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.