The Horror, The Horror (Of Bathing Suit Shopping)
It was a sunny day on Saturday, warm, breezy, the temperature of contentment, and while heading home from a successful outing to one of the farther-away playgrounds with my little family, I thought, “Oh hey, there’s that cool retro-style store with the colorful clothes. They’re having a sale on bathing suits. I need a bathing suit. Maybe I’ll pop in.” I sent Ben and Babygirl to the supermarket, told them I would meet them at home shortly, and sauntered into the store.
Did you notice my first mistake, followed by my second, third, and fourth? I was acting like bathing suit shopping was no big deal. I was acting like it was something a person could do alone, on a whim, like buying a bagel for lunch. Maybe that’s true for Emma Stone, who in all likelihood hasn’t eaten a bagel since she was six years old; or maybe even Emma Stone realizes that bathing suit shopping is akin to war, and one does not go to war alone and unprepared unless one expects to be slaughtered.
Sure enough, my quick solo shopping trip was a disaster. When I went in, eyes on polka dots and side frills, my mood was probably an 8; when I slunk out, I was a 3. I felt about as jaunty as a mud puddle.
Here is my bathing suit shopping history:
1) In high school, or perhaps early college, I go shopping with my mom at a bathing suit store and the clerk talks me into trying on a red bikini. This is partly because none of the one-pieces are set up to accommodate “the truly ample-bosomed.” My mother is shellshocked by the sight of so much of my skin, meaning I have only the clerk to listen to, and this thing tends to happen to me in such situations where I get mesmerized by saleswomen and I want to do what they say. Like this:
So, basically, to please this random saleslady whom I will never see again, I buy a red bikini.
My mother promptly takes me to another rack where we pair the red bikini with an opaque black cover up made of something synthetic and springy, and my mother can breathe again.
Did I ever wear the bathing suit? I have no idea. There are no pictures of me in it; I have no memories of wearing it, and at some point it disappeared. Maybe it slipped away when I wasn’t looking, took a $20 from my wallet and went off to self-actualize at Esalen with the help of some lady with self-esteem. Bon voyage, bikini!
I still have the opaque black cover up, though. It’s great, like a life-size, wearable “CENSORED” smudge. I use it all the time.
2) In late college or shortly thereafter, I buy a bra-sized one-piece from the website Figleaves. Everything that should be covered up is covered up, yet everything that should be supported is supported. It’s bright blue, which feels like a nod to youthful optimism. I wear it every summer up until I am seven months pregnant, when even this stretchy, modest, accommodating bathing suit finally has to draw the line.
3) Not long before I become pregnant, and after reading some Nora Ephron (“If anyone young is reading this, go, right this minute, put on a bikini, and don’t take it off until you’re thirty-four”), I buy — with help and encouragement — a black-and-white two-piece from the amazing Iris who operates out of Kimera on Atlantic Avenue.
And I wear it. Like, outdoors, where people can see! I lie on the beach in it. I tube down the river in Missoula, Montana, in it. I am not confident, exactly, I keep the cover up on hand, just in case, but I am at peace with myself, boobs and belly. In my head, I have Iris and I have Nora. It helps.
When I get pregnant, of course, I switch back to the blue one-piece, until it finally dies on me, a noble and exhausted death, like that of a horse.
And, that’s it. Those are all the bathing suits I’ve bought as an adult-type person for my adult-type body.
These days, I don’t merely have an adult-type body, I have an adult-type-body-that-has-carried-to-term-and-then-delivered-a-baby-type body. That’s not it, either. I have an adult-type body which is working multiple part-time jobs, all of which involve typing rather than physical activity, and doing them from home, where the food is. I have, especially over the past year, prioritized career over vanity, money over being Me Minus Ten Pounds. As Margaret Cho said in I’m The One That I Want, “Being ten pounds thinner is a full time job, and I am giving in my notice and walking out the door.” Yas, queen. Exactly.
For the most part, I feel okay about my current hierarchy of priorities. Just, not when it’s swimsuit time.
I may still be under 34 but if Nora Ephron thinks I should be getting right back into that black-and-white two-piece, she needs to give me more than an inspirational quote, she needs to show up and hold my hand as I stand there quaking in front of my closet, and she probably needs to bring Tina Fey, Amy Schumer, and Margaret Cho for extra bonus pep talking. Or maybe I’ll order another one-piece online, a cute-ish one that fits, and somehow that will feel less like a failure than like a victory.