Trying On Swimsuits With Miss Kentucky

78319985Today is one of the first 90 degree days of summer, and I know what I have to do.  I have to buy a swimsuit.  I have to buy a swimsuit because it is June and 90 degrees outside and I don’t even have an old swimsuit laying around and last evening we went out on a boat with our neighbors and thank goodness we were moving along the the water the whole time and there was a slight breeze because I wore what has become my uniform.  The one thing it seems my closet is packed full of.  Black cotton sweatpants.

Which is how I find myself, weeks before my 50th birthday, in this freezing cold department store in Kentucky.  In the swimsuit section.  In a dressing room next to Miss Kentucky.

To be fair she’s only a Miss Kentucky contestant, but still.  The sales ladies are all giddy with excitement, crowding in like it’s a contest to bring her another suit, the right suit.  Girl! they exclaim, Pink is your color!

I try to remember the last time I bought a swimsuit that was not black, or some version of black, and I cannot.  When was the last time I bought a suit I loved, or even liked?  When was the last time I bought a suit without a “control” feature around the belly, without the words “Look 10 lbs thinner!” or “Miracle Suit” writ in giant bold letters on the tag?

In an effort to get dressed and undressed as few times as possible, I’ve dragged 9 swimsuits into this dressing room.  Six them are black.  As in ALL black.  They look hot.  90 degrees worth of hot.  They look like a woman in mourning.  I think about my sweatpants.  I think about Miss Kentucky, next door with her pinks.  I hear her yell, Nooooo, stop it!  No pictures! and I suddenly feel sorry for her, because Miss Kentucky or no, who in the world would take photos of a woman, any woman, in a dressing room.

I recall the last picture I saw of myself in a swimsuit.  The suit is black with one small green stripe and one small blue stripe across the top.  My son took the picture a few years ago right after I’d jumped off a catamaran into the Mediterranean Sea.  I am in the water and waving to the camera, and I’m wearing my black “Miracle Suit!” that seems to absorb every blazing ray of the sun and with a mid-section so tight, so restrictive around my ribs, I cannot take a single breath without feeling like someone has wrapped me in a giant ACE bandage.

Before I try on a single suit I yank my clothes back on and take all of the black suits back onto the floor and hand them to the sales lady.  She gives the sad frown face, lips puckered, and takes them from me, irritated I’m sure that she has to return them all to their racks.

I roam the floor alone.  I pull suits off the rack I’m not sure about.  I go for the colors.  I start over.

Back my dressing room, freezing cold with its white slatted door and its bright lights, I hang 14 suits of all manner of color — mostly, I note, blues and teals and greens — around my closet-sized room.  How little, I think, this room looks like my actual closet.  How bright it feels, how like someone I used to know.  I touch the suits, one by one, feeling their silky textures and the strength or weakness of their straps.  I tug on the bra-parts and wonder how they might hold up in water.  I decide to decide, before I try on a single one, that I love every last one of them.  And only then do I get to trying them on.

I don’t know where that black Miracle Suit! went.  I knew I’d never wear it again, it was that miserable, especially in the high midday sun, and most especially when it got wet and felt so glued to my body I wondered how much muscle I would need to peel it off.  I suspect this suit found its way to the Goodwill.  I didn’t need a suit.  I had solved the problem.  I stopped swimming.

In my dressing room I count how many times I’ve worn a swimsuit, how many times I’ve jumped in the water and felt free, in the last 5 years.  The last 10.  The last 15 years.

I do not need both hands to count.

In the dressing room next to me, Miss Kentucky has had enough with the swimsuits.  And there are more photos, but I understand it now.  Stop it, grandma! she yells. That’s my fat part!  The sales ladies laugh and tell her how good she looks in ALL of the suits, so good she should just buy them all!!  Grandma laughs, agrees.  Grandma takes more pictures.  Grandma tells her that oh honey, she can take as many suits as she wants because that way she will be able to make choices when it comes time for the stage.  Because that way she can wait until she sees what all of the other girls are wearing and decide at the last minute what will make her a winner with a Capital W!

The sales ladies cheer along with Grandma.  I never hear Miss Kentucky say another word.

At the checkout counter, I lay out the 3 suits I’ve chosen.  You did good! the lady says.  I pull out my credit card and I tell her I have never, never in in my life, bought 3 swimsuits at the same time, but she does not respond and as I watch her ring them up, one by one, I suppress the urge to change my mind; the urge to take two of them back; the urge to take ALL of them back; the urge to be sensible and find those black suits again; the urge to keep looking for the Miracle.  I think about 90 degrees and the Summer before me.  I think about my piles and piles of black sweatpants and how I have let them take over my wardrobe.  How I’ve let them take over me.

And when Miss Kentucky and her grandma get in line behind me with their armfuls of pink suits and their happy chatter, I hear myself saying to the sales lady, with a confidence I do not yet but so hope to feel: Three new suits because it’s my birthday.  I’m turning 50.  Happy birthday to me.  And I turn around and wish Miss Kentucky good luck.

My 3 Winners with a Capital W

My 3 Winners with a Capital W

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31 thoughts on “Trying On Swimsuits With Miss Kentucky

  1. kevin77777

    Love this sentence: To be fair she’s only a Miss Kentucky contestant, but still. And you managed to italicize the word contestant, which I can’t in this comment.

  2. Jayne

    Woohoo! Bring your fave to CA next week and to my house. We’re trying to get the pool warm enough to swim. I love them all, especially the middle one. And let’s see if Miss Kentucky looks as good when she turns 50!!!!!

  3. Deborah

    It’s a tough job, but one of us has to start! I just unearthed a swimsuit I wore well before my youngest, 7-year-old son was even conceived. I think I might deserve a new one, too.

  4. redosue

    Polka dots are always winners and guaranteed to make you happy – dotty even! I smiled all the way through this post. So freakin’ relatable (is that a word?). I now buy my bathing suits on-line from Lands End so I don’t have to go into dressing rooms and expose my pallid flesh and flimsy ego to fluorescent lights.

    Happy birthday to you and hooray for your victory!

  5. Vickie

    I love your new suits 😉 I’m so glad you have embraced your new Southern community & bought COLOR ! love it

  6. p-partout

    I read your posts for some time but this last one spoke directly to my heart! Enjoy your new suits – especially the polka dot is fantastic. Happy Birthday 🙂

    1. Teri Post author

      I hung them in my closet — which I’ve never done with a bathing suit — so I can see them when I walk by. And you’re right, they are CUTE!

  7. From Fear to Faith

    Thank you for this great post.
    I wasn’t brave enough to try the Miracle Suit in the store. I ordered it online. It took forever to arrive. I waited a couple days to try it on. As I suspected, there was no miracle in that suit. It was tight and restrictive. Where the suit ended, even plumper rolls of my fat parts oozed out.

    I returned the Miracle Suit this week. I’ve decided that the real miracle would be to accept the me that I am right now and to stop comparing myself to others. I used to love to swim and I’m going to love it again– especially that exhilarating moment when hot skin meets cool, clear water.

    1. Teri Post author

      This comment made my morning. You are so right. There is no miracle; there is only us going out there and living our real lives. Here’s to the big swim.

  8. donnaeve

    This was inspirational. I haven’t put on a swimsuit in the last two years. I love the ones you chose – and yes, that middle one is my fave too. I need new swim suits, and like you, I’ve been wearing the good ole black pants – not sweat pants, but black, exercise pants. (oh admit it Donna, you’re wearing YOGA pants, the bane of every woman’s wardrobe these days, apparently. At least according to the news)

    I like to buy tankinis. That way if it’s just me and hubby, I can still get sun on the mid section. At this time I have my usual tan marks, much like a farmer’s tan, which would look CRUDDY in a suit. The lines are defined by the length of my running shorts, and my tank tops. Picture THAT. No, don’t. 🙂

    1. Teri Post author

      I look at my yoga pants as a well-marketed and barely dressed up version of my sweatpants. Hence the black pile of everything that looks like, and really serves as, sweatpants in this closet. And it’s dark in there with all that black!

  9. Mary Lynne

    LOVE the polka dot. It just says, “I am FUN, dammit.”

    We sold our house with a pool two years ago. And I don’t miss the brushing and the skimming and the work involved, I do miss one thing and there were no swimming suits involved at all. I miss the night swims — never in a full moon, so the neighbors could see from their bedroom windows — when it’s dark and quiet and still hot, because our nights in Texas do not cool off. A towel wrapped around me like a mummy until I got to the pool edge, then drop it and jump. Ohhhh, there is nothing more freeing than the feel of warm pool water against ALL your skin. It is the very best. I do miss that. And even though it was in my house, in the pool I paid for, I still felt like I was getting away with something!

    1. Teri Post author

      Oh man, Mary Lynne, I would really really miss that. The incredible freedom of it. Hope you’re doing well. xoxo

  10. Mo

    I turned 40 in April and I faced it with such trepidation that I was almost crippled with anxiety attacks. Imagine that! I really thought that my best years were behind me. Forty is turning out to be amazing. I’ve been reading your posts for a while now, but this one…It made me cry happy tears, because I went through this same struggle only two weeks ago. I bought a turquoise one, and when I actually got to wear it? I FELT like a winner with a W. It turns out turquoise is MY color. My only regret…I should’ve bought two more. Ha!

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