Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Holidays and Bikinis

I'm going to be out of town for the next two weeks. I am meeting my "little" brother Patrick in Venice and then we're setting out for Slovenia, our other ancesteral land. My father has a good post on our intentions. Of course, I will write about it on Travels with Grandma when I return. (And I promise not to be such a slacker this time and take a month to write the trip report. :))

I'd planned on writing something about perceptions, but I have a precious few hours to spend with Peter (who's been in Chicago for a week) before I leave for my trip. Instead, in celebration of March and the imminent arrival of spring, I'm going to leave you with an essay I wrote (and failed to sell to several magazines) about bathing suits.

In the gray, mushy middle of March, a Memorial Day weekend trip to Key West with my youngest brother sounded like the ideal way to celebrate the much-anticipated arrival of summer. Something about the sunshine, warmth, and extreme southern location appealed to me. We would be clinging to the edge of the continental US, drinking fruity rum punches and relaxing in style.

Somewhere in the middle of this reverie, a near debilitating thought lodged in my brain. I would have to buy a bathing suit. Not only buy a bathing suit, but also appear in public in it. And not just appear in any old public - I would be surrounded by beautiful, young, tropics-seekers.

It was nearly enough to make me change the itinerary and visit Alaska instead. But the draw of the sun after a long, frigid winter was more powerful than my fear of public revelation of cellulite. And so the hunt for a bathing suit began.

At this point, I should explain. In the last four years, I've lost about 70 pounds and I am now at the upper limit of my acceptable weight zone. Like a lot of people, I would love to lose those last five or ten pounds, but I try not to focus on it too much. I work out regularly, eat right, and try to take good care of myself. In short, I'm healthy and fit. But a funny thing happens when I look in a changing room mirror.

The minute I step in front of a fitting room mirror, my butt expands to rival Nebraska, my thighs become sequoias, my stomach splits into several rolls of flab and my chest takes a holiday. Everything I don't like about my body is magnified to horrific proportions. I'm convinced that stores must purchase their mirrors from the same distributor as fun houses.

I bought the first suit I tried on – a blue palm tree print bikini top with skimpy shorts. It was cute and I wanted to be done with the whole shopping expedition. The bikini skulked in the bottom of my underwear drawer for weeks. And a thought gnawed anxiously on my spare brain cells – "That is not enough clothing to wear in public. How is that even legal? How many rude comments will I hear?"

A week before the trip, I bought two more bathing suits – a tankini with running shorts and a one-piece that promised to elongate my torso and minimize my upper thighs. I figured I had a bathing suit for every eventuality – a sporty one for kayaking and snorkeling, a one-piece for safely swimming with the dolphins, and a skimpy bikini for hiding in the bottom of my bag.

The trip itself was everything I'd hoped it would be and more. My tankini served me well through kayaking, snorkeling, and relaxing in the ocean. The one-piece was perfect for swimming with the dolphins. And the bikini hid in the bottom of my bag.

We went to the beach every day and I began to notice something. Women of all shapes and sizes seemed perfectly happy in their bathing suits and in their bodies. Sure, some of them had super-human Barbie-like proportions, but most were just regular people. They were all out having fun, not caring if their thighs jiggled a little. The beach wasn't the junior high school I feared it would be. No one was laughing or pointing, they were all too busy swimming, sunning or socializing.

So, on the last night, I reached into my bag and pulled out the bikini. We went to the beach just before the sunset, bobbed around in the giant salty bath and watched the ships go out for the sunset tours. It didn't finally matter that I wasn't 100% happy with my body because I was 100% happy with my life in general at that very moment.


At 1 March 2006 at 16:22, Blogger Lyss said...

I recently ut on a suit, luckily it was at an indoor pool in Boston, so everyone there was as white as I.

Have fun on the trip!

At 2 March 2006 at 20:18, Blogger Terri said...

Enjoy the trip! I really like this post - it's a real feel-good piece :-)

btw You inspired me to finish writing my own piece about Paris, so it's now up as a link in the sidebar of my blog if you have some (read lots!) of time sometime.

At 17 March 2006 at 16:25, Blogger Jack's Shack said...

This sounds like my sister could have written it.

At 18 March 2006 at 23:03, Blogger Lex Fori said...


Come back - we miss you.

At 21 March 2006 at 17:41, Blogger planetpotato said...

I feel that we really need some photographs on this post to fully understand your dilemma ;)

*slinks off to perv somewhere else*

At 22 March 2006 at 20:21, Blogger -Ann said...

Lyss - geez, I don't even think about the state of my tan, I just worry about the size of my butt.

Terri - thanks. I look forward to reading your paris piece once I've gotten caught up on work and everything.

Jack - I think there are loads of women who could have written this. :)

Lex - Aw, I feel so loved. Thanks.

Potato - Not a chance, I'm afraid. but you're welcome to perv here anytime.


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