SWIMSUIT SHOPPING. THE HORROR AND THE AFTERMATH.

swimsuit shoppingWhat do mammograms, pap smears, household renovations, and phone calls from the Canada Revenue Agency have in common? They are all less dreadful than swimsuit shopping.

Being a post-menopausal 52-year-old with a few extra pounds around the middle does not help, but my younger, hotter, skinnier self was equally appalled by the experience.  No woman (or at least no woman I have ever met) feels their most sexy and attractive while wearing a bathing suit.

Truthfully, I feel sexier naked. Always have. Naked, there are curves and contours. But in a bathing suit, the same two breasts that looked okay when I got out of the shower seem unable to live up to the expectations of those padded cups. Everything to the armpit side of my nipples looks like fat. But if I take the padded cups out, the girls start pointing South. WAAAYYYY South… like National Geographic photo South.

And don’t even get me started on my ass. My poor ass. FYI… I like my ass. It is round but not too round. Looks pretty good in a pair of jeans. But in a bathing suit, all I see are stretch marks. I can’t even blame the children, since I have had those lines since puberty. And my upper thighs touch. Let’s be honest here. They don’t just touch. They squish together like sweaty lovers in a passionate embrace.

The whole effect is disconcerting. And it is not significantly improved by only trying on suits that “match my body type” (What the F#@!! does that even mean?!?). Or have vertical lines. (This makes me look like a human barcode). Or include “ruching”. (Female readers know what this is, but for the benefit of males… It is is a bunch of extra bathing suit fabric piled around the middle of the suit to create the illusion of shape. In truth, it just looks like you have worn your suit in a chlorinated pool one-too-many-times and it is already falling apart).

In the end, I go for black. Perfect for a beach funeral.

Tankinis are nice because you can pee without having to wriggle out, which is rather like trying to take a sausage out of the casing. But Tankinis emphasize the muffin top so this year I went with one-pieces and have decided that whenever I need to relieve myself, I will back slowly into the ocean (so no one can see my stretch marks) and denigrate the fishies. Am sure the female fish will understand my predicament and forgive my trespasses.

On Sunday afternoon, I went into a dressing room with nine options and emerged with two “winners” – both black. Three suits never came off the hangers. Option #6 (a polka dot tankini with ruching) destroyed my self-esteem to the point where continuing to look at my pasty winter flesh under fluorescent lights would undoubtedly have resulted in a mental health emergency. I did not want to expose the staff of the Winners/HomeSense store to the trauma of finding my panty-clad body curled into the fetal position inside dressing room #11, chanting “mommy needs malbec” over and over.

I made it home alive. Mission accomplished. And after a glass of wine and a cookie, I began to feel more like myself. Okay… 2 glasses of wine (BIG glasses. Goldfish-bowl-sized glasses). And a plate of cookies. BIG cookies. And maybe one more glass of wine. Don’t judge me!

This morning, as I was sipping my coffee and waiting for the Advil to kick in (malbec-sugar-headaches are the worst), I pondered why the whole bathing suit THING is such a trauma. And I concluded (as I usually do) that it IS NOT me. I do not need to have “work” done on any of my nibbly bits. I do not need to read the latest book on female empowerment. I do not need to just “get over it”.

I need to be able to dress like a man at the beach.

I want swim “trunks” – and no – not those ridiculous, “board shorts” they sell to go with female bathing suits. Those are just the fast-track to a yeast infection. I want swim trunks like my husband wears. They close around his middle with ultra-forgiving velcro and fall to the crook of his knees. They come with pockets! And you pair them up with ordinary t-shirts. There are no “cover ups” for men. Think about this!

I am blaming this morning’s headache on a culture that not only expects women to wear underwear in front of a swarm of strangers, but also assumes that feeling uncomfortable about this is a ‘personal’ matter, to be resolved through diet, exercise, and self-reflection.

My two one-piece, black bathing suits are still in the shopping bag. They are scrunched up in the back of my closet, where they will remain until March break holidays, when they will become the only unpleasant aspect of a glorious Caribbean vacation. Between now and then, I will try to lose 10 pounds. I may, or may not, be successful. Either way, I know that I will NOT enjoy putting on those bathing suits. I will “get over it” and enjoy the sun and fun, but the older I get, the more I resent actually having to “get over it”.

I want gender equality in the swimsuit world – and all the comfort that would come with it. And I want all my clothing to include pockets!

Author: kim scaravelli

Kim lives in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada, with her long-suffering husband, an assortment of off-spring, a charming cat named Winnie, and a less charming (but oddly loveable) schnauzer named Buster.

14 thoughts

  1. Yes, yes, and yes again. I only gather the strength to do it every few years, then it’s a marathon session so I can buy at least 3 suits to hold me over. Then I’m just SOL if I gain too much weight before my next stint.

    Oh, and those board shorts? I bought a pair thinking they’d be the solution and have decided the women’s fashion industry hates us. Men have nice, stretchy, forgiving bathing suits; my board shorts have a hem so tight it makes my legs feel even more huge…

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  2. I actually found a couple of nice, colorful SUBSTANTIAL board shorts from Columbia one year with great pockets….I still have them and hang on to them because I will never, ever find such a great pair. I have bought the blue/black/navy blue 7″ inseam ones that Lands End carries SOMETIMES and am glad to have them. However, I am with you- why the %$@# can’t we have pretty, colorful POCKETED swim trunks like men?!? Thanks for a good morning laugh- love the “back into the ocean to pee” scenario- not that I would ever have done that many, many times in FLorida.

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  3. Oh Kim I am here to tell you there is nothing you can do to make your body stop disappointing you.
    Here I am at 73 with breasts that used to feed babies but now hang like empty socks. I have always been slim but did not know that one day I would wake up and find my inner thighs would suddenly be wrinkled and I would have to wear a bathing suit with a skirt. That worked until. last summer when my arms decided to become too small for my skin and the skin just hangs there with nowhere to hide.
    The solution would be to ignore these things ( not possible no matter how old one gets.) .
    I could possibly move to Hawaii and wear mumus but that is not practical.
    I now know what my mother meant when she said ” you never feel older than 17 until you look in the mirror “.
    Let’s ban mirrors!!!

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    1. My mother used to say that to me, when I was about 18. I would laugh and think, ‘Don’t be ridiculous! You can’t possibly still feel 18 at YOUR age!’ Now I’m the age she was then. I get it. She was right. It’s mirrors that are the issue…

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  4. Kim, I have to tell you: I’m 65, and it doesn’t get better. The (somewhat) appealing plumpness of a well-rounded bum gets magically transferred across the body and turns into a bread-doughy belly. The boobs get more depressed. The arms — the arms!! They belong to someone else, someone much older, I’m sure. I’m thinking a dress might be the answer: enough cover to be forgiving; short enough to paddle in (after all, you don’t want to actually swim: there are sharks out there!). And with pockets.

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      1. Well, that’s just ridiculous, isn’t it? If a man’s suit can be well-tailored and have pockets, why can’t a woman’s? Equal rights for suits!

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  5. I own a red one-piece bathing suit with a ruched front, padded cups and thin straps. I love it. I love it because I look like Catherine Zeta-Jones in it. In my head. I’ve obviously never bothered to check myself out in a mirror. The image in my head is good enough, and the one I’m happy to stick with… 🙂

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