Thursday, August 11

swimwear saga

I have a dilemma. I am going swimming this evening and I'm not sure what to wear. Where's the dilemma, you ask? Here it is: to bikini or not to bikini. As I once suggested to my friend Kristen, yes, I have privileged problems.

But it's more complicated than that. About a month ago, and Little Gen will gleefully attest to this, I suddenly noticed that my tummy was getting, well, a little more tummyish. Ok, maybe it's not a Goodyear tire yet, but it's becoming a good bicycle tire, with a definite crease right through my belly button––a bit of a pooch, as they say. I was taken aback, uncomfortable and unsettled by this development. Most of my friends just rolled their eyes or said, "Well it's about time!"

I am well aware that women of my age, and many women younger than I, are well-acquainted with the tummy. And after pregnancy, forget it; at least that's what I hear. But I've been blessed with some kind of natural super metabolism, because in college, I never gained the freshman fifteen. And now, well into adulthood, I'm still considered by most to be slender in stature and slight on the scale.

So waking up one day to a tummy that I had heretofore not noticed, initiated, and I kid you not, an identity crisis greater than any caused by having only one arm. Oh my gosh, I'm not beautiful anymore, next thing you know I'll be middle-aged, and no one will ever want to be with me, ever, I thought. Then I drank a glass of low fat milk and tried to pull myself together. It worked because the low fat milk was so disgusting, I completely forgot about my tummy.


I've been swimming in public since I was small, but at some point, around puberty no doubt, I got self-conscious about my arm. I started to wear a white t-shirt over my swimsuit, all the time, every time I went to the pool. I wore it so consistently, it became a permanent fixture in my swimming bag. If I had to take the white tee off at any point during the swimming excursion, I felt naked, exposed to eyes that saw me for who I really was.

But swimming with the t-shirt was irritating, like being stuck in a spider web under water. And it was a huge hassle to wash and dry it afterward. So one day, I don't remember which, I just stopped wearing it. I was sick of the enslavement. I took off the tee and jumped into the pool web free.

Now, some years later, I'm not looking back. It was an uncomfortable transition, of course, but not nearly as uncomfortable as wearing the shirt. I actually can't believe I ever subjected myself to that. Of course I still feel awkward being suited to bathe in public, but who doesn't? And now, it's more of a proud awkwardness: "Yeah, I have one arm and I'm swimming, what's it to you?"


The tee is long gone now. I think the last time I saw it was when my cousin Dylan ended up wearing it one night after we'd had a few--the same night he tried on one one of my sports bras. Anyhew...

Last summer, I went on a serious shopping expedition for a bikini––a huge transition in itself due to my conservative upbringing and a niggling awareness that a bikini is merely colorful underwear, yet somehow socially acceptable in public. But after months of searching, I'd found nothing suitable (ha ha ha, suitable!) Ahem. So, I bought a one-piece suit of a hot pink shade, I'm not sure why.

But I still longed for a bikini, in the way only a girl who's been denied that sort of liberation with her own body can. And no, I don't think Hooters is a place to explore female empowerment. Then, long after I'd given up hope, I stumbled upon a sale, and a bikini that I liked. Unfortunately, due to limited inventory, it was about one size too big. But it was $15, which in bikini world, you might call a heck-a-va deal. So, I bought it.

I wear the bikini, t-shirt free, which is about the most liberated I can get--though I have to wear it circulation-constricting tight to make sure it stays on. And I'm always slightly nervous that wearing an over-sized and water-logged bikini isn't the smartest of decisions. And now I have the bicycle tire to think of. This might be enough to send me back to the (shudder) stone age t-shirt era––just when I was starting to enjoy my body. The only consolation is that when I dive in and my suit remains on the surface of the water, no one will be looking at my tummy! 

So much for late-bloomers.