Ghost of Swimsuits Past

My fifteen year old daughter and I stood silently hand in hand in Target yesterday, transfixed in front of an entire giant wall of bathing suit parts: bra tops, bikini bottoms, halters, boy shorts, tiny triangles held together by colored string, skirted briefs and tankinis.

(OK, we weren’t really holding hands, she’d die first, but that’s the mood I’m trying to evoke, work with me.)

It’s that time of year again, when a young girl’s fancy turns to thoughts of finding the perfect bathing suit, and a young girl’s mom turns to thoughts of horror at the idea of cramming her middle-aged carcass into anything remotely resembling what is hanging all over the Wall of Total Humiliation she sees before her. I wisely opted out of even attempting to find anything to try on, and decided instead to help Madi carry the armload of suits she was gathering with both hands. We settled on about six bikinis ( not the tiny triangle ones) and headed towards the dressing rooms. We didn’t score the handicapped dressing room with its sweet, long-enough-to-stretch-out-on bench, dang it, so we had to settle for two cubicles that were facing each other flanking the big three-way mirror at the end of the row.

The next 45 minutes flew by with the speed of a mollusk. Every suit was tried on at least twice, and discussed ad nauseum –seriously, I was actually getting queasy, mostly because I was hungry and had taken an allergy pill with a glass of pomegranate juice before we left the house which apparently is not a good idea, note to self. Madi, who by the way, apparently hit the genetic lottery and has a small-framed, petite-yet-buxom, perfectly proportioned little body on her, was caught in the throes of some kind of bathing suit-induced OCD attack and was obsessing over every aspect of every suit, as only a teenage girl can. She waffled and worried, turning to and fro in front of the mirrors as she changed suits a gazillion times. Although I was the one with final veto power (and the credit card), it was still nice to be asked for my opinion, though truth be told, they all looked disturbingly fabulous on her. But lordy, it took forever– “I think this color looks pretty good with my skin tone, do you? That other one made me look kind of olive green-ish, but the top fit really well. I like the yellow one, it’s like an 8 on a scale of 1 to 10, but the black one is my favorite so far, why don’t you like it as much? I don’t think it looks too skimpy, I can pull it down. Oh wait, let me try the striped one on again– tell the truth, does it do my butt any favors?”

Just when I was contemplating using my shoe to mercifully knock myself unconscious, I felt a faint stirring waaaaaaaay back in the hallowed hallways of my memory, and I suddenly recalled an eerily similar scene that had happened when I was in high school, bathing suit shopping with my Mom. It was in Hot Springs, Arkansas, I think at J.C. Penneys, and I was standing in front of a dressing room mirror in a navy and white bathing suit that I had craftily picked out one size too large. My hope was that the bigger size bottoms wouldn’t look too skimpy to Mom and would keep her from noticing that the ‘two-piece’ was actually a real, live, (forbidden) bikini. It also came with a matching sarong cover-up which I assured her would be used a lot. I must have caught her in a weak moment, because even though she did indeed quote me the standard, we-have-this-same-discussion-every-year Bible verses about modesty, she also agreed to buy the suit. And I remember something else about that day — as I hurriedly wriggled into my clothes before she changed her mind, I caught an expression on her face that surprised me. She looked tired (as I recall, I had tried on a crapload of suits, too), but she also wore a smile as we walked up to the checkout counter, that was tinged with a little… sadness.

That summer, aided in no small part by that bikini, I first began to understand the mystery and the power of a woman’s sexuality. I didn’t have sex, for crying out loud, not even close– but I got noticed and attention was paid to me in ways that my formerly boyish figure had never inspired before. It was exciting, and flattering, and more than a little scary sometimes. It was the first time I realized that I had to be kind of careful about how I put myself out there, and that sometimes guys did indeed only want one thing. All in all, not bad information for a teenage girl to have.

We walked out of Target without a swimsuit yesterday. After exhaustively discussing every nuance of how each one looked on her, Madi decided that before she made a final decision she ought to make sure that the grass wasn’t greener someplace else, so yippee, I guess I’ve got some more shopping to look forward to. I know that we’ll eventually find one we can agree on (not that black one though, seriously, it had a little bit too much of a ‘Woo hoo, spring break ya’ll!’ vibe to it). I know that she’ll look incredible and get lots of attention from all the boys. I also now thoroughly understand that bittersweet smile on my Mom’s face, and had a rush of love and gratitude that she trusted that long-ago, 16 year old version of myself to handle everything that came with that navy and white bikini. I know Madi will handle it too; the kid’s got a good head on her shoulders. Let’s hope I do, because ready or not, it’s her turn.

Dear Reader,

OK, here’s the part where I say, “Welcome To My New Blog!”

I guess technically this should have preceded the post you just read, but when I tried it that way it felt a little forced. You know the way realtors make you feel when you walk into an Open House, and they jump up and rush to greet you with their too-bright smile and their over-eager handshake? And then they follow you all over the dang house talking your leg off, helpfully pointing out the special features and making sure you notice the exquisite workmanship? Yeah, like that.

So this is my version of shyly waving at you from the front door, inviting you to come into my sunny kitchen for a big ol’ glass of wine nice  hot cup of coffee and fresh-baked homemade cookies, and warmly and genuinely encouraging you to please stop by any time, any time at all.

Oh, and please leave comments too. Because I’m kind of a comments-whore and anyway come on, it’s the least you can do–I made you cookies.

Love, Tori

P.S. An extra special shout-out to my Music City Moms homies that followed me over here! Sorry I said “whore.” The excitement of my new blog made me briefly lose my manners, which could possibly be happening a lot. I’m just saying.

11 Responses

  1. LindaB

    Hey! I remember that!!! Shopping for a bathing suit in the springtime! Ahhhhh! How nice.

    I just turned sixty and growing older never bothered me before—birthdays didn’t mean a thing except presents. But turning sixty has bothered me….A LOT. I’m finding myself checking off a list of things I’ll never do again with anything akin to joy…….like buying a bathing suit. Or sexy high heel shoes. Or skippping. Or running to the mail box—-I now DRIVE! Oh heck—–looking in a mirror even! Or evoking a whistle from a construction worker…….even an old ugly one! Bummer.

    You made me think of the times I went shopping with my own girls and finding a respectable bathing suit for them. We had some of our worst fights in the mall over some skimpy bikini they wanted to own…..because “all the other girls wear that kind”. You did a lot better than I did, Tori! There was no “faint smiles tinged with a little sadness”—–only open and loud arguments accompanied by stomping and yelling. (And that was ME.) I think security was called a couple times. But we do share one aspect of this experience—–nausea. Waves of it. I finally got smart after a few years of this nonsense and called in the big guns—–“If you don’t cooperate with me and my modesty levels, your DAD is going to take you shopping for a new swimsuit. And I mean it this time!” Worked like a charm.

  2. LindaB

    Oh, and thanks for the cookies. (I’m a cookie-whore. Sorry.) LOL

  3. Barbara M. Lloyd

    Gracious, Tori, I had one heck of a time getting in here….then when I did, I typed everything only to have it fly off somewhere. I’m going to try again, hoping the other typing won’t show up, too.

    Many years ago when bikinis first came on the scene, I went bathing suit shopping with my daughter, Joan. The store had absolutely nothing but bikinis…much to my horror and Joan’s delight.

    After the second hour of Joan trying on those scanty little nothings, I brought to her dressing room a bikini two sizes larger than her normal size. Somehow I had to get more material to cover her little body. I turned around only to see one boob sticking out of an arm hole. Well, that wasn’t gonna work.

    I don’t remember much more about that day. I suppose we did get one of those glorified bandades. I do remember that Joan was abnormally patient with her mom

    Many years later, I want bathing suit shopping with my granddaughter, Jenn. Before it was over, two salesgirls were backing up Jenn….so a suit was bought.

    I have two great-grands. I wonder who will be the old-fashioned, out-of-date, not-with-it then who will be paying the bill?

  4. belinda

    Just checking everything out since I finally arrived here. Back later for more stories and blogging.

  5. jensings

    First bikini at age 14 here. But I was in 10th grade. Wait, that makes it worse somehow, doesn’t it?

  6. belinda

    I got a major sun burn the first time I wore that flippin bikini. Did not make it so much fun. Makes me hurt just thinking about it.

  7. gracelynn

    ROTFL I wouldn’t dare wear a bikini – I’d give everyone a heart attack if I did with these hippo hips LOLOL. I’ve got to be fully covered in order to protect the public. And ever since I took Dilantin four years ago, I sunburn at absolutely nothing. It totally changed my metabolism, even though I have not taken one in 4 years. I don’t have to be outside 15 minutes and I’ll come in looking like a rose I’m so red.

    I wear a swimsuit about twice a year – once in June when my godkids are down for the family reunion, and once in August when I’m off with some of my extended family in the mountains. I just ain’t got the figure for it. ;)

  8. teegees

    OMG, Aly and I watch this! What a wonderful guilty pleasure. The mom who was a dancer makes me CRAZY. I can’t think of her daughter’s name. She has the poor kid so cowed down, she’ll never snap out of it!

    Kudos on branching out with your own blog, by the way! I’ve been toying with the idea myself. You’re courage has edged me a wee closer…


  9. teegees

    hey, what happened, my comment went in the wrong place!!! This goes with I Know my Kid is a Star. Oh well….

  10. tori

    And jump in the blogosphere with both feet, by all means– I’ll read ya!

  11. » My Blogoversary!!!! | babybloomr

     (And that goes double for my beloved Russ, my delightfully random Charlotte and my sweet first-born Madi.)

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