while sybil, in her usual, hysterically funny and insightful way, was contemplating the idea of buying a bathing suit, i was actually out there trying to buy one. there is something about the impending july 4th holiday that forces, even sane women, into the neon lit dressing rooms of swimwear sections of department stores.
living in southern california, i am gifted with year round sunshine. the consequence of all that light is that my arms, face and chest gradually, over the year, take on a healthy tannish glow. i don't want to get any emails so i am telling you, from the outset, that i do use sunscreen but all the sunscreen in the world can't totally protect one from constant sunshine. the up side of this tannish glow is that my upper body tends to look healthy and youngish. my legs are another story. my legs are white. i mean really white. my upper thighs could accurately be described as flounder, underbelly white. it therefore goes, with out saying, that bathing suit shopping is not my favorite activity.
i don't mean to imply that my upper thighs are my only figure flaw - oh no, that would be too easy. i have problems with my butt, my breasts and my belly. actually, there is not a body part left that one could say was bathing suit worthy. and yet i shop. i shop because i love the beach and the sand and the sun. i love to swim. give me a pool, an ocean or a lake and i am happy. i just don't want to look in the mirror while i am doing it.
bathing suits come in three categories. the bikinis for the young and lithe, the tankini's which are like training bras for the bikini wearers. (it is the suit you wear when you are weaning yourself from young to not so young). and then there are the one pieces. the dreaded, one pieces are for those who have passed bikini, rested briefly in the land of tankini and are now firmly stuck in - you guessed it - old age. nothing says mother like a one piece bathing suit and nothing says grandma like a black one piece. now, i will admit that there are some one piece bathing suits that are cut up to here and down to there and held together with a tiny little string or a strategically placed piece of gold or silver hardware, but let's face it, those are not one piece suits, those are glorified tankini's with cut outs in places that no one over 21 can afford to have cut out.
the worst part about bathing suit shopping is not the pawing through miles of racks, overstuffed with bathing suits on hangers, each hanger guaranteed to get wrapped up in the price tag of the bathing suit next to it. just finding a suit you like, finding your size and then extracting said suit from the rack is enough to make a grown woman weep. but no, that is not the worst part. the worst part is yet to come. the worst part begins after you have waited on line for a dressing room and you are finally alone (except for that cute little security camera they warn you about in bright red letters. you just know that some stock room boy somewhere is getting a look at parts of you that even your own husband hasn't seen in years), alone in the cubicle. just you, 23 bathing suits and enough fluorescent lighting to make even angelina jolie look bad.
you get undressed, you start to try on and then the hot flashes begin. after bathing suit nine or ten you stop caring. the process has sucked the life force from you. you are beaten. you end up buying, as i have, year after year, what ever black bathing suit fits. you walk out of that dressing room, triumphant. not because you have emerged with the dream suit but because you have emerged at all.
i happened to have had lunch with an orthodox, jewish woman the other day. she was a young woman, somewhere between the age of bikini and tankini, and yet she didn't even own a bathing suit. fundamentalists of all persuasions, be they muslims, mormons or amish don't seem to like to see their women half naked. she laughed when i asked her if she didn't miss swimming. not only did she say she didn't miss it, she said she felt relieved. she never had to buy a bathing suit again. i thought about that long and hard and i have come to the conclusion there is something to be said for burka's.