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I always loved the lazy, crazy days of summer… vacations and beaches and barbeques. But swimwear has never been my friend. Ever. Not in times long ago when bra cups were shaped like rocket ships and bones (that’s what they were called), engineered under the extraordinary tensile strength of Lycra, held back and uplifted my teenage body.

This was decades before flabby arms and too large hips  and a not-flat-enough stomach became issues. Even then…when I weighed 115 pounds… there was  always something riding up or digging in or oozing out as I gazed in the fitting room mirror. Because I know I’m not alone, I send my thoughts and prayers out to all contemplating the purchase of a new bathing suit.

If I started CrossFit in February …and cut out carbs… the cruelly lit chamber of horrors otherwise known as the bathing suit fitting room would still be my least favorite place on the planet. That includes the DMV and my periodontist and jury duty. I’d even go for you if it would forestall the need to enter that unforgiving fluorescent cubicle.

I envy the Russian women I see on the beach in Florida in their two-piece bathing suits oblivious of their rolls of flab and stretch marks and bulging back fat. They care not a whit for what jiggles and hangs. They refuse to give strangers ownership over their bodies. I’ll have what they’re having.

I’ve come to understand that venturing out to buy a flattering swimsuit requires planning and a few mind games. And maybe even the creation of  an optical illusion. Before my most recent trip to the bathing suit store, I put on a self-tanner, made sure I was waxed, applied my favorite lipstick and brought along my most giant sunglasses. I washed my hair and blew it out to get maximum volume.

 I got undressed facing away from the mirror and took off my socks. I recited a silent mantra…do not look at your thighs…do not look at your thighs… and willed myself to heed the advice. I forbid myself to compare my reflection with the reflection of decades before. And for the millionth time I wished I understood how it is at all possible to buy shoes and bathing suits online.

I toyed with the idea of  bringing bathing suits two sizes too big into the fitting room … just for the winning feeling of popping my head out and asking for a smaller size. And I worked on not obsessing about the veritable petri dish that is the thin strip of paper attached to the swimsuit’s bottom.

Does anyone believe those hygienic strips in the crotch of new suits are an adequate safeguard against contact with icky bacteria? Has anyone else come home and been creeped out after finding one of those suckers still stuck to your underwear?

OK… time to flip it…a technique my sister uses to reprioritize when faced with an uncomfortable situation. The women today getting fitted for a burqua would be rightfully horrified by my whining. And what about my  grandmother?  I found a photo of her taken at Coney Island in 1917. She was wearing stockings and bloomers and a wool sailor dress. To go swimming. So in the interest of accepting and embracing and appreciating all that is good, I vow to close my eyes and picture the sun and the breeze and the water on my skin. The totally worth it reasons to wear a bathing suit in the first place.

Inside the Bathing Suit Dressing Room Trauma was last modified: by

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