It’s finally here! Can you smell it? Spring is in the air. A sense of blessed and delightful relief washes over us after enduring the harsh chill of a long winter. Flowers and hardy plants poke through the softer soil as warmer days become more frequent. Signs of renewal are everywhere. Our big, puffy coats, and fuzzy gloves and hats get stored away, and out come the lighter blouses, tapered capris pants and sandals. Women tend to break out the pastels, and get cute new hair cuts with highlighted tips. Or, maybe that’s just our moms who do that. Either way, spring is about freshness, new activities, and getting outside. Then, like a punch to the stomach, it all comes to a screeching halt when it dawns on us that summer is just around the corner. Just like that, darkness and dread descend upon the land as our happy, care-free, spring frolic-fest recoils. With knuckles dragging, shoulders drooping, and eye-lids at half-mast, we begrudgingly make our way to the mother-effing mall to shop for a new bathing suit.
My new black (is there any other color?) bathing suit can only be described as a “contraption” because it is, indeed, a constricting trap.
There are a series of endless, intricate hooks and straps, stiff cups, and flaps, “flattering” ruffles, ruching (whatever the hell that is), and “reinforced” side-smoothing panels (honestly, it feels like a bullet proof vest). I need two things to get the damn thing on: extra time, and a water bottle (in case I need to take a quick break to hydrate). To be frank, it also takes a crowbar, a small shoe horn, and nimble fingers for the necessary, fluttering burst of expertly administered wedgie-picking. There are two pieces. Getting into the bottom half requires a slow sequence of yoga postures complete with progressive breathing exercises. The top involves a bit of arm flailing, and a swaying movement one may only see at a church revival or during the cool down period at the end of a Zumba class. To put it delicately, my boobs must be hoisted first, and then gently “placed” inside the unforgiving cups. Madonna’s John Paul Gaultier pointy cone-bra costume comes to mind. It all comes together with a bit of pushing, pulling, stretching, and a brief but incredibly scary “blackout” moment, so I find it’s best to keep some smelling salts handy. I must also make a mental note to set out a circle of pillows before I begin to avoid a head injury. Putting on the suit has become, over the past few weeks, an interpretive “performance art” masterpiece I call “The Dance of Declivity.” As the artist struggles with the physical and emotional stress of maintaining a certain degree of dignity during the process of putting on the damn suit, so too does her audience, especially at the poignantly brilliant conclusion of her performance, when the artist, clearly weakened, tearfully screams, “LOOK AWAY! JUST LOOK AWAY!” And…scene.
It used to be that the only things I was ever afraid of at the beach were the inevitable nipple slip, a shark in the water, or a hot, messy case of “sand crack” syndrome. Now I’m afraid I won’t be able to stand up if I’m even able to sit myself down. The reality this year, and every year it seems, is that in order to be comfortable hanging out at the beach I must first gyrate and shimmy my way into something not so comfortable. Oh, the irony. Sigh.
You would think that after successfully losing the equivalent of two full kegs of beer and running like Forrest Gump for the past year and a half, a lady might feel better about the possibility of new bathing suit choices, and earnestly hope to don something colorful, sporty, and comfortable. Something that offers a skirt as an option instead of the “third piece” included requirement. One would think it would be a triumphant moment in time for women who workout everywhere, but one would surely be WRONG.
But, hey, guess what? I honestly don’t care. I’m happy, and healthy, and I JUST DON’T CARE. I’d rather swim, and float, and look for seashells, and walk (or run!) on the beach than spend my energy caring about what I look like in a bathing suit. These days, I want to be in the photo standing up tall, as proud as a peacock, with a hands on my hips and my chin out smiling, instead of crouched down behind a beach chair or hiding behind other people.
Another black bathing suit? Okay, yes. Bought one. Bought the matching sarong too. But this year, I’ve decided that happy is the new black. Healthy is the new black. Because it’s not about the suit. It’s about the woman packed inside it, enjoying the miraculous gift of her life. And she’s sexier and more alive than ever.