Once every 20 years or so, there are a few things a woman just needs to do. Like make a drastic hairstyle change. Remodel the house. Toss the old couch. Change careers.
Or buy a new swimsuit.
Over the past two decades I have bought three cars and one house. I have sold three cars and two houses. I have moved twice, updated one kitchen, and replaced several significant pieces of furniture. How many swimsuits have I bought in all that time? None.
You may think this is because I am overwhelmed by the whole process of finding one. Well, yes, I am, but that isn’t the reason. Really, it takes me years to wear out a suit. I rarely go to a lake. I live a thousand miles from the nearest oceans. I haven’t dipped a toe into a public pool for years. I don’t do any tanning. Not only did I find it too boring when I was a teenager, but I’ve lost any taste I might have had for it since the dermatologist starting freezing spots off my skin. About the only time I need a swim suit these days is to take advantage of a hotel pool or hot tub when I’m traveling. And that’s on the rare occasions when I have remembered to pack the suit.
So once I find a suit, it will last a long time. A good thing, too, given the stress of the whole swim suit buying experience.
First there’s the sticker shock. Eighty-five bucks for a scant handful of Spandex and a couple of straps? Really? Per square inch, that’s as expensive as a registered Chihuahua puppy figured by the ounce.
Then there’s the challenge of finding something suitable. Avoiding the barely-there bikinis clearly meant for women several decades younger and a few (Okay, several. Well, maybe ten. Okay, okay, twenty.) pounds lighter than me. Avoiding the suits with flowing tops longer than today’s dresses that are clearly meant for women substantially larger and somewhat (well, maybe a little bit) older than me.
Then comes the actual trying on. Taking three or four possibilities into a dressing room and making sure the door is locked. Stripping down, noticing every odd mark your socks and jeans leave imprinted on your skin. Struggling into a suit (discovering halfway into the experience that it would have been easier to don the top of a two-piece by stepping into it than by pulling it on over one’s head). Then, sucking in everything that can be sucked in, taking that dreaded look in the mirror and checking out the rear view.
During swim suit season, dressing room mirrors really ought to have stickers with emergency hotline numbers for Weight Watchers and the nearest available fitness center.
The last time I tried on swim suits, twenty years and ten pounds ago, the “tankini” had just hit the market and was the only style available in that particular store. I put one on, tugged the bottom of the top down to meet the top of the bottom, and looked in the mirror. The suit didn’t look too bad. Then I took a breath. The top rolled itself up my tummy like a window shade. It wasn’t inspiring.
This time around, I managed to find a two-piece suit that covered the things that needed covered but that stayed put if I breathed. It didn’t bare things that didn’t bear baring, but neither did it come down to my knees. It was reasonably comfortable. It was even semi-stylish enough not to scream “woman of a certain age who can’t keep everything sucked in like she used to.” Close enough; I braced myself and bought it.
Thank goodness, that’s taken care of for the next twenty years.