This is the year I must replace an old bathing suit. I usually get three years use out of a swimsuit – that’s it. The first year it fits fine. The second year the elastic around the legs start to lose their tenacity, and the suit starts creeping up my butt cheeks. The third year, the elastic in the shoulder straps wears out.
During that third year, I have to be careful to remember to pull up the shoulder straps, first, to anchor them on my shoulders, before I pull down the elastic at the legs. If I do it the other way around – pulling down at the legs first, before the top half of the suit is firmly in place, I risk exposing much more at the bust than my tan line.
Bathing suit shopping makes me very cranky. I don’t come home with a suit the first day, or the second. I start looking in May and am lucky if I find something by July 4th.
“I don’t understand why it’s so hard for you to find a bathing suit,” my husband said one day. “It’s not like you have a tail or something.”
I stood there, speechless for a moment, trying to decide if I wanted to kill him swiftly or torture him slowly. In my mind’s eye I viewed the following day’s newspaper headline:
Husband Killed For Thoughtless Comment
In the end, I took a few deep breaths and decided to enlighten this foolish man I had married.
“It would be easier to shop for clothes if I simply had a tail,” I told him. “A tail in the front, or a tail in the back – it wouldn’t make a difference if my body flowed in a straight line like yours does. Instead, I have a body with curves. There are curves here and here and here!” I shouted, pointing to various parts of my body. “And the men who design women’s clothing think our curves should fit proportionately – but they don’t! I can’t wear a one-piece size 14 bathing suit because this,” I said, pointing to my butt, “is a size 16, and these,” I said, grabbing my boobs, “are a size 14!”
He never made that comment again. But I digress….I still have the daunting task of shopping for a bathing suit this year.
I remember how easy it was when I was young, and the only choice I had to make when picking out a bathing suit was its color. Back then my body glided gracefully through the sand – like the The Girl From Ipanema song.
Tall and tan and young and lovely
The girl from Ipanema goes walking
And when she passes
Each one she passes goes “ah”
Nowadays, the song running through my head, as I tread through the sand is by The Commadores.
She’s a brick house,
She’s mighty mighty
And just lettin’ it all hang out
Shopping for a bathing suit makes me feel like I’m preparing for a fight in the ring. I have to get my mind psyched; I need to feel pumped with energy and in peak performance. I can’t do it on a full stomach or when my resistance is low. It is hard work and your body needs to be strong to do battle with Lycra and elastic. To hear all the grunting and groaning in the bathing suit dressing rooms, you would think there was a real fight going on behind those doors.
So, no, dear husband, I’m not shopping for a bathing suit that will cover my tail, but I do have some pretty strict criteria that need to be met before I lay down my credit card for a new suit that will cost me close to $80 or more, as compared to your $25 suit that I purchased for you for Father’s Day 1998.
- It has to be one-piece. My bikini days are long gone, and I need the strongest Lycra on the market. I heard someone asking a saleswoman for “The Miracle Suit,” so I followed her over to the rack where they were hanging. The tag on the suit says it can make you look 10 pounds lighter in 10 seconds. Wonder if I wore three of them at once…could it make me look 30 pounds lighter??
- It has to be black. Black is slimming. If it wasn’t so damned hot at the beach, I would wear a full-length burka.
- It has to be as sturdy as a Sherman Tank. I don’t want to feel anything jiggling, sagging or moving in the wrong direction when I trudge through the sand.
- It has to have a skirt that will cover as much as possible down below. Forty years ago, I wore skirts to school that were shorter than my bathing suit skirt, but now it’s a different story – and since I’m short, the little skirted bathing suits hang so low that it looks like I’m wearing a mini-dress. My granddaughter once asked me if I was wearing a bathing suit under my dress. “This dress is my bathing suit.” I told her.
- I need sturdy shoulder straps – not those useless flimsy skinny straps that are just for show. I see some women sliding their thin bathing suit straps down their shoulders to avoid a tan line. Not me. I need thick functional, reinforced, shoulder straps that will support my anatomical abundance.
- No halter-tops! I had one of those once. I had to tie it so tight to hold everything up, that I felt like I was tying a noose around my neck every time I got ready for a day at the beach.
As of this date, I still don’t have a bathing suit. But last week I came home with a skirted bathing suit bottom. I don’t know why I didn’t think of this idea years ago. When you buy the bathing suit pieces separately, you can buy one size for the bottom half and one size for the top. Brilliant!
Problem is, I couldn’t find a top I liked in my size. So where does that leave me? There is only one thing left to do – search for “clothing-optional” bathing areas. I’ll see what it’s like to be a man this summer and go topless: Put on my bathing trunks; grab a towel and a bottle of water and head for the sand.
To my surprise, there are lots of “clothing-optional” beaches in the area. Here is a list of some of them. Maybe I’ll see you there this summer!
- Fire Island: Cherry Grove http://www.empirehaven.net/
- Juniper woods: a lakeside resort in upstate New York. http://www.juniperwoods.com/
- Jacob Riis Park: Rockaway Beach – not the entire beach, just a small section at the eastern end. http://www.nyharborparks.org/visit/jari.html
- Fire Island: Lighthouse beach – though they are cracking down on nude bathing, in general, you can still find a few dunes left to burrow in (Hurricane Sandy wiped out a lot of them). If you are caught, you can face a $5,000 fine plus 6 months in jail. It’s probably cheaper to buy a new bathing suit. http://www.nps.gov/fiis/planyourvisit/fireislandlighthouse.htm
- Full Tan Sun Club: Sprakers, NY – the name of this club says it all. http://www.fulltansunclubofny.com/
- Gunnison Beach in Sandy Hook, New Jersey It’s worth it to visit this site just to read the profile picture “warning” notice. http://www.gunnisonbeachnj.us/
- Empire Haven Nudist Park: Lake Moraria, New York – for those who want to wear their birthday suits only. http://www.empirehaven.net/
Don’t forget to bring some extra sunblock!
Another great story. Might have to be edited a bit for Newsday! But great for every woman’s magazine! We’ve all been there, big or little, when everything begins to sag. We all need understanding! Thanks for writing about the sensitivities of the subject in a funny but serious way.
PS. I would change the title to:
SUNBATHING : CLOTHING OPTIONAL
Would catch attention faster.?
join the group we’ve all been there and still are fighting to win the battle of being comfortable in these flimsy bathing suits. Love it .