In the overall scheme of things, the annual bathing suit hunt is pretty low on the priority to-do list. But a brief holiday, planned to celebrate my sister's upcoming birthday, is quickly coming up and my old brown and green bathing suit from last year has gotten pilly and the colours are fading.
Thanks to thin models in magazine ads and the impossible standards set by Hollywood we have come to believe that everyone should have a goddess-like body until the day we die. Heck, even Susan Lucci, aged 60 plus, has recently been photographed walking along a beach wearing a bikini, long hair cascading down her lean back, looking fabulous.
Well, I am no Susan Lucci.
I am, instead, what my husband, prone to romanticizing things, likes to call 'his little quail'. I myself would describe my image as being that of a pleasantly plump mother of two, and I would add, a woman in desperate need of a holiday after a winter of work, a serious family medical crisis and a full kitchen reno. So a plan has been hatched for all the 'girls' of the family to get away for a week of sun, a bit of shopping, and a lot of celebrating. We all have much to be grateful for.
I therefore set out last weekend on a grey and rainy day to my favourite department store. I got there early to avoid the crowds. The only saleslady at that time was manning the cash so had no time to help me wade through the many choices in front of me. I dove in.
To begin with, there are many, many different brands, all offering different options, tightly wedged together in one little space. As I walked around I saw bathing suits with skirts, bathing suits with beaded jewlery, bathing suits with matching cover-ups, bathing suits on sale, bathing suits for those who've had mastectomies, tops and bottoms for people who love to mix and match, bikinis, tankinis and the plain two-piece which seems to have fallen somewhat out of favour. Black, white, floral, geometric, animal print.
Then you have all the different sizes. Regular sizes, (w)ide for the broader woman, L for the long torso, D for the larger cup size....bust enhancing, tummy tucking, hip minimizers...and those that give "the illusion of a long leg."
My biggest problem was trying to get samples off the tightly packed racks which meant doing battle with annoying plastic hangers, some of which then spilled their contents onto the floor and which I would then have to bend down to retrieve and re-hang while balancing the suits I had already selected to try on while also hanging on to my purse, umbrella and raincoat! Would a coat check on every department store floor really be such a difficult service to offer shoppers?
Hot and already somewhat frustrated, I walked up and down the narrow aisles, selecting one bathing suit from every group in my size until I could carry no more. I headed towards the changing rooms but of course, there was a chain indicating it was not in use.
"No, you have to go to the other side," said the cashier, pointing to the far side of the store. By this time I was actually breaking into a light sweat and wondering why I hadn't just ordered something from my Land's End catalogue.
Once in a cabin I lined up my suits according to preference and began the process of trying them on in my sweaty state, under harsh lighting, so flattering to the middle-aged body, without removing my underwear.
Like a robot I tried on suit after suit, concluding each time that it was either too long, too short, exposed too much flesh, the straps were too tight, too much cleavage, not enough cleavage, uncofortable, how long have I had THAT vein there, too plain, too fancy, possibly, maybe, and what was I thinking??
I poked my head out of the cabin door and asked the lady in charge of the dressing rooms if I could have said bathing suit in a larger size. She said she would check. Seeing as she had to cross the length of the Gobi desert to get to the other side, it took a very long time for her to come back, alas, empty-handed. The lull at least allowed me to review my choices, none of which excited me, while cooling down.
Discouraged, I got dressed, gathered my coat, umbrella and purse and went back to the far side of the store where I went around one last time. There, in a far corner, my eye suddenly caught sight of a lovely turquoise and blue one- piece floral number with a slightly gathered bodice. Just looking at those vibrant colours lifted my spirits and made me see myself, not white and flabby after a long Canadian winter, but tanned and lying by a swimming pool, a Diana Gabaldon novel in one hand, a cool drink in the other.
I didn't even try it on. I just knew I had found my inner Susan Lucci.