There’s nothing like a little bathing suit shopping to make you feel every minute of your age.
Let’s face it: Bathing suit shopping ranks up there with finding the right fit in a bra — but at least a bra stays under wraps. A bathing suit goes on display, after all — along with everything in it.
But, well, the time had come for new beach apparel. I grabbed the birthday gift card that was collecting dust and headed over to Lord & Taylor where I was greeted by a staggering array of swimsuits: one-pieces, tankinis, string bikinis, skirted styles — you name it. The only thing I did not see was a thong style (and to the L&T buyers, I say Thank You for sparing me that special humiliation).
Not since I was a kid and wore ruffled, sailor-style stars and stripes, has bathing suit shopping actually been enjoyable (I can see all of you nodding back at me!).
I was an early bloomer and so while the other girls my age were cavorting in triangle-topped bikinis and strapless styles, I was enduring the indignity of “mature women’s” one-pieces in somber colors and with molded cups that dimpled in the wrong direction after the second or third wearing.
I’ve made peace with the fact that my face didn’t bloom nearly as well as the rest of me, but frankly it’s only recently that I realized I didn’t need to stick with the “old-lady styles” Mom used to choose for me. In a vast epiphany, my last suit was a bikini and so today’s purchase was to be one as well.
I didn’t count on the occasion being a comment on my age, however. What to buy? What to buy? Nearly everything seemed either much too young or downright frumpy.
The neon string styles were clearly out, as were the suits with gold beads and chains and other flashy embellishments. I could go the tankini route, but really, they are the Mom jeans of beachwear. I did try on a navy tankini with a cute halter top, but I might as well have been wearing crepe.
Still, I don’t want to arrive at the beach looking like one of those fading roses desperate to hang on her youth. I embarrass Catherine already simply by breathing; I don’t need to fortify her arguments.
That swimsuit manufacturers now size things more accurately helps enormously, but even then there was just one suit in my price range that offered both support and coverage without looking as though it was holding up the Golden Gate.
This whimsical print offered two choices for the bottom — a sassy skirted style and a more traditional option with a ruched waistband. After text-messaging consultation with a friend I knew I could count on for full-frontal honestly, I ditched the skirt — and thanked her for the nice compliment about showing off my hard work through teaching Jazzercise.
Two humorous things happened on the way to the checkout line:
When I arrived for my first session in the dressing room, I was more than a little startled to hear a man’s voice in the stall next to me. This was the ladies’ swimsuit department after all.
Then I heard a woman in there with him and steeled myself for what might come. Turns out he was her husband, there to offer opinions, fasten hooks and entertain their infant, who was nearing his feeding time.
(And, yes — I breathed a sigh of relief upon realizing I hadn’t stumbled into a living version of one of those letters to a men’s magazine.)
When I returned to the dressing rooms to try on the skirtless bottom, the joke was on me.
As I was scrutinizing myself in the (OH MY GOD WHAT AWFUL PERSON INVENTED THE) three-way mirror, bending, squatting, and otherwise twisting and turning to make sure my assets were secured under all possible beach maneuvers, I realized I had never fully latched the door.
In fact it was wide open.
You can’t make this stuff up.