Today I did something dangerously ill-advised. Against all better judgment, I went swimsuit shopping. This is a feat far more hazardous than being one of the first shoppers in the door at Walmart on Black Friday. We’re going on this family trip in about a month, and it occurred to me that perhaps I should have a more modest swimsuit for this journey. No reason for my in-laws to have to see me with my midriff showing. (Truthfully, there’s no reason for anyone to have to see me that way, but I don’t have to look strangers in the eye again.) Anyway, a friend told me that she had bought a good suit recently at the Eddie Bauer outlet. She is an excellent bargain shopper, so I figured I should check it out. Nothing worse than spending a lot of money on something you don’t want to buy in the first place, right?
Well, wait a minute. I take that back. There is something worse than going shopping for a swimsuit and spending a bunch of money on something you don’t even want to buy in the first place. You can take your 9 and 11 year old sons to the store with you when you do it. I can’t decide if I am a candidate for sainthood or the insane asylum. Anyway, Joe had his iPad and Luke was playing games on another device, so I figured that would buy me about 20 minutes. I set them outside the entrance to the fitting rooms in a couple chairs and hastily started my search for a one-piece suit that would not make me look like either my 9 year old self or my grandmother.
I hurriedly grabbed four suits, found an open fitting room, and began the insidious process of stripping down to my skivvies in front of a dubiously lit, full-length mirror. Shudder. I quickly turned my back to my image and coerced my body into the first suit. I turned around for the grand reveal. It was less than grand. As is the case with many one-piece suits, this one flattened my tiny chest into a barely discernible fleshy wrinkle. Ick. I rid myself of that suit, and started on the next one. Before I knew it, I was through all four with nary a candidate in sight. I got dressed to search for more suits, hoping that when I got back out there a curious and ethereal light from heaven would be illuminating my dream suit.
It did not happen. The boys were still semi-quiet, however, so I grabbed six new suits and headed back to the changing room. As I was in there, squeezing myself into suit after suit like sausage into casings, my boys seemed to get louder. I could not figure out why this was. Then I realized they had entered the fitting rooms and now were right outside my door. Apparently my 20 minutes were up. I adjusted myself into a suit and opened the door.
“What are you doing in here? You need to be quiet,” I chided.
They stared at me and said nothing.
“What?” I said, feeling suddenly quite self-conscious in my mom suit. “Is it bad?”
“Nice,” Luke said. “Good. Like it.” (Have I mentioned that Luke is my favorite child?) He was obviously trying to hurry the process along by being my Yes Man. Still, I appreciated the positive comment.
Then, just when I was feeling good about Luke’s approval, Joe laughed. I glared at him with the burning heat of a thousand suns. Finally realizing his misstep, he tried to cover with a quick, “Nothing. Never mind.”
I decided to ignore him, shut the door, and get back to work. One thing was certain. I was not going to go to another store to endure further torture. I was leaving Eddie Bauer with an appropriate suit for our trip. It no longer mattered which one. I just had to get out of there because the confidence I had entered the store with was shattered. Ten flimsy pieces of fabric had taken me from intelligent, self-assured woman to whimpering, whining child. I was broken. I tried on two more suits, grabbed the one I despised least, and headed to the check out counter with my bona fide “mom” swimsuit. I was done.
Buying women’s swimwear is a total crap shoot. Hubby could not believe I tried on 12 suits just to find one that didn’t make me want to vomit or cry. It doesn’t matter what size a woman is, either. The experience is the same. We all have what we perceive to be figure flaws. We all try to minimize them. The goal is to find a suit we can be seen in that doesn’t make us feel bad about ourselves. If we find one that makes us feel confident and sexy, that’s a total bonus. Most times, however, we’re content to find one that makes us feel not totally unattractive.
Sometimes I think about the Victorian era swimsuits…short-sleeved black dresses worn with bloomers and black stockings. As uncomfortable as that costume would be for swimming, at least you had no concern about baring your midriff roll or your post-baby stretch marks or the cellulite you inherited from your grandmother. Everything was covered up and left to the imagination. There’s some wisdom in that somewhere. I find it right about the time I start to try on the first of twelve impossible swimsuits.