Death by Dressing Room


Last week, someone finally flipped the Idaho Summer Weather switch, and the temperature soared from the low 60s on one day to the 90s on the next. Since then, I’ve dug my few pairs of shorts out from where they were languishing at the bottom of my drawer, made generous use of the sunblock in my purse, and thanked God many times from my heart for the blessing of our hardworking, energy-efficient window unit air-conditioner.

And there’s another blessing this summer. For once, I own a bathing suit that a) fits and b) does not look hideous on me; thus, I can enjoy a free pass on that dreadful, dehumanizing ritual that is bathing suit shopping.

The girls know what I’m talking about. The boys, with their smug little way of walking into the store and buying the first bathing suit they see off the rack, don’t have a clue. They’ve missed out on a whole facet of the quintessential human female experience: standing naked* and alone in front of the relentless 3-way mirror, wearing a scrap of Lycra that busily accentuates exactly what you’ve been trying to hide for the past six months under all those bulky sweaters and carefully chosen jackets.

Every mole, every pocket of cellulite, every clandestine slice of forbidden cheesecake is illuminated in the harsh glare of the unforgiving fluorescent lights. The illusory mental image you keep of yourself (and protect at all costs by refusing to allow people to take photos of you and squinting your eyes when you look in the mirror after getting out of the shower**) is, in one unguarded moment, shattered. Truth sculpted in lime green nylon.

And to add insult to injury, you notice with embarrassment that your bikini line needs some serious attention.

One after another, you try on suits. This one cuts into your shoulders; that one is all flappy and loose around the bottom; the other one threatens every moment to burst into glorious wardrobe malfunction. Finally, mentally and emotionally exhausted, you grab the boring black tank suit that covers the essentials and doesn’t cause outright weeping when you put it on and you head up to the register to check out.

A girl can be pardoned for indulging in a whole pint of Ben & Jerry’s Chubby Hubby after such a grueling experience. (Meanwhile, the Chubby Hubby himself is cavorting around happily in his twelve dollar board shorts, oblivious to your mental anguish.)

But not this year. This year, I already have the perfect suit. It’s a navy blue tankini, with green and blue fish on it and a cute little gauze sarong to wrap around it. I’ve had it for years. Last summer, it squeezed. It pinched. It gapped. It bulged. I hid it deep underneath my pajama pile and tried to forget that I had ever looked good in it.

This year, it fits.

You can’t see me, but I’m doing cartwheels.***

*Metaphorically, if not (entirely) physically.
**Or maybe that’s just me.
***Okay, not really—but I am grinning like a monkey.

15 responses »

  1. I have a a tankini that I’ve been holding on to in hopes of it fitting again someday. You’ve just given me hope, and reason to keep holding onto it! I purchased it between Alex & Morgann and it fit perfectly. Then came Ian and suddenly it didn’t fit anymore. Last year, I made the excuse that Ian was just a year old and after 3 babies, the body just look the same. But this year, I’m hoping and praying that maybe by summer’s end I will be able to wear that tankini and hold my head up high 🙂

    BTW, I loved the way you so vividly described the ‘bathing suit shopping experience’. I try to avoid shopping for one unless it’s absolutely necessary and cannot be avoided. I always say that it’s the lights that make the suits look so awful on me…so glad I’m not the only one blaming the lights!

  2. I’ve been clinging to the same stretched out scrap of nylon for 3 summers now just so I don’t have to face the dressing room horrors.

    It may be faded, but my old suit doesn’t make me stand under florensent lights, and so I love it.

  3. Yes, as a woman I get it and if I could do cartwheels still I would do them right now for you. Let the summer season begin! Congrats!

  4. Ah, summer. Is there anything better? I get the shopping experience, too. It’s dreadful. But, luckily, I have a suit that has carried me through three summers without falling apart. Also, the beach I live across the street from is almost always deserted so the only one I have to worry about is my honey. And he doesn’t mind. 🙂 I loved this post.

  5. Okay, the whole “boring black tank suit” and “flappy and loose at the bottom” was just unnecessary. You just were describing my suit exactly. Only the suit isn’t flappy, that’s the skirt. and my rear end under it.

  6. I was looking at suits online yesterday. Then I decided that I just might need to try my old suit on again and just wear that again. I’d love a new suit, but this one is flattering and purchased.

  7. Way to win the war!!! I restored to the tankini last year. I even got the one with the little skirt bottom. Someday, someday, I’ll like how I look in a swimsuit. Someday…You should be very, very proud of yourself. Way to go!
    Melissa 🙂

  8. Congratulations! That is awesome! By the way, I love this line, “the other one threatens every moment to burst into glorious wardrobe malfunction.” That is a great fear of mine.

    This year I found a really cute pair of girly board shorts to match my halter from last year. And no more skirts for me – they are okay for walking around, but you get one wet and you’ve got some serious collateral material to work with…

  9. This would be absolutely hilarious if it weren’t so painfully true.

    I found the perfect swimsuit last year – $90. We just bought TWO pairs of $15 boardshorts for my husband.

    He totally doesn’t get it.

  10. Days of liking how I looked in a bathing suit ended at about age 16. That was simply because I was 16. Now I don’t like bathing suits cuz I’ve had two babies and nothing went back to where it was supposed to.

    Skirtinis are AWESOME. Anything gauze-like is equally awesome.

    Good for you feeling all confidant in your cute tankini!

  11. KEWL!

    I never have actually tried on a store suit as I have a long torso and Lands End is the only place you can get those reasonably. But I remember the year my mom rejected a suit because my nipples were visible. Yes, I was 28, but I sent it back. The one I have right now I love, AND it fits.


  12. Being five months post-baby is not the time to go stand in front of a mirror with awful fluorescent lights glaring down on me. Yikes! (I have to go this weekend, though.) 😦 Maybe I will magically lose ten pounds between now and then. I AM happy for you, though, that your suit fits so great this year. Way to go, girlie!

  13. How great for you. I solved the problem a few years ago, I don’t wear a swimsuit, trying on shorts in the fitting rooms isn’t near as humuliating.

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