Swimsuit Season: Part One

(Originally published in The Beach Reporter when I wrote a column there in the 90s)

First the good news. Spring break and then summer are arriving. Time for weekends at the beach and poolside vacations with the family, sunshine and a slower pace to life. Now the bad news. The fashion industry still hasn’t invented a swimsuit that can make a molehill out of a mountain.

I count every year after thirty as the gradual downhill slide into middle age. Up until then, everything is tight and firm, and nothing jiggles when you walk. Then the law of gravity goes into effect. The REAL law of gravity, as it applies to bodies in bathing suits: for every year after thirty, gravity exerts a downward force equal to the weight of the person in the bathing suit.
Things are the worst in Southern California, where thousands of hard-bodies are waiting around on the beach waiting to be discovered by a random movie mogul. I saw it happen a couple of summers ago when Tequila Sunrise, with Mel Gibson, Kurt Russell, and Michelle Pfeiffer was filming on the beach near our home. It was amazing how many perfectly made-up and coiffed young women sauntered casually by the film site in their string bikinis, doing some heavy-duty stomach sucking. It tried it, in my best swimsuit, but when they saw the two kids hanging off me and the bubble gum stuck on my rear, they asked me to move on down the beach.

Back to the depressing topic at hand. Have you ever noticed the mirrors in dressing rooms at swimsuit stores are the same ones made for carnivals? At home, in my bedroom mirror, I have a normal thigh, but in one of those dressing room fun-house mirrors it’s like some other woman’s horribly gigantic white, cellulite thigh is attached to my knee. The sight of your winter-white flesh in one of those brightly lit mirrors could cause serious eye damage.

This year I was heartened by the rumor that someone had introduced a new two-piece suit with a waist you could roll up, hiding problem areas. When I rushed out to try one on I was re-introduced to the second law of nature: flab pushed out of one area expands rapidly into another. Those of you who have experienced the joys of childbirth will know what I mean.

Several thoughts rush through my head as I try on one suit after another. I wish I hadn’t gotten so many gold cards at Penguins Yogurt. I wish I hadn’t tried to win Scrabble at McDonald’s. I wish I lived in Antarctica, where there are no beaches or pools.

And I make a silent vow that starting RIGHT NOW, I am going on a program that will make me look one one-hundredth as good as Jane Fonda or Raquel Welch, who would never be staring forlornly into a carnival mirror.

But of course, on the way home, I realize I only need one more star on my Penguin’s gold card before I get my freebie, and I pull in. It doesn’t matter anymore because I have bought a black one-piece that would make Bella Abzug look slim.

Then the day of reckoning. The first really hot Saturday at the beach. You are meeting several friends, none of whom – you are quite sure – acquired Raquel-like bodies over the winter. And you are right. Everyone is still into beer and tortilla chips, and no one is wearing a Body Glove suit.

But wait. Here comes your friend John with his new wife. His young, second wife. Who hasn’t had any children yet, and who plops herself down right next to you in her Body Glove. And then you decide, FOR SURE, that you are going on a program, no matter what. As soon as you have another beer and polish off those tortilla chips.

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