Okay, too many people have asked about this post. Apparently, some of my friends think that this is too good to miss. I guess I should be flattered, but I find myself getting all hot and bothered just thinking about this little shopping expedition...
Monday turned out to be a day for self-torture. At least that is what it felt like. I can tell you that there is nothing pretty about a woman on the shy side of sixty who never lost her baby weight (her baby is almost 24, years that is, not months), and who has added the weight of a couple more babies on top of that, who suddenly decides on a day when the heat index in our supposedly temperate city is approaching 110 degrees Fahrenheit (that's right, you read it correctly) in the middle of June (not August) to go shopping for a BATHING SUIT. That's right. A BATHING SUIT. Said woman is truly desperate (the elastic around the legs has disentegrated and the butt of her only workable suit has grown dangerously thin) or she would have never darkened the door of any dressing room to undertake such a tortuous task. It's just too bad that the woman does not have any valium or other sedatives with her because she sure needs either some valium or a good martini to recover from her extraordinary experience.
In a younger and very different version of her current self, this woman has been a lifeguard, a beach bum, a wanna-be-surfer girl, and a sun-worshipper who had at least 5 or 6 bathings suits in her possession at all times, and she had certainly never combined the concept of shopping for a bathing suit with the notion of self-mutilation or self-torture. In her teenage years the girl actually enjoyed shopping for bathing suits, and sometimes she and her friends would head to their favorite beach store and spend an hour or two admiring themselves in the latest and skimpiest bathing suit fashions on the pedestal in front of the big triple mirrors in the center of the store...just for the fun of it. My, my, how times have changed.
At this stage of life, it requires an act of bravery for the woman to enter the dressing room, especially after some cute little blonde sales associate has come up to her the moment she enters the BATHING SUIT department to say, "How may I help you?" How many I help you, the woman asks? You can shave or carve about 50 pounds off of me today, I don't care which. The blonde associate immediately sizes me up (literally and metaphorically). I really don't need to say much, because her heads starts nodding when I begin to explain exactly what I am looking for. She is already moving before I have finished my sentence. I follow her past all of the darling suits and cover ups to a relatively small section tucked away in the very back of the store, hidden from view of course, for this is where the bathing costumes reside. These bathing costumes are the BATHING SUITS for the older overweight women who would rather hide as much as they possibly can while still pretending to call it a BATHING SUIT. The blonde then has the audacity to direct me to a specific brand of suit that she glowingly describes with these words, "A lot of people have had good results with this particular suit." I am thinking...hmmmm.....what are good results? To go from a size 14 to a size 8 in ten minutes? Those kind of results? I start feeling the material on the suits, and I immediately start getting the picture. The fabric (can you really call this stuff fabric?) feels more like the chain mail for a knight in armor or the material a bullet proof vest is made of as opposed to something you would choose to lounge around the pool in. But when I pick up the tag, I am intrigued. It says "Take off 10 Inches." I look again. Nowhere can I find any kind of guarantee...or promises for customer satisfaction, but I guess this swimsuit company understands their clientele. They KNOW that women of my age and size are rarely, if ever, satisfied in a bathing suit...even one that advertises claims that appear to fall just short of the miraculous. Thus armed with several different sizes -- the blonde cheerfully tells me that it is always good to take a size up (groan) and a size down (a hopeful idea here) along with your regular size to the dressing room. Right. My arms are full of hangers, and I am just thinking she does not want to hear the screams emanating from the dressing room when I am trying to put the correct size combinations together.
Yet I am relatively well prepared. I have my icewater bottle in tow, I have driven to the store with my car airconditioner on its coldest setting, and once inside the store, I have not stopped short of my intended destination. Yet the bad news is I am somehow already sweating, and I haven't even begun to shed my clothes. I wonder if this is a psychological heat flash. These days just the anticipation of a hot flash is enough to trigger one. I also don't know why clothing departments do not keep their dressing rooms at near freezing temperatures. If they did, they would sell a lot more of these miracle suits because women would not end up tugging and pulling them over a sweating body that has turned into the consistency of super glue.
I take a few gulps of ice-water and head back. I am a card carrying joint replacement person so I always go for the largest dressing room, which is usually the handicapped. Since I know I am going to get hot, the last thing I want to do is also get claustrophobic...because if and when those two come together, I might not just scream, I might have a hissy fit or a conniption right there in the dressing room. I am lucky. The handicapped room is available. I get my suit combinations organized and very slowly I begin to shed my clothes. Again, I am trying to do all that I can to keep the sweat from running down my face and ruining my eye make-up. What a joke. My first challenge comes when I am trying to get the top of the two piece over my head. The underwire in the shelf bra keeps getting twisted and at one point, I am afraid that I have hung myself. I can't move my arms, I can't move my head, and I can't pull anything anywhere. You can guess what body appendages are hanging out in the non-existent breeze in the dressing room. I consider calling the girl and asking for help, but I am scared that she has never seen a sight like this before.
After twisting and shouting (to myself) like a Chubby Checker fan, I finally bend over at the waist and use my feet to step on the straps that are hanging down from the suit. This requires some extra contortions on my part. I am really glad then that I had gone ahead and had the hip replacement. Otherwise, I might have collapsed on the floor and been unable to get up (and I am not kidding here.) As it is, I am hopping around and trying to use my legs as leverage to pull the top back over my head (while I am still standing on the straps). Ten minutes have already elapsed. At this point I am already sweating like a pig, and I have not yet actually been able to get ANYTHING ON MY BODY. I take a few deep breaths and drink some more ice water as I try to keep myself from hyperventilating with exertion. At this point I decide to try to pull the top up over my hips (which are definitely larger than my shoulders), and despite confounding the law of physics, this seems to work. After more tugging and pulling I even manage to get the straps up on my shoulders. Everything is sticking to me, so I do some re-arranging and step back to take a look. Not bad except that I look just like my idea of a Kirstie Alley nightmare. The top is definitely more than a tad bit old ladyish, but at this size, my options are a bit limited. Now it is time for the bottoms. I turn AWAY from the mirror as quickly as I can. Oddly enough, I find that the girl has steered me in the right direction by sending me back with three sizes in two different styles. I don't know what possesses me to begin with the smallest size and the smaller of the two bottoms, but it seems to fit. And if you don't look at my legs, it is passable. Uh oh, the legs. I have excuses, good excuses why I cannot and do not exercise with regularity, but they fade to dust when I am looking at my legs in a mirror with overhead lighting. I am thinking that the dark hose and dark bloomers than my grandmother wore in the twenties are sounding more and more appealing. Perhaps we can bribe the fashion industry to bring them back. They could use a lighter fabric. There are actually women who would probably embrace this idea. Trust me.
I finally find a top and bottom combination that seem to work. And since I only put myself through this type of self-torture every five years or so, I know that these are going to have to last me a while. But I am not worried, the fabric certainly seems to be durable. I am thinking the army might even want to test it in Afghanistan. I even try on a relatively cute cover-up (I think I am most excited about this part of the shopping trip) but the top of the cover-up is not covering up enough. I am going on the record here and will probably offend someone. I do not find cleavage on older women attractive. And I am not talking about Jennifer Anniston older. I am talking about older women who used to be normal sized in the upper anatomy, but you combine breastfeeding multiple children with weight gain plus estrogen depletion and you just might be getting the picture. The girls are going south and not just for the winter. It is a year 'round thing. So...I am getting plenty of cleavage with the cover-up, but I am not enjoying what I am seeing (nor will anyone else). I am wishing I could round up a few more inches of fabric on each side, and this just might be work. I even consider sewing an old bra into the cover-up to give me some added support, but I quickly abandon the idea. Too much trouble. Another hot flash is coming on. I have been at it for close to an hour. My face is flushed like an alcoholic's and my hair is wringing wet in the back. My needs are simple. I am longing for one of those coated rubber band thingies to pull my hair up off my neck. My daughter always wears one on her arm like a bracelet, except the only time that I tried to do the same, the thingy cut off my circulation. I am really getting hot, almost nuclear reactor hot. Sad to say, I am not a hot momma in the bathing suit or the cover-up. I am just plain hot. And it's time to go before I have a meltdown.
I finally make it out of the dressing room and there stands my favorite little blonde sales associate. She is talking to this petite woman who is toned and bleached from here to Sweden whom I had just overheard talking on her cell phone in the adjacent dressing room about the horrors of going bathing suit shopping. Her voice has led me to believe that I might have discovered a kindred spirit, but alas, how wrong could I be. I am instantly aware of the chasm between us. She plops down two or three cute little numbers, and I catch a glimpse of the tags...size 6. I groan inwardly.
Now it's my turn. As the blonde rings up my sale, she smiles sweetly and then she sticks the knife in. The grand total is ($$$) a staggering amount. I quickly count the items, look again to be sure that I am not hallucinating and then I start to sweat again. This is not perspiration, it is sweat. I am getting monumentally hot and bothered. I am wondering if I am going to blow a proverbial gasket. But I know it's my fault. I was initially so intrigued with the miraculous claims on the tag that I totally ignored the prices posted in tiny numbers for all to see... see that is when you have on your 2.75 magnifying readers. I am wondering what I am going to have to sell to buy this bathing suit. I wear all my good jewelry, and neither my bank account nor jewelry box are like Queen Victoria's. I don't have any tiaras or scepters to hock. But I know that I am headed to the beach in two days, and I truly have nothing to wear that remotely resembles a bathing suit. Finally I grimace and hand over the plastic card. I am already wondering how in the world I am going to convince my husband that HE is buying me the dreaded BATHING SUIT, but then I feel the perfect strategy coming on. I will simply do what I am longing to do anyway when I get home...I will burst into tears and have a good cry. I just don't want to start now. I brush my eyes off quickly, making sure not to smear my eye make-up, and I smile sweetly at the sales associate while she bags my purchase. I think she can tell that I am getting emotional. My eyes are a bit blurry. As I head to the car, I look forward to getting home. I know I will have to lie on the couch a bit to recover. When my body temperature and emotions have returned to semi-normal, I will get off my fanny to walk to the kitchen...there I will take out a perfectly chilled Diet Coke and search around for some lo-cal chocolate to accompany it. I press the accelerator a little more firmly as I anticipate the comforts of home. Maybe, just maybe this Keflar suit will last me the next ten years.