Sunday, April 03, 2005

Swimsuit Blues

While icy weather descended over the South recently, another cold reality seeped deep into my bones, making me shiver with dread. As I marked off each day on my new calendar, I began to notice how quickly we are marching toward Spring and a time that strikes fear in the heart of most women. Swimsuit season!

Now you know why Janet Leigh was really screaming in that shower scene. She only had a few months to get back in shape before hitting the beach.

In my case, it is time to pay penance for the quality control taste testing of my homemade Christmas candies last year. During the holidays I felt my waistband constrict ever more tightly with each Martha Washington crème, Peanut Butter ball, Rum ball, Almond Joy, and Bailey’s Irish Crème fudge that sneaked its way into my mouth. When I came close to sugar overdose, I switched to test my spicy toasted pecans, champagne pecans, and cinnamon sugar pecans. Nothing but the best in quality control for my kitchen.

The situation wasn’t helped when one friend forbade me to lead her down the path of temptation with my scrumptious, but calorie-laden goodies. Consequently, each night I would slowly drift toward her solitary Christmas tin left sitting on the kitchen counter. It beckoned me like a lost ship to a lighthouse.

As I struggled for will power, night after night, the ending was never rewritten. My fingers became Pandora’s as they plied open the lid of that tin. As the smell of sweet dark chocolate escaped and surrounded me, I was hopelessly lost to my own private addiction. A Lo Mein noodle showed more spine than I did in those moments.

The day of reckoning arrived when I finally picked up my holiday photos at Wal-Mart. It was a true come-to-Jesus-wake-up-call. I thumbed through the prints and saw jowls forming on my chipmunk cheeks, noting the classic "I’ll hide my midriff bulge with folded arms" pose. As if on cue, I heard the Eagles break into their classic song on the radio, "You can’t hide your widening thighs and your coat’s a thin disguise."

It was time to lock myself in the bathroom and force myself to step on the scales. It should also be the time to pull out the measuring tape, but a girl can only take so much punishment. It was humiliating enough trying on a couple of my summer dresses last week and have to admit it would take Scarlett O’Hara’s mammy pulling corset strings to squeeze me into them.
I have even forgone lingerie for thermal underwear at night lately. While I told myself it was the frigid temperature, in truth it was the fear of looking like rising bread dough wrapped in twine that dissuaded me.

So here we are, a home-run slide past the first day of Spring, and in the corner of my closet I see three one-piece swimsuits cowering behind the sweaters. The first is black, the second is black, and the third is navy blue. "It’s okay," I commiserated with them as I hitched my slacks to get a bit more breathing room, "I scare myself too."

Let me confess that my ideal swimsuit would be a flesh colored wet suit, superimposed with one of those knock-out bodies shown in the Islander’s Beach Babe of the Week feature. Only maybe not showing quite so much flesh, if you get my drift.

Aeronautical engineers, privy to space age technology, should be helping us out of this swimsuit dilemma. Surely they know how to shore up the sagging, suck in the pooching, round out the ridges, and smooth out the bumps and bulges. Instead, we are offered designs that highlight our weaknesses in neon colors. Some swimsuits plunge so low or ride so high that the only way to keep private things private would be a healthy portion of toupee tape.
Our salvation from the discomfiture of swimsuits is the Pareo, that beautiful Tahitian cover up. The irritating part is that I can never get it tied around myself to look like it does in the drawings that come attached. Then again, maybe that’s why they show the styles via drawings instead of on models. Perhaps the models couldn’t get them tied properly either.

Generally, any attempt on my part to look sophisticated fails and I resort to simply tying the Pareo around my neck like a saronged island girl, letting it flow gracefully around my ankles. Be warned, however, that this may cause a graceless, Chevy Chase type pratfall if a sudden wind shift whips a yard or more of material in and around your thighs. It certainly inhibits any attempt to stride confidently around the pool. But, by doggies, you will be covered on your way down.

Ah, but when I stretch out on a chaise lounge with my Pareo, how lovely. Whether silk or polyester, fringed or plain, animal print or matched to the color of a Caribbean sunset, I know my flaws can be covered and I can let it all out hang out underneath.

I’ve promised myself to call Bodies Under Construction next week and start my workouts again. The comforting thing is that although I can’t fit into last year’s cute little gym suit, I’ll be camouflaged like dozens of other ladies just like me in their own cover-ups or over-sized tee shirts and sweatpants, waiting in line for the treadmill.

I wonder if that Pareo would work?

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