The (Barely Abridged) History of Me and Swimsuits.
My first bathing suit - well, after the topless number they used to throw me in the kiddie pool in when I was a toddler - was a white one-piecer with a red and blue diagonal strip from shoulder to hip, bearing the legend: MISS AMERICA. I can still see a picture in my mind of myself leaning against the pool ladder, hand on hip, flowered bathing cap on head. You just know that pot-bellied little girl was sure her destiny was to win a pageant. A really big pageant.
It being the sixties, and my mother being fashion forward, I was soon wearing bikinis on a regular basis. Not necessarily flattering, since I still had that pot-belly on and off, but I also had sunglasses with interchangeable psychedelic lenses and a suede shoulder bag with lots of dangling hippie fringe, not to mention white go-go boots, so I was willing to accept the unflattering bad with the funky good.
Then puberty hit early, at age 10, and my well-documented 36Cs and I started feeling a little self-conscious, so I took to wearing those skirted one-piecers or whatever I could find that was more conservative.
When I was 12 things got a bit interesting. One of my classmates was extremely wealthy, her parents owned an Olympic-sized pool on an independent piece of property, and sometimes for gym class we'd go there to swim. One day I forgot my suit and my friend insisted I try her older sister's: a rather revealing (for then) halter-style bikini with little knots on the hips and at the cleavage. Looking in the mirror of her cabana that day was a revelation: I looked good. Somehow I'd missed that I'd actually acquired a waistline along the way, the pot-belly disappearing. Who knew I could look like that? It's amazing though how quickly self-satisfaction can turn to mortification. I loved diving, my friend had an amazing diving board, I executed my trademark swan/bellyflop, and when I put my hands on the concrete surrounding the pool, and started to pull my body out of the water in order to take another assault on that diving board, I discovered that the force of my dive had caused me to lose the top of my bathing suit.
The rest of my eighth-grade class, especially the boys, made the discovery when I did.
I took to wearing T-shirts over my bathing suits whenever I went swimming. It's impossible to dive yourself out of T-shirts.
And as I grew older, and the T-shirts began to look ridiculous, it was back to one-piecers, except for a few years in my late twenties/early thirties, my anorexic phase, when wearing a bikini to show off my skinniness was just too great a temptation. It wasn't much of a bikini really, in terms of sex appeal, more like what you might see a track-and-field althlete wear these days, but it made me ridiculously happy.
Then I got really sick and put on weight, then I got pregnant and put on weight, then after the baby I still kept a lot of the weight, so it was just one-piecers from there on in.
Last week I decided that after wearing the same suit for three summers, and with vacation around the corner, it was time to get a new suit, if only so that I'd look different in the pictures. My eight-year-old daughter went with me and the first thing she wanted to know was, "Are you going to get another one-piece or a bikini?" I laughed. I am, after all, 46 now. "I think I'm past the point where I can wear a bikini," I said, still laughing at the idea. This puzzled her. "But anyone can wear a bikini," she said.
I was about to answer "What planet are you on, kid?" when it struck me: she did live on a different planet than the one I'd grown up on. And not just because having inherited her father's height and natural thinness, she'd probably never have to debate whether she could wear something or not in her entire life. It was more than that. It was the epiphany about the pool we go to: that no matter what the size or shape of the girls or the women there, a large percentage of them now wore bikinis. As if rather than worrying about what everyone else thought about their imperfections, they were wearing what they wanted for the sheer joy of it; you know, that great summer feeling of - skin cancer, be damned! - sun on naked skin. Just like 34 years before I'd somehow missed the acquisition of my own waistline, I'd somehow missed that - maybe, maybe - other girls and women had grown more mature and liberated attitudes about their own bodies.
So I bought a bikini.
So now the only thing I have to worry about is the fact that, having worn a one-piecer all summer and having my first real tan in decades, when I put on the bikini I've got just about the weirdest two-tone look you can imagine: bronze shoulders, fishbelly-white belly.
Ah, well. It'll never be perfect and I'll never be perfect, but I'll have fun. Who cares what anyone else thinks?
QUESTION OF THE DAY: GOT ANYTHING SWIMSUIT-RELATED TO SAY? OR ANYTHING ELSE?
Be well. Don't forget to write.