It’s inevitable. The one event of the summer that some of us hate. It gives some of us anxiety. It makes some of us doubt if we should be seen in public at all! It’s worse than having curly hair on a humid day or by being attacked by a hungry mosquito in a tent. It’s (cue the ominous music I am hearing in my head)…
Not all women are anxious about a trip to the mall, heading to a changing room, and trying on a swimsuit. I know women who pick suits off the rack and take them home. It works for them. It used to work for me! I remember my first real sort of semi grown up swimsuit that made me feel like a million bucks! My mom bought it for me in 1982 at the Duluth mall during sidewalk sales. It was a brown and orange two piece bikini that I was obsessed with. I wore it when my mom took my sister and I school shopping in Minneapolis where we stayed in a hotel WITH A POOL for the weekend. It fit me perfectly. It tied on the back, around the neck and on the sides of the bottoms. I felt like a Coppertone ad in Rolling Stone Magazine. I was 14. It was the first–and last–time I would ever feel good while baring that much skin in public ever again.
Maybe it’s because I’m more aware of my body than I was before I had my two children. Maybe it’s because I can’t find a suit that makes me feel as good as the brown and orange bikini of my youth. Or maybe it’s because I’m a size 14. I can’t for the life of me, pick a suit off a rack and trust that it will fit when I get home. Nope. Two pregnancies had left my body a train wreck. Weight loss, weight gain, weight loss…you get the picture. Want to know what it’s like for a size 14, freshly turned 50 year-old to shop for a suit? I thought you would. Welcome to my personal hell of swimsuit shopping.
A Comedy of Swimsuit Errors
I left the house the other day on a mission. The sun was shining and the birds were singing. My hair was washed and styled, I had a light touch of mascara and lipstick on (something I rarely do anymore) and easy clothing to remove while trying on suits. I was determined to find a one that would make me feel good. Well, at least comfortable. First stop: the plus size store at the mall. I had ordered 5 suits from their online store. They were delivered and I was going to find one, perhaps two, that would fit me like a dream. In the dressing room, I was hopeful. Hopeful that maybe the first one would work and I could get out of there in a hurry.
The first swimsuit, a cute ombre one piece, looked promising. I kept on my undies on and stepped in to the leg openings. Mind you, I am a Northern Minnesota girl who regularly works from home (indoors) in her paint splattered yoga pants and sweatshirts. When I am outside, I wear a lot of sunscreen so I have NO healthy glow going on. I stepped into that ombre suit, overestimated the confidence I had with my center of gravity, and tripped. My right elbow hit the wall so hard that the sales gal asked me in an uncomfortable voice, “Are you alright?” “YEAHIMGOOD!” Dear Lord, three minutes in and I had already injured myself!
The ombre suit was a bust…but not literally. It fit perfectly on my curvy booty but not on my 40DDD top. Yes. You heard that right. (Sometimes it’s called a 40F cup. I don’t know which one is better.) No ombre suit for me. The top flattened my girls out like pancakes. Like a mammogram that won’t end.
Onto bigger (and hopefully roomier!) things! I grabbed a black suit that had cute little rhinestones on the cleavage. With my funny bone still tingling from the whack it took on the wall, I slipped on the suit. As I pulled on the straps, I leaned forward and felt a scratch from one of the rhinestones rip up my forearm. Don’t ask me how I did this… but I took the suit off before a drop off blood could hit it.
I was back to the drawing board and I looked in the mirror to give myself a pep talk. Of course, I noticed my mascara had smeared and my hair was starting to curl as sweat hit the nape of my neck. Suit number three: too high cut. Nobody needs to see those stretch marks!
Suit four: I couldn’t even get it off of the hanger. Two straps, three straps… why are there so many straps?
Suit five: The red and black tank style suit probably looked just fine but I saw it through the lens of having an injured elbow, a bleeding forearm, smeared mascara, and my straightened-hair-turned-frizzy. Exhaling a loud sigh, the sales gal asked if I was having any luck. “Not so far….”
Learning My Lesson
I hung the casualties–I mean swimsuits–up as neatly as I could. I told the attendant that it wasn’t my day. She looked like she wanted to hug me. As if she saw it all the time with women–the aftermath of swimsuit shopping. I walked out of the mall, bypassed the other stores I had planned to go in, and got into my car. My hair was crazy, my mascara smeared even more, I had lipstick on my teeth, and one of those little tissue paper panty liners from the last suit I tried on was stuck to my shoe.
I was exhausted. Mostly, mentally. I thought about that bikini I had loved so much as a young girl. What was it that made me feel so comfortable in it? And then it hit me. I had been a kid who didn’t have years of the neurosis and stress about my body. I was happy with it then because I hadn’t been told not to be. So as I sat in my car, licking my wounds, I got it. I picked up my purse, went back into the store, and bought the red and black tank style suit. When I got home, I put it on, stood in front of the mirror, and saw a 50 year old woman who hasn’t treated her body as kindly as she should have over the years. But the suit fit and my attitude was better. Then my sweet husband of almost 22 years walked by the bedroom and whistled loudly and told me I looked hot.
Maybe I should go swimsuit shopping more often.