits was what they dreaded most about going on vacation. In fact, more than 10 percent have avoided taking one entirely for that reason. Ladies, you’re not alone.

Despite what some women might think, men really are aware of how they look in bathing suits themselves — but are willing to put aside their own body-image embarrassment simply because the prospect of seeing women in their bathing suits is worth it. Of course, there are a lot of men wearing Speedos who would look better wearing something with a bit more coverage — but that doesn’t mean all guys are like that. Guys who are proud of their bodies are happy showing them off — that is, until a guy in even better shape strolls by.

When it comes to dating, many men and women would rather face waterboarding than go into the water with a date. After all, even if you’re in board shorts, there’s just not a lot of material with which to cover any physical imperfections. And if there’s a nude beach in the area — um, let’s not even discuss it.

But suppose your new love interest suggests a day at the beach. Now what? “If there’s no need to compromise yourself, then don’t, especially at the beginning of a relationship — it’s not the time to do that,” advises speaker, writer and body image counselor Liria Mersini ( “Keep good alternatives in your back pocket. If you want to do something daring, climb a mountain together.”

Kevin and Joy Decker, authors of Romantic Antics: Creative Ideas for Successful First Dates, Adventurous Saturday Nights, and Playful Long Weekends (, think that the most important thing on a first date is to be comfortable and able to communicate with each other. “The goal of a first date should never be more than figuring out whether or not you want to go on a second date,” says Kevin. “Do things that allow you to talk and learn more about each other.” Worrying constantly about how your body looks isn’t going to help either of you relax, so save the poolside barbecue for later.

At this point I should mention the importance of developing a positive body image. People grow by challenging their fears and leaving their comfort zones, and relationships certainly must be built on more solid ground than what you look like half (or even entirely) naked. Mersini, for example, reminds us that physical beauty is indeed subjective: “There’s a flavor for everybody; someone
You need to show up, and be comfortable in your own skin.
will find you attractive.” Her motto is, “Get inspired, get dressed and get on with it!”

In fact, some of our body image issues are based solely on perception. Thomas F. Cash, Ph.D., states in The Body Image Workbook: An Eight-Step Program for Learning to Like Your Looks that “In numerous studies, researchers have discovered that many people demand more physical ‘perfection’ of themselves than they think others expect of them, and even more than those others truly expect. Often, such people are out of touch with reality. Many men are often more appreciative of a heavier female body type than women believe they are. Guys don’t idealize blonde beauty to the degree women assume. Likewise, lots of women don’t idolize the narrowly defined image of ‘macho’ attractiveness that men often assume they do.”

But Mersini agrees that dating — especially a first date — requires a good bit of risk-taking and stepping outside your comfort zone already without tossing in a nerve-racking situation to make things more stressful. “Relationships are not about how you look in a bathing suit,” she says. “You need to show up, and be comfortable in your own skin.”

But suppose, for whatever reason, you can’t get out of going to the beach or the pool with your date? “There are plenty of ways around the bathing suit issue,” says Mersini. “Suggest meeting later in the day — say, 4 p.m. — to avoid having to be seen in the bathing suit for too long. Meet on the pier, where you can wear something over it.”

If you’ve established a good rapport with someone before your first date together, you might feel comfortable enough to just confess to your own bathing suit shyness. It doesn’t hurt to be honest, and while there’s an element of risk in such disclosure, at least it’s one you can take fully clothed — and it’s no more stressful than showing up in that bikini, right?

Swimsuit-free summer date options
Kevin and Joy Decker suggest trying one of these first-date ideas during the warmer months; they’ll help you enjoy the great weather with your date while keeping far, far away from the water:

1. Build and fly a kite together.
2. Play miniature golf.
3. Attend a minor league baseball game.
4. Go on a scavenger hunt.
5. Attend an outdoor concert.
6. Hike through a national or state park.
7. Go berry-picking on an organic farm.
8. Play Frisbee golf.
9. Visit area museums, gallery openings or art walks.
10. Go rollerblading or biking down local trails.
11. Share a lunch together from a food cart or pack your own picnic.
12. Go spelunking and explore caves and caverns.
13. Visit your state or county fair.

Mark Amundsen is a writer and editor based in New York.
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