This past weekend I was with some friends in Davis again where the temperatures were climbing to the 80s for the weekend. The Sacramento Area doesn’t really get a spring—the weather jumps straight to summer sunshine. I hadn’t packed a bathing suit since I’m not yet in the mindset for summer but a friend suggested we go spend time by the pool. I explained I didn’t have a suit and this friend suggested we just drop by target and buy me one.
I feel the need to point out this friend was a guy.
I then tried to explain, without success, the sheer horror of bathing suit shopping with women. While a man may experience the luxury of simple picking out a pattern he likes in one of three sizing options (board shorts, traditional boxer or speedo) the process is far more complicated for a female. For me it usually takes hours and devolves into a tantrum of self-loathing and tears before I find something, if anything, that works for me. I was told to put on big girl panties and held back a diatribe about the agony of underwear shopping as well.
Admittedly the worst experiences in my mind are from when I was 16; the age when women are at the crux of hormonal body dysmorphia. I don’t think I’ve had quite the equivalent meltdown since, but why take the risk on a perfectly lovely afternoon? For a time I wore board shorts and surfing tops since I was boarding and swimming in the ocean more often than a pool and that helped deal with the OMGIHATEMYBREASTS syndrome. Plus I’m so damn nearsighted at this point that swimming means removing contacts and rendering me legally blind so I really just don’t bother.
This process probably isn’t as painful for all women as it is for me and presumably quite more painful for others than I will ever know. Still one thing has been made clear from actual studies on the psychological impact of swimsuit shopping (no really they exist) and that is: IT SUCKS. Really, they’ve done studies. Body image with women is such a troubling thing. Some girls bypass this pain completely by wearing t-shirts and shorts into the pool. Others avoid the water completely. The whole ordeal is a combination of bathing suits sold at ridiculous markup for women, flawed designs and the obligatory reference here to societal pressures of how women should look blah blah blah. The reality is that bathing suits do nothing to hide, flatter or fit for a price tag that’s at all reasonable. I’ve tried on some super high end suits and found that I’m able to at least tolerate them on my body. From my 23 years doing this I’ve learned a few things about swimsuit shopping with women:
1. Buying a suit that fits anyone but a size 0 WILL cost you $$$. The problem is that most of the cheaper ones aren’t cut well despite ridiculous markup compared to what you’d find in the boys section of the store. Plus anything in a two piece (because one piece suits are remarkably annoying at times) is usually sold as a pair. I defy you to find statistical proof that most women can fit into these bundled sizes. So few of us are the same generic “large” for the top and bottom which means buying TWO suits or separates—and often for a triple digit price tag.
2. Flat chested girls do have it easier. Maybe not in all walks of life or with all cuts of cloth, but I can promise you that while the top and bottom might still not align well for a fit, flat girls don’t have to worry about support. Support in a bra is hard enough to find for women with large tracts of land. Support in a swimsuit is even more challenging. You are limited to underwire that looks like your breasts are bending it in half or halter tops that dig into your neck over the course of several hours. You need to be sure that you are contained, covered and circumventing at potential prison break or horrifying nipple slip. The last bit probably applies to flat girls too struggling to keep their tops on so unity through nipples ladies! Also can someone explain to me why designers perpetually put PADDING in tops for large chested women? WHY FOR THE LOVE OF GOD?
3. Cute suits only exist in tiny sizes. More or less explains itself. The bigger you get the blander and more generic your extremely expensive options are. Red, Black or White and only in one shape that may, or may not, make you want to seek and destroy all nautical themed goods for the rest of your life.
4. Magazine Covers are unfair. There is no photoshop in real life and we rarely walk around the pool on tip toes or in heels like these ladies do. That kind of tilt really changes how the ass and legs look and even the most athletically fit woman can’t replicate that in flat feet. Those images are EVERYWHERE, even on the magazines selling us swimsuits that inspire such self-loathing. We then shell out money to buy those suits because we want so badly to look as easy going and effortless as these ridiculously involved constructs appear to be.
5. It makes sense that women hate this. Of course we are going to overly self-objectify when this is the only socially acceptable time to display body parts we are taught to hide. These are clothes that borderline on what is considered shameful or inappropriate nudity, parts we rarely expose and that are hyper-sexualized making them intensely personal. OF course it’s going to drive us nuts. It doesn’t help that shitty designs and glossy photos of chimeras make us feel even worse.
I’m not going to end this with some rant about how we need to learn to love ourselves more. It’s not like our society is going to change overnight and regardless of magazine photos, I’m always going to be hypercritical of myself in every way–not just my appearance. In short most women are: lumpy, oddly shaped and going to hyperventilate at the very thought of entering a fitting room to try on bathing suits but there is a bright side. According to this study it turns out we feel FAR more self-conscious about these blasted suits when we’re trying them on than when we’re actually running around wearing them. Do yourself a favor and stop focusing so much on how they look and rather if they feel like they fit and then get the hell out of that 3by3 foot room of horrors without a second glance in the fun-house mirror. Kind of like how these muffins taste and contain tons of delicious goodness once you get past the lumpy orange appearance, so too will your summer once you get past the bathing suit “rite of passage”. At least that’s the theory.
Carrot Spice Muffins
from Baking: From My Home to Yours by Dorie Greenspan Read more