Ten Pounds in a Five Pound Bag

Woman's one-piece bathing suit, c.1920

Image via Wikipedia

Is there a woman out there who doesn’t hate trying on bathing suits?

As a rule, we woman are pretty hard on ourselves when trying on any sort of clothing that fits marginally better than, say, the average flour sack.  We spot every so-called defect and enlarge it to gargantuan proportions, convinced that people will recoil in horror if we so much as set toe on the beach without being clad neck to ankle in something resembling a kaftan.

Catalogs would have you believe that there’s a suit out there for every body shape, but the actual truth is that, sans airbrushing, no one looks that great in a bathing suit.  (Okay, maybe Angelina Jolie or Nicole Kidman, but they’re not human anyway.)  There are nips and tucks, pleats and skirts, boy-shorts and tanky tops, and I’m not sure that any of it makes a damn bit of difference.  No matter how good someone says you look, you still feel like ten pounds of shite in a five-pound bag.

I think the material is to blame.  Stretchy spandexy cloth is hardly forgiving to the body.  Make it stiff enough to actually do some good and it’ll hold things in place at least for awhile…until you pass out from lack of oxygen because you can’t breathe deep enough to inflate your lungs or your legs turn blue because the elastic in the leg holes has cut off circulation below the waist and you fall over backward like you’ve been zapped with a taser.

Yeah, that’s sexy.

Women won’t even meet each other’s eyes when we’re in the bathing suit section of the store.  We skulk between the racks sneaking quick glances at each other (“She’s going to try on THAT?!”) and hope we don’t meet anyone we know.  Hearts sinking with dread, we hopelessly choose three or four suits to try on and scuttle into the nearest dressing room, bolting the door behind us as if expecting the Vikings to storm the battlements at any moment.  We undress with our backs to the mirror, staving off the moment of horror as long as possible (and praying to God that the last person to try on this suit wore her underwear like she was supposed to).

We step into the suit like it’s the panties from Hell and yank/inch/bully/beseech the material up our legs, over our kneecaps and thighs (oh, God, the thighs…), up over our rumps (don’t even go there, sister).  If it’s the bottom half of a bikini (hah!  Yeah, like that’s gonna happen!), we stop, panting for breath as the skin between our shoulder blades twitches because WE KNOW that the store has those tiny little cameras behind the mirror and some (probably MALE) security person is watching to make sure we’re not going to shop-lift.  (Does anyone else flip off the mirror?  I do, all the time.  Just in case.)

Contorting like something out of Barnum and Bailey, you slip first one arm beneath a strap, then the other, and work them toward your shoulders.  Ah!  Got it!  At which point you turn into a soprano because the crotch of the suit is now even with your naval and the neckline is caught beneath your boobs like piano wire.  If you’re mammarically challenged, like yours truly, the last part is easy, because the suit just slides over the prairie of your torso and there you are.  If, however, you sport monumental edifices to femininity, you get to enjoy having them either squashed so tight that half of them rolls around your ribcage and ends up on your back, or they get shoved up so high you can barely see over them, or they challenge the material to cover them, leaving you looking like a candidate for a position at Hooters.

Ooh, baby.

Once you’ve installed yourself into this medieval torture device, this elastic Iron Maiden, next comes the singular joy of turning around to look at yourself in the mirror.  First, you focus on your eyes, only your eyes, hoping that your peripheral vision will tell you all you need to know.  It never does so slowly, s-l-o-w-l-y yours eyes travel downward.  You try not to wince or cringe.  You swallow as your stomach rolls.  Your brain takes a quick snapshot (CLICK!) of you looking like an overstuffed cannoli, and then and you — fast! — roll the suit off your body like someone skinning a hot dog, fling it into a corner of the dressing room as you utter the foulest curse you know, and prepare to do battle with the next suit.

Why on earth do we put ourselves through this?  Oh, and just so you know, you women out there with perfect shapes?  Come on, you know who you are.  You’re the ones who actually have time (and money) to work out at a gym or with a trainer (or maybe you’re just blessed with perfect genes).  You really piss off the rest of us when you mince out of your dressing room wearing a bikini the size of an elbow maccaroni, lay your hand against your perfectly flat belly, turn to look over your shoulder at your perfect ass in the mirror, and lament, “I look so fat!

Eat shit and die.

My husband’s Aunt Jenny had the right attitude.  Jenny was big in a lot of ways — sense of humor, laughter, generosity — and she was a BIG woman.  I mean B-I-G.  I mean like heading toward 300 pounds big.  And you know what?  Every year, she put on her bathing suit and went to beach and enjoyed the heck out of herself.  “If they want to look at me and point, let them,” she said.  “What the heck do I care?  I have as much right to be here as they do.”  She’s right.  If you want to wear a bathing suit, do so…and wear it with pride.  Strut your stuff on the beach even if you don’t think you have much to strut.   It’s no one’s business but your own.

But just to be on the safe side, bring along a BB-gun.  That way, if any of those perfect little show-offs make a remark, you can plunk ’em in their perfect little butts.


About Melissa Crandall

Longer ago than I care to admit--although I will--I cut my writing teeth on fanzines and media tie-in novels. Since then, I've moved on to narrative nonfiction, speculative fiction, and essays. I write to explore and understand the world around me, the things I see and experience nearby or from a distance. If I shake myself up, cool. If I shake you up, even better. Not gratuitously--what's the point in that?--but to set what I know, or think I know, on end and realize, "Well, doesn't it look different from this side!" My work is neither sexually explicit nor graphically violent. Let's face it - your imaginations will come up with things far worse than anything I could write, no matter how descriptive. Besides, it's just not my thing. I live in Connecticut with my supportive husband Ed, a cat named Ruby who might just think she's a dog, and an epileptic Australian shepherd named Holly who isn't quite certain anymore who she is, except she knows she loves her mommy.
This entry was posted in Clothing, Essays, Melissa Crandall, Swimsuit, Women and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Ten Pounds in a Five Pound Bag

  1. John says:

    And this is why I don’t wear bikinis.

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