I was facing the worst summer experience of a mature woman's life: buying a new bathing suit. I knew I was in for a rough, sweaty few hours--and not in the fun sense; so I doubled up on the Xanax, strapped myself into three pairs of Spanx™, and headed out, the plaintive opening notes of an old Western shoot-out scene playing on a loop in my brain. I knew there were good odds that I would not come out of this alive.
At Kohl's end-of-season swimwear sale, I found 20 racks of strappy bikini separates in junior sizes, and no size Matron Full-Coverage Super-Structure Underwire Stomach-Disappearing bathing suits. Next store.
At Sears, I strolled through an entire Kardashian Kollection, but found no bathing suits, Kardashian or otherwise. Next store.
Undaunted, or maybe a tiny bit daunted, I headed into JC Penney. I didn't care about the recent defenestration of their CEO; I didn't care about their ongoing battles with One Million Moms; I just wanted swimwear that would not get me harpooned on the beach.
I found racks of mom-approved tanks and tankinis, and started piling suits on my arm. What size am I? I wondered. 14? 16? 18? 22W? I took suits in all sizes, figuring I'd optimistically start at the smallest. My last suit was a 14, I figured, and I was down one fibroid-packed uterus, so maybe the scale had been lying and I was still wearing the size of my lost youth.
Alas, it was not to be so. That size 14 wouldn't come up over my knee-budgies, those baseballs of flab just above the inside of your knees that on babies are so adorable you have to grab them and squeeze them and say "budgie-budgie-budgie" but on a full-figured middle-aged woman are just, um, unfortunate.
Then I tried on some larger sizes, which fit, sort of, if by "fit" you mean that after wrestling and sweating and swearing and yanking and contorting while reaching behind your back and stretching the fabric beyond its tested tensile strength you finally end up so tightly encased in stretchy polyester that every opening appears to be cutting off circulation to one extraneous body part or another.
The styles varied from criss-cross bust-lifting tummy-tuckers to frilly bandeau-topped sea skirts that covered several inches of thigh real estate but fooled no one. Many of the fabrics featured large florals that were more than vaguely drapery-esque. Every time I put on another suit the fat woman in the mirror stared back at me with an expression of mingled horror and disbelief. She just could not believe that any human would consider this exercise to be a good idea.
And yet, there I was.
I made it through. I bought not one, but two suits. I will wear them until they, like my current swimsuit, have become practically transparent from being over-worn because I DO NOT WANT TO GO THROUGH THIS AGAIN ANY TIME SOON.