I didn’t take the cruise’s towel origami workshop, but I thought this little guy was cute

I’m not a bikini person.

I’ve never had a flat belly in my life, and after my twins, my norm is a not-flat belly with loose, puckered skin that flops a little over whatever waistband I wear. Even at my thinnest (see: Divorce Diet) I have always felt that my abs are better suited for a one-piece or one of those tankinis with a flap of fabric hung like a little dog door  from a bikini top.

But I just went on my first-ever cruise (the silver lining from that horrible shipwreck in Italy is that prices dropped and everyone is extra careful now) and as I was packing, I threw my bikini in. Ef it, I thought. I can’t believe I will be the only one with a postpartum belly on board, and if I am, then let it be known what we women go through for our children, damn it!

I also threw in a tankini top, fully expecting to have lost my body image bravado when faced with actually exposing my midsection.

But I didn’t! It helped that there were all body sizes and shapes on board, many in bikinis, but I also had a distinct shift in mindset. The last time I tried to wear one, back in my 20s, my attitude was, “I don’t look as good as I should in this bikini.” Looking down at my belly now that I’m almost 45, my first thought was, “I don’t look as bad as I could in this bikini,” which morphed into, “In fact, I look downright fine, and who’s looking anyway?”

Best vacation I’ve ever had. More proof of what I apparently have to learn again and again over the years: That actual looks don’t matter nearly as much as how you feel about how you look. In my experience, changing how you feel about how you look is a lot harder than slapping on some makeup or even doing 700 crunches a day, if you were so inclined. Still, I think the latter is a better investment of emotional energy.