Issue Nine - May 2005

How to Buy a Bathing Suit

by Iris Graville

Plans for a March vacation in Mexico, and the recognition that my 10-year-old bathing suit is well past its prime, compelled me to go shopping for a new swimsuit. In the middle of January. This is a shopping trip I’ve never enjoyed, even when I was thirty years younger and weighed twenty-five pounds less. Now, despite having come of age when women learned to love our bodies, ourselves, I avoid this task even more. I don’t think I’m alone, so I offer this how-to for buying a bathing suit.

Pick the coldest day of the year and wear long underwear, wool socks, a turtleneck, and a scarf to the clothing store. Go to the rack of swimsuits and search for those in sizes with two digits ­ they’re at the far end of the last quarter of the rack. Avoid styles with leg openings that reach up to the suit’s waistline. Take an armload of suits into the dressing room and strip down to your underpants. When you find a suit that fits, imagine yourself sipping a cool drink beside a shimmering blue pool ­ disregard the black wool socks on your feet, the blast of cold air that ruffles the dressing room curtain when someone comes into the store, and the fluorescent lights that make you look like you need an iron supplement. Look at yourself in the mirror from all angles without laughing at the little bulges of pale flesh poking out wherever there is elastic. Try on another suit. When the clerk pauses outside the curtain and asks, “How’s it going?” just say, “O.K.” Try one in a color you can’t imagine yourself wearing. Try one in a style you can’t imagine yourself wearing. Admit they’re all in colors and styles you can’t imagine yourself wearing. Put on just enough clothes to be presentable when you go back to the rack of swimsuits. Stick out your tongue when the clerk says, “That style doesn’t come in sizes over 10.” Breathe. Imagine a warm, sandy beach. Try one more suit. Remove. Try on suit you tried earlier. Ignore goose bumps on your arms and legs. Decide that this one, with its subtle blue floral print, halter top and gentle puckers around the abdomen does the best job of minimizing the effects of gravity on your middle-aged body. Remove suit and hang on hook while you put on long underwear, jeans, turtleneck, and scarf. Take hat, coat, and swimsuit to cashier. Hand over credit card when she rings up an amount that’s more than last week’s grocery bill. Clutch bag with new swimsuit, push open the door of the clothing store, and pull wool hat over your ears. Visualize floating on saltwater waves as you dodge a patch of ice on the sidewalk.

©2005 Iris Graville