Summer’s Worst Nightmare


We’re coming up to that dreadful time of year again…not that I don’t like spring or summer but warm seasons mean less layers and more exposure…the kind that a maturing body like mine would just as soon do without. But living on Cape Cod and going to the beach almost every day means donning a bathing suit. For once I was going to get a jump start on my appearance. I hired a personal trainer and joined a gym.

We got right into tackling my lower back, and sagging upper arms, as well as a general overhaul. Within a month I had actually lost several inches in various parts of my aging body. But there remained, in my middle, an ugly kangaroo pouch that I could no longer suck in. Short of liposuction, I was doomed, not to mention embarrassed. I couldn’t drape shawls and wear layers to the beach. One last option remained– Redbook Magazine’s Tummy Makeover. It consisted of 6 exercises to be done three times a week for 12 weeks and voila, I would lose two tummy inches at the very least. I was faithful to this regimen–honest I was– but there appeared to be no visible change when I gazed at my profile in our full-length mirror.

Desperate now because of a pending business trip to Costa Rica, I dove into the Land’s End catalog, certain to find something to flatter my maturing figure. Sure enough, there were numerous designs… the various descriptions insisted that their suits flatter any figure, boost confidence, and can actually make anyone look at least a size smaller. I settled on three choices…all that promised tummy control and other tricks designed to disguise figure flaws. Indeed, there was hope, even for me.

When the Fed Ex package arrived on my doorstep some two days later, I was actually eager to try on my purchases and have this arduous yearly task behind me. I chose to don the Swim Dress first because it appeared to be the most forgiving. Soon I was hugging and puffing as I tugged on the Spandex andWomen in Bathing Suitsattempted to tuck my rolls and boobs into place. One quick glance in the mirror told me this suit would be going back. I resembled my grandmother at a Coney Island beach back in 1930. Hardly the image I wanted to put forward.

Not to worry. I had two other styles to try. The black and white Swimmini, (as it was called), whose wide band of shirring was supposed to flatter my middle only made my tummy protrude all the more.

With my last chance suit waiting in the box I prayed that the Slender Tulip would somehow be just right. It had a draped overlay that was supposed to minimize the hips. But alas, there was so much extra fabric hanging over the top of my thighs it appeared I WAS actually camouflaging something.

“There’s always the maternity store,” a friend suggested. “I’ve been reduced to going there for pull-on slacks and shorts when I’ve gained a few extra pounds.”

“You’ve got to be kidding,” I snapped, and yet with only a few days left before my departure, I had no choice. After all, my husband had recently joked as he patiently endured my tummy saga that perhaps I was having a hysterical pregnancy. So off I headed to the Mall–a place I rarely visit– and skulked into Pea in the Pod hoping no one would find me there.

“I’m trying to find a bathing suit for my pregnant daughter-in-law,” I lied to the clerk. “We’re going on a cruise and she lives in Alaska. No way she can find one there.”

“They’re in the back of the store,” she answered, eyeing me in a way that I knew she knew. Mother-in-laws don’t buy bathing suits for daughter-in-laws but it just felt better to make some sort of explanation as I trotted to the rack and began sifting through the possibilities. It occurred to me that shame is an awful thing. Why can’t I just be bold and bawdy like the old lady that wrote When I Am Old I Will Wear Purple and be done with it? But no, I had pride, and besides I was still carrying the guilt my mother laid on me for my body which she deemed, less than perfect.

As it turned out, the swimwear was hideous but the clerk did point out some tennis dresses made with Spandex and nylon that might just work. “I wear them myself on hot summer days,” she said with a sympathetic smile. “You’d be surprised how many women come in here because they just want to be confortable.”

Oh God, she really does know!!!! I grabbed an Adidas outfit that looked like it was for normal pJoan's Bathing Suiteople, slapped my credit card on the counter, and counted the seconds until the sale was complete. Mission accomplished, I said to myself as I raced for the door holding tight to a bag that contained something I am determined to wear for years to come.

6 thoughts on “Summer’s Worst Nightmare

  1. Joan,
    I so identified with this post. I have two or three bathing suits that I haven’t recently even had the nerve to try on. Instead the last few years I wear a pair of shorts and a top. I ordered from L L Bean what I thought might work as a bathing suit and it was hideous! I am learning to just “be” with this pouch. It gets in my way but it is a part of my aging body. So be it – what can one do?

    Unlike you I don’t go to the beach every day so it isn’t in my face as much and that helps. My expectations continue to lessen about my body weight (weighing two more pounds when I had my check up last week and I swear it is in the pouch).

    My joy comes from the inner and there I feel comfortable and at peace.

  2. I just love this! Don’t all women understand the nightmare of ‘buying a bathing suit’? Oh, my gosh, Joan….I think you have saved my life!!! I would never have thought of such an option…Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!!!!!

    • so materinty stores are going to have a run on them…so be it…seems since Twiggy bodies have gotten smaller and smaller just win I thought they had reached their lowest common denominator.

  3. I like a pair of jogging shorts I found with built in underwear and a couple jogging tops that had good coverage & a surprisingly flattering style. Try the exercise section of Penney’s. Men don’t wear bikinis, why do we have to?!

  4. I have learned from a wise mentor that all spiritual alignment is about LETTING GO of things that would other wise drag me. Like you, I grew up immersed in negativity. Over and over and over again I have Velcroed my brain to fear and anxiety. I know better now as an older adult but I still regress at times. Then I recall, “Let go or be dragged.” I saw one of my doctors last month and talked to him about my on-going struggle with negative thinking and “letting go” for sound mind and better health. He told me that negativity is not as bad as people make it out to be. … that we are more negative by nature than positive because it is part of our animal instinct that helps insure our survival in an unsafe world. I’ve been less hard on myself since getting that new perspective which leads me to another favorite saying – “progress, not perfection.”

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