Ah, summer is officially here! This balmiest of seasons evokes sunny scenes of kids running through sprinklers, smoky whiffs of charcoal grills, soft sensations of waves lapping bared toes, and sweet sounds of crickets on steamy starlit nights.
Who doesn’t love summer and all that comes with it, right?
But, hold up a minute. Believe it or not, summertime is not all popsicles and dandelions. Actually, this beloved season heralds an annual occurrence that strikes dread in the hearts of women like me.
No, I’m not talking about relatively innocuous summer pests like blood-sucking mosquitoes. I’m not referring to comparatively harmless nuisances such as hairdo-wrecking humidity. I’m not even referencing the reasonably annoying obligation of vacationing with relatives.
I’m talking about — brace yourselves ladies — bathing suit shopping.
After nine months of covering our delicate and sometimes ample flesh with layers of protective clothing and binding spandex, we women are expected to abruptly strip down and let it all hang out.
Social morays dictate that at the beach or pool, I should don an itsy-bitsy garment that exposes everything but my naughty bits. However, after birthing three large babies and two decades of yo-yo dieting, my abdomen has more rolls than a Mega Pack of Cottonelle. Bikinis are entirely out of the question.
Thus, every year at this time, I am on a quest to find a new one-piece bathing suit for the summer season that lifts, separates, covers and conceals. Of course, these suits are usually the skirted kind worn by older women with bunions and flowered swim caps who play bridge on Tuesdays and clip denture cream coupons.
So, I hit the local department store, grab an assortment of bathing suits with a combination of style and function, and head for the dressing room.
Ah, the dressing room. That bastion of garish fluorescent lighting and fun house mirrors, where women come to hate themselves. I hang the plastic number “9” given to me by the attendant on one hook, the bathing suits on the other, and begin to undress.
Considering that it is federal law (or maybe just a local ordinance — either way, I’m fairly certain you can get arrested for violating it) one must wear underwear when trying on bathing suits in the store dressing room, despite the fact that it is next to impossible to fully appreciate a bathing suit when one is wearing it over a pair of humongous cotton briefs like mine.
And then, comes the moment that every woman on earth dreads. Under the unforgiving fluorescent lights, I face the mirror, stripped down to nothing but my large Jockeys for Her.
No matter that I undress at home everyday of my life, I am always shocked by what I see in the dressing room mirror.
Gasp What!? Why is that so spongy? Is that a dent in my thigh? When did those get down there? Is that wiggling? Is that hanging over? Seriously? Good Lord …
Traumatized, I contemplate giving up on buying a new bathing suit, but always persevere when I remember that my suit from last year always gives me a wedgie. One after the other, I squirm and wiggle my way into those little Lycra instruments of torture, hoping to find one that does not trigger my gag reflex.
Three suits accentuated my ponch. Another highlighted my back fat. A tummy control suit nearly ruptured my spleen. One showed my armpit chicken fat. Another gave me “old lady cleavage.” And one had underwire that I feared might puncture my lung.
Finally, I found an ultra supportive suit that was both flattering and had the added bonus of allowing me to breathe by taking frequent shallow gasps.
Eventually, I emerge from the dressing room, battered, broken but not defeated. With my last morsel of humility, I toss the chosen suit to the cashier, relieved that I have found an appropriate garment to enjoy the splash of the surf, the smell of cut grass, and the rejuvenating warmth of summer. My bathing suit shopping ordeal is finally over and I survived.
At least until next year.