Tuesday, June 03, 2008

A Tale Of Dressing Rooms, Twinkies, and Tankinis

(The following essay is inspired by actual events. I wore my bathing suit for the first time in public yesterday. It was somewhat traumatizing. But, I survived.)

The First Public Appearance of the bathing suit during the Summer season is akin, I believe, to some other important moments in life. I would put it right up there with: going on your first date, giving birth for the first time, and having a root canal. It is scary, yet necessary, if any enjoyment will take place afterwards.

Because of its importance, then, you do not jump wildly into the First Public Appearance. You do not do so without some forethought; you don’t just throw yourself out there without first preparing yourself physically and psychologically (and, oh yeah, dressing-room-ically).

The first step in getting ready for bathing suit season is the actual purchasing of the bathing suit. While I would love to order some random suit from perfectbathingsuitforyourbody.com, I do not trust that process (because, let’s face it, those models’ bodies are not my bodies). I have to—no matter how much I hate it—venture into the dressing room and try on as many ugly suits as possible before happening upon the one that doesn’t make my thighs look as big or dimply as a giant, lumpy cantaloupe.

I go through the ordeal (and since we’re on the subject: Don’t you think there should be some sort of federal regulation on the wattage those dressing room light bulbs put out? When I’m trying on bathing suits, I really would like a fuzzy, warm, low wattage that makes me look much younger and thinner), and have a running argument with myself about whether I want to try and dress like my 20-year-old past self or my-own-mother-that-I’m-turning-into self. Do I go one last time for the bikini? Or do I proceed past “Go” and head straight for either the unflattering, generic one-piece or the bright floweredy suit with the attached skirt (and matching shower cap, I presume)?

This year, I made it through the dressing room ordeal by selecting a suit right down the middle of the two extremes. I chose a tankini (at least I think that’s the word for it), which basically is the fashion industry’s way of trying to convince me that I am actually still wearing a bikini (it, in all honesty, does actually consist of two separate pieces), but that I shouldn’t actually be wearing a bikini (no stomach skin actually peeks through!). I left the store feeling relatively confident…but, of course, the test is never complete in the dressing room.

At home, you must go through the other physical preparation before the First Public Appearance takes place. The most important part of this preparation is the Dry Run. This consists of putting on your new bathing suit and: parading in front of every mirror in your home (not a very good idea)…asking your husband how big your butt looks in it (an even less of a good idea)…and then walking through the house for an hour or two, pretending you are surrounded by other human beings, outside, in the sun, on the beach, at the pool (but, really, you’re just in your den and your bedroom and your kitchen, and your cats are staring at you like you’re crazy).

While the Dry Run often makes you feel even worse about your decision, you’ve already spent that money on the bathing suit so you really have no other option than to ignore everything you just learned during the Dry Run (thanks a lot, Husband!) and proceed with the other steps that will get you closer to walking out the door in your beautiful, expensive (yet, apparently, butt-enhancing) suit.

Next comes the psychological preparation for the First Public Appearance, which I have come to term the “mind over matter” phase. Basically, you convince yourself of the following three important facts: (a) you did NOT actually gain the 15 pounds you were pretty sure you gained since last Summer, (b) every other woman who will be wearing a bathing suit this season DID gain 15 pounds since last Summer, and (c) 15 pounds is actually pretty relative and since you didn’t put on those extra pounds anyway, there is nothing wrong with eating another Twinkie will you twirl around in front of the mirror

[And this is a real quick note, in case you think I forgot one important step: Yes, there is a lot of hair removal at this step of the process. But that would involve a whole entire different, lengthy story involving hot wax, clogged up drains, and crying children. So, I’m not going there. Just suffice it to say that you will have to wax, Nair, or shave it off!]

Now that you have purchased the bathing suit, felt pretty good about the purchase, came home and did the Dry Run, feel pretty crummy about the purchase, and are significantly hair-less, it is time to venture out into the sunshine and actually wear the bathing suit in front of other men, women, and children.

And this is where I found myself yesterday, as I put on that tankini, threw on some flip flops, grabbed my beach towel, tousled my hair (I don’t think I actually did that, but I love the word “tousled”) and headed down to the local water park to put myself out there for the entire world to see.

And do you know what happened?

At first I looked around and noticed the three or four eighteen-year- old girls with bodies that just stepped out of the latest edition of some fashion magazine. I looked down at my cantaloupe-like thighs and sighed a little bit.

Then I noticed the women who were a little bit closer to my age, most of them surrounded by two or three children. They all had a little pudge around the middle and around the backside and pretty much around everywhere. I looked down at my thighs and didn’t feel as bad.

Then I noticed the women who had gone and bought the bikinis and didn’t have a caring husband at home to tell them how big their butts looked. They really should have gone with the tankini (or, better yet, the floweredy suit with skirt attached). But, they frolicked around happily with their children or friends, seemingly confident in their bodies and in themselves. I looked down at my thighs and felt pretty darned good.

And that’s when it hit me: Looking perfect in a bathing suit is not the end-all-be-all of a woman’s Summer existence. Sure, it helps to find that suit that doesn’t send unwarranted stares at your cellulite…but, if I’m honest, I will never be that size 3 ever again. I have three children; I am almost 40; I really like to eat Twinkies way too much to ever give them up for the sake of looking good in anything other than a tankini; and I’m okay with that.


Kathy said...

ROFL! You are too funny! And you are BRAVE! I won't even put a bathing suit on! NOPE! It's just NOT going to happen. Unless, I start going to the gym seven days a week, get a tan, (everyone calls me CASPER) and have all my varicose veins removed! And the chances of that happening are about the same as me wearing a bathing suit! LOL

I am so glad that it turned out to be a good experience for you! Now, you have lots of fun days at the water park ahead of you!

~Kammie~ said...

LOL--love your perspective on this issue LOLOLOLOLOLOLOL

But I want to know---where's your picture?????

Gin said...

LOVE this, Cheryl. You are too funny (and it's all true!).

Anonymous said...

That is a great article -- you need to send it in to one of the women's magazines out there!!

Mississippi Songbird said...

awww. I'm sure you are just beautiful..
I'm just wearing shorts for now, until I get some sun.. My arms are getting tan, but I need to lay out( behind the house ) before I go out in a swimsuit..
Loved this post..
Thanks for the perspective.. Enjoy the summer...
I'm off to drink some lemonade..

Mandy said...

Oh, that was priceless. Definitely something I can relate to!

Anonymous said...

ROTFL!!! Tears streaming down my face!! I have felt the same as I am sure many of us do once we pass 35 or (gasp) 40! But I came to the same realization when my son was little and I was feeling fat at the waterpark...he doesn't care. He is 2 years old and his mommy is splashing with him. He doesn't care that I am fat or feel ugly or want to cry because my body changed so drastically with his birth, he is laughing and saying "chase me mommy" so i do. I knew then that no one is going to rob me of these moments by making me feel fat. Just because bathing suits are made in some stupidly ridiculous sizes that barely cover my 12 year old's body does not mean I have to diet forever or stop eating God's gift (chocolate) to feel good about myself. So ladies, live your life at the beach or by the pool with a huge grin on your face and be happy for the gift of the here and now. To heck with perfectionism, I had it at 18 too, but they haven't lived a life yet and haven't had to make the choices you've made. Let them enjoy their moment of perfection too, and be happy in the your wisdom that it won't last for them most likely either.

Sheila said...

You had me in hysterics and got the-person-in-my-head to stop yelling that 40+ is too old for bathing suits...lol.

LOL @ some sort of federal regulation on the wattage those dressing room light bulbs put out?

Ms.L said...

hee Hee this was a
great post!

Adrienne said...

HAHAHA too funny! LOL

Cheryl Wray said...

Kathy--I'm always brave enough to don the bathing suit, just not always comfortable about how I look. :-)

Kammie--Hmmm, not sure when I'll post a picture. But you're all bound to get one sometime this summer. lol

Gin--Thanks!! (I'm glad all of you can relate?)

Anon--Who are you??? Come out of hiding! I really do appreciate the sweet compliment! This actually might work in a women's magazine; I'll have to think about that!

Songbird--I do actually have a little bit of tan. Not totally pale like I was a few weeks ago!

Mandy--I figured a lot of us could relate!

Cheryl Wray said...

Heather--You are SO right!!!! What we look like is only part of who we are. If our children are happy and we're happy, that's what's important. (Granted, I still don't want to look like a total slob. But it's not the most important thing!) And I agree that chocolate is one of God's best gifts!! :-)

Sheila--Glad you enjoyed it! LOL

Ms. L--Thanks!


Auburn Kat said...

Oh my gosh, I can't stop laughing! That was funny! I am the exact sameway, I love junk food too much to give it up just to look perfect in a bikini! I can't imagine not being able to eat brownies or cookies or cake or must I go on? =)

Corey said...

oh my gosh, you are too funny! you perfectly summed up the enitre process!
hey guess what? You won the book on my blog! Send me your address girl! I'll get it right out too you :)

Monogram Queen said...

I have a brown/cream suit from Kohl's that I really love and it makes me feel good in it.

The trick is Cheryl to find a big fat whale of a woman and lay beside her. You are BOUND to look supah!

Michelle said...

Oh My Lord! You just put my bathing suit trauma into words Cheryl.

I live near some of the most beautiful beaches in the world and everyone comes here. I always start out feeling fat and ugly in spring when I try on bathing suits (and usually end up in tears), but as the summer progresses and we have fun on the water, I think WHO CARES!.....with a slight twinge, thinking of my YMCA membership and the exercise that I should be doing, lol.

Cheryl Wray said...

Kat--Me too!!! I ask myself, "chocolate cake or a teenage body? krispy kreme donuts or a non-existent butt?" There is no competition there!

Corey--Yay!!!! i'm so excited about winning!!

Queen--Ha!!!! Great advice!!!!!!! (I do feel much better by myself when there are "large" women around me!)

Michelle--ha ha!! So glad you can relate!!!!! And I SO totally agree with you!

Anonymous said...

Oh, I wish I could think that way. I usually buy the bathing suit, wear it and then wear shorts over it or a cover up and then NEVER, but NEVER go down to the water where people can actually see the fat thighs, the pudgy stomach and cellulite.


Disney Scrapper said...

Just brought my first one in about three years. It looks like a dress with a halter top ( love it, hides all the stuff I don't even want to see..lol).

hippochick said...

then comes the day (not easily achieved ) when you say "who cares?" and don't do any prep (except hair removal which decreases with age) lol.

you always make me happy with your posts. i'm going to attempt to post later today.

Lynilu said...

My swimsuit would have to be circa 1900 before I'd feel vaguely comfortable!!

Brown English Muffin said...

ROFLOL...I love the dry run!!! LOL

Lisa Elliott said...

I was anon yesterday - for some reason it didn't let me say who I was! I'm serious - you need to submit that one to Women's Day or Good Housekeeping - it is hysterical!

Lisa Elliott

Nina Diane said...

all I can say is ditto, ditto, ditto!! Great post Cheryl and I think there are quite of few of us that feel the same way!!

Anonymous said...

This is just precious, and so perfectly true. I am smiling big from reading this.


Phats said...

Well it's posts like these that make me glad to NOT be a woman.

Just curious what did Gary say when you asked?

Phats said...

BTW before I head out to public swimming places I totally drop and do crunches and push ups ;)

Kari (GrannySkywalker) said...

Loved this whole story! But I still ain't buying a bathing suit. I'm looking to prolong my marriage, not end it in one fell swoop. lol


Cheryl Wray said...

Jacquie--THIS is your Summer to be brave!! Go for it!!

Disney--That sounds like a PERFECT suit!!! Good for you!!

Hippo--Getting older does have its good points, doesn't it? :-)


Muffin--Glad you enjoyed it! :-)

Cheryl Wray said...

Lisa--Yay!! I'm glad to know who "anon" is. LOL I am seriously thinking of sending it off somewhere!

Nina--Yep, we all can understand those feelings can't we?

Marg--Glad it made you smile. :-)

Phats--Ha ha!! Gary knows what NOT do say, that's for sure!!

Phats again--That is SO funny!! You ex-cheerleaders make the rest of us sick!

Kari--LOL (You never know, a new bathing suit might add some new life to your marriage!) :-)

Dawn Bibbs said...


Can't you just hear the applauding? I hear it!!

What an absolutely entertaining and TOTALLY true depiction of the the "summer suit hunt" (Spoken in a deep, Star Wars kinda voice), lol

You have no idea how happy you've made me. Happy that I...DAWN BIBBS, am NOT the only one who goes through this. I think Tankini's were made for women over the age of 35. You know, to make us think we can still get away with wearing a 2 piece suit...but still covering up all (ok, MOST) of our "loose ends"...so to speak! Personally, I've never worn a 2 piece prior to my current tankini. However, there was this one time when I was 7 months old, lol.

Thanks again, Cheryl, for the laugh. And by the way, I'm sure you looked GREAT!!!