Before you turn 30, swimsuit shopping can only have one of two possible effects:
1. Deep shame, self-flagellation and compulsive queso consumption.
2. Self-worship and quiet happy dances behind the dressing room curtain.
There is no in-between. Swimsuits divide the heart, joints and marrow, revealing your true essence. Kind of like the Bible. Have you ever notice “bikini” and “Bible” both start with B? Ponder that.
After the age of 30, after two kids, there is actually one more option:
3. Numbness. Resignation. A quiet shoring up of dignity.
That’s really the only option after 30, after two kids. The only option left at all.
I Was At Nordstrom.
Gordon had taken The Things into the torso of Northeast Mall to ride the carousel while I shopped. I was here to face my first swimsuit buying experience since Thing Two’s birth almost one year ago. The last suit I bought was a maternity suit, one that a small but resolute manatee might wear on one of her fat days.
I insisted on coming to Nordstrom because of their “great selection” but I began wondering what universe that might have been in. All of these suits were teensy with a lowercase “t”, and had various wooden beading hanging hither and yon as some sort of substitute for actual coverage.
I was about to give up and go parka shopping (in a dead, cold corner of my mind) when a young sales associate approached me. She had a name that felt like it should be perpetually flanked in quotation marks: “Berkeley.”
Hi, she says. I’m “Berkeley.”
Hi “Berkeley,” I say.
She showed me a selection of suits: here’s the new Betsey Johnson, she says. The bikini had a big bold blue-and-white gingham print with a white eyelet border and tricksy little bottoms.
I’m not sure I can pull of a two-piece, I say.
Why not? she asks gamely, like I was Heidi Klum just being a silly-billy.
I say lamely: After two babies, you know, the stretch marks. (Like this is some kind of code she should be able to comprehend, the shorthand for: flab, sag, cottage-cheesy skin, all-around unfit for daylight flotsam AND stretch marks.)
But I knew full well the closest “Berkeley” had ever come to a baby is seeing The Things rolling away in their stroller as they squawked like stolen macaws.
But she was insistent: All these moms come in here talking about their stretch marks, and I’m like, you couldn’t have more stretch marks than ME! I’m all, you can TOTALLY pull off a two-piece!
Darling, darling girl.
But there was something about “Berkeley’s” precious blond head and her sweet brown eyes and that sparkly thing around her neck and the smell of warm mall glass that awakened something deep inside: hope? Possibility? And with that I was, like, sold. I could totally rock a two-piece.
She ushered me thence to the Trina Turks, which were like bikinis the three Sleeping Beauty fairies would wear if they were not pleasantly plump or middle aged. So bright and whimsical.
Thanks to the all-pervasive influence of Kim Kardashian, I had the bravado to pick one up, “just to try on.” After all, this is a new era where generous rear ends are no longer banished from bikinidom. It’s a junk jubilee!
I’m a sucker for a great print and fine specimen of gold medallion. They were out of size 4s up top and 6s on bottom, so I ended up trying a 2 and an 8, which was just fine. This is how pear-shaped I am. It’s more of a ping-pong paddle shape, really.
“Berkeley” insisted the bottoms were a bit too big, which I was tempted to have her repeat over and over again like Rainman. (Bottomstoobig, bottomstoobig, bottomstoobig.)
In an attempt towards reason, I picked up a La Blanca one-piece with a ruffled top I hoped would help balance my top out with my bottom.
I will spare you the details, but suffice it to say I looked uncannily like an infant. Like a baby girl without breasts but with hefty amounts of thighs and abdomen stacked up towards an ironic ruffley bust line.
Back to Trina Turk.
I think you look precious, says “Berkeley,” when I put it on again.
You look cute, says Gordon.
But I’m feeling too exposed. Any swimsuit bottoms that have to be tied on at the sides seem dangerous.
I ended up buying the top and embarking on an afternoon-long quest for bottoms with “more coverage,” like my rear is a Middle East peacekeeping summit. Gordon suggested I look for some boy shorts, but I think he used that term because it’s the only one he knows besides “panties” and he wanted to show solidarity.
By the end of the day, I found a little hot pink skirt at Just Add Water.
So imagine these bottoms with the Trina Turk halter top (it matches, I promise) and you have caught a glimpse of my future self on the beach at Destin as I keep The Things from being borne away in the tide.
Now, if you’ll excuse me. I have some more dignity to recover. And queso to eat. And Bible to read.
For more from Julie, check out www.wetbehindtheearsblog.com.