I’m not much of a shopper. The last time I tried to do a little wardrobe updating, I quit twenty minutes in because my arm started hurting from picking up and putting back all the hangers. I know. I’m a lightweight. But here’s a question as a result of that ill-fated trip: aren’t bathing suits typically expected to cover up one’s top and bottom anymore?
The last time I bought a bathing suit was about four years ago, so admittedly, it’s been a while, but the one I bought covered me up in all the right places. It was a fancy brand name one-piece in sensible brown that I bought at a discount store in Maine. The suit itself was not fancy, it was proper as I swam and sunned each summer since in relative comfort. (It was less comfortable when I had to wear it on the Amalfi Coast a couple of years ago when all the Italian ladies I was traveling with slipped right into their skimpy two-pieces and stood proudly, ankle deep, chatting in the ultramarine Mediterranean. I sat under an umbrella and an oversized white shirt and claimed sun poisoning.)
I can barely navigate the crowded aisles in the ladies department much less find what I’m looking for, so when I spotted the bathing suits (at least I can still recognize them) I decided to ditch the wardrobe updating and find a replacement for my quickly disintegrating old faithful. My arm flinched in pain as I chose a hanger upon which hung a black suit and I held it up to try and spot any hidden bejewelment. No sparkly jewels on this one--promising--but, no bottom either. It looked like a tankini top but there was nothing else attached to the hanger. “Ah,” I thought, “this is that scam where you have to buy the tops and bottoms separately.” As if buying bathing suit tops and bottoms separately makes any sense at all. It’s like buying pots and lids separately. Dumb.
So, I scanned the rack for the accompanying bottoms section. There wasn’t one. There were no bottoms anywhere except two racks away where, scrunched up at the end, was a selection of teeny, bikini bottoms in none of the colors of the tops I was looking at. Dumber.
I was stymied. My husband, who had been wandering around in the Men’s shoe department, eventually came looking for me. He found me, glassy-eyed, arms tangled with hangers, bumping back and forth between the racks as if I couldn’t find my way out. I couldn’t.
“Here,” he said gently, as if approaching a wounded animal, “let me take some of those from you” and he lifted the tangle of metal and plastic hangers, spandex and gold leaf from my already aching arms.
“I can’t...” I began, “I don’t know how...” I sputtered until I was finally able to wail, “there aren’t any bottoms!”
“How about we do this another time?” he suggested and he started to tug on the single, black, one-piece I had managed to add to my pile.
“NO!” I shrieked, and I threw it in the basket he had shown up with. At least he had found the shoes he was looking for, although he isn’t that much better at shopping than I am. Weary and shopping-worn, we headed to the checkout counter. His leather sandals, some cute cereal bowls for my grandson, a green sundress marked down to $12 that I still haven’t tried on and the mysterious black bathing suit went into the shopping bag and out the door with us. We went straight home and had a drink.
At my age, I am not going to get better at sorting out the enigma that is women’s clothing. As long as I can go out in public in a semi-acceptable outfit, I will consider myself successful. I only have to wear a bathing suit a couple of months of the year; it doesn’t have to be perfect. Still, I haven’t worn the new one yet. (Upon further inspection in the privacy of my own home, I can report that it is black, hopefully the correct size, with no gold or jewels, although there is some acceptable blue and turquoise piping across the front.) I haven’t tossed old faithful, sensible brown, yet, either. Let’s not be hasty, I always say.