My sons were getting ready to go surfing yesterday, and I was watching them.
"What?" they said, as they wrinkled their faces at me. The twins are that age. They don't want me looking at them. And the 7-year-old mimics them.
"Nothing," I said. "I'm just looking at my three gorgeous sons."
"Eww. Well, stop it." Bedroom door closed gently, not slammed, because they don't want to push it.
I was looking at them because it amazes me how easily males wear their bathing suits. It's a three-step process. One leg in, other leg in, pull up, done. I can't imagine ever having that kind of ease with any swimming garment that I put on. But I dream of it.
It's bathing-suit season. And no matter how many hours I put in at the gym, no matter how many 5Ks and half marathons I run, no matter how much I ski, bike, and swim, my bathing suits just don't appreciate it. Worse yet, they don't cooperate. We have yet to come to an agreement on the proper way to look on the beach. And after 43 years of being together, you'd think we would have the hang of it.
I've tried everything. I've showed my bathing suits the Victoria's Secret catalog. I've showed them my diet log: "Look!" I point at the entries. "Salad, lean protein, whole grains! No cheesesteaks or Krispy Kremes!" I even took them with me to the Broad Street run, to watch me run 10 miles on city concrete in 90-degree heat. I work hard; I don't deserve the treatment I get. I demand more respect.
When you live at the shore, the bathing suit is not an accessory, it is a uniform. You pull it on in the morning, and you're ready. But I've had three kids, and have the genetic tendency to look like a Bartlett pear. Trying on bathing suits? I'd rather chew tin foil. It occurred to me that it must be nice to live in Alaska. I'll bet no Alaskan woman ever trudged downstairs and said to her husband, "Ugh, it's parka season."
I have positive dysmorphic body image. I always think I look better than I do. I ordered a bathing suit last year from Victoria's Secret that I could have used as a toe ring. I gave it to my 16-year-old niece, and it was even too small for her. Who is modeling these clothes, 5-year-olds? I felt like an Avatar trying to put this thing on.
The bathing suit donning process for me goes something like this:
Step 1: Getting to know one another. I look at the suit, eye it from every angle. I speak in soothing tones, "Ooh, I like this embroidery here at the hip, but I must say I don't remember these string ties, they might pose a problem."
Step 2: Pep talk. "Now remember: the catalog said that you are guaranteed to stay put and look chic. Those are your two responsibilities, so don't let me down!"
Step 3: Put on suit. This is a slow process. I don't rip it on like my sons do. I take my time. It is very important to maintain the ruse that this is just another day, just another wardrobe fitting. I try not to appear alarmed that there is no way to wear Spanx under this thing.
Step 4: Meditating. No mirrors yet. Just chanting: "You are strong. You are beautiful. You are not defined by Lycra."
Step 5: Walk, jump, bounce, lean over, sit tests. It's best to be alone for this. My sons walked in on me doing this once, and they wouldn't meet my eye for a week.
Step 6: Mirror Mirror on the Wall. Time to face the music. Grab the bull by the horns. Go for broke. Jump in the cold water. Use as many cliches as you want without getting reminded that they are lazy writing. Face forward, turn around, and embrace the horror. "This is me," I say. And it ain't so bad.
I just read an article in InStyle magazine that showed the most attractive position to be in on the beach if you want to get men's attention. Sitting, legs drawn up, arms around knees, good posture. This position gives you a lean look, smoothes out all the bumps. Great, it works, I've tried it. But what if the man you're trying to impress wants to go for a walk? Asks you to take a swim? Asks you to grab a bite or a beer? You have to stay in that position until he's gone. And then he's...gone.
And you're screwed. Great tip, thanks.