On top of flash mobs, whooping cough’s comeback, and the mental picture of Newt Gingrich as a swinger, now there are omnipresent bathing suit catalogs. Thanks to the miracle of the Internet, they’re not just in my mailbox anymore. Way to go, Al Gore. They also come by email and social media, which I’m not even entirely sure how to use, but all I know is that I can’t enjoy a simple bowl of rigatoni and ricotta while playing Words With Friends because there are bathing suits in my Facebook newsfeed.
What is it about February that makes anyone think about a bathing suit? Pasty legs? Stale Christmas cookies? Turtlenecks? Don’t delude yourself into thinking that spring is right around the corner either, because is isn’t. We still have the rest of February and all 31 days of March. And everybody knows that Mother Nature is a sadist—50 degrees one day, two feet of snow the next. Now is not the time for swimwear; now is the time for three servings of carbs a day and sweat pants.
Against my better judgement, I clicked on a post that alluded to the possibility of finding bathing suits that flatter all body types, but there was only one body type as far as I could tell, and it wasn’t mine. If they want to sell me a girdle-disguised-as-a-bathing suit, shouldn’t they put someone in it who needs one? There’s only one pose too: perfect posture, hair blown back, hands on hips, left hip slightly higher than right.
How about showing what a normal woman does at the beach in a bathing suit, like maybe hunching over a half-eaten hoagie to protect it from seagulls, transporting a sand-coated, chicken cutlet of a child to the ocean by the armpits, or sitting in a low beach chair? We probably never see the models sitting because everyone’s thighs spread in beach chairs, even their puny, meatless ones, and god forbid we should see that. If their thighs spread while sitting, maybe I shouldn’t bother to bring a chair to the beach at all. I’ll just stand all day, thank you.
Wasn’t the fashion industry supposed to start using more “real women” in photo shoots? There’s even an irritating new euphemism: curvy. They think we don’t know that they’re calling every woman who’s a size 10 and above “fat,” but we do, and apparently we’re too curvy to model the bathing suits they would like us to buy. I appreciate that the catalogs think they’re selling me what’s “appropriate” for my age and body, but the women, actually, the girls, in these catalogs would never wear these suits. The look on their faces says, “This grandma pelt is okay for you, but I didn’t have a rib removed for this.”
My own grandmother was one of the ballsiest women I’ve ever known, beautiful and vibrant right into her old age. She loved the beach and the ocean, like I do, but she stopped going to the beach in her midlife because she was too self-conscious to put on a bathing suit. Our daughters and granddaughters may be busy ruling the world, but count on them carrying on the half-funny, all-self-loathing, mostly tiresome bathing suit rituals. It’s exasperating that we could be rational, self-assured, accomplished, AND liberated, but not so much that a little pile of overpriced Spandex has the power to crush our spirits and our internal organs.
Maybe just this once, and I really mean this would be the one and only time, we could take a cue from men. If your bathing suit is comfortable and not ripped, the only things left to contemplate are cold beer, a hot grill, guacamole and sex. I hate to say they’re onto something, but that sounds like fun to me.