June 17, 2004

That Magic Age

I need your help. I need you to tell me when exactly I will reach The Magic Age of No Longer Giving a Rat's Ass What I Look Like in Swimwear. And don't tell me that no such age exists--I've been to the beaches, and I've seen what's out there, and I know that if any of those people cared about what they looked like, they would not be regaling me with their banana slings, spandex trusses, and not-a-thong-when-she-bought-it ensembles. Seriously.

I'm asking because it seems to me that The Magic Age (or TMAoNLGaRAWILLiS) must be a remarkably freeing experience. I could just let it all hang out, literally. Never purchase another new swimsuit regardless of changes in fashion or my girth. Hold my head high even as the string bikini top I got when I was 22 fails to do the same for my post-breastfeeding boobs. Tan myself into beef jerky and laugh when people mistake me for a mobile naugahyde sofa. Walk hand in hand with a hublet covered in back hair and sporting what might be a speedo under that copious gut. Ah, glorious freedom!

The interesting thing that I've noticed lately about The Magic Age is that it seems to be getting younger. It used to be that only septugenarians wandered around with the ease that comes from knowing that no one's looking at you anyway, so what the hell! Put on pasties and a big straw hat! But this year I see lots of high school and college-aged folk with a disregard for the retinas of their fellow beachcombers. Perhaps it's just the payoff from all those years of self-esteem boosting in school--you're fabulous even if you can't do anything useful and have the personality of roadkill--or perhaps the concept of a personal fashion sense has just escaped them utterly. Either way, in addition to the usual "don't care, don't have to" suspects, we have a parade of folks with no concept of what a bathing suit that actually fits looks like.

I blame Abercrombie and Fitch, which first proposed that the best way to sell clothing was through naked models. See, if you have no idea what the clothes are supposed to look like when they're ON YOUR BODY and everyone else is naked, then it's no stretch to assume that more is better in terms of skin-baring. And I need to tell you right now that no, that's not necessarily the case, particularly if you're not of the naked model body type. Here's a free tip: Ladies, if the back of your swimsuit is wider than one inch across, it is not meant to be a thong. I promise you that. And gentlemen, I don't care if you're Adonis himself, don't buy any swimwear that isn't baggy trunks. You're not going for the gold at Myrtle Beach, and cool ocean water tends to make things appear much, much smaller than you'd probably be comfortable with. Did I mention SMALLER? Yeah.

Sigh. Perhaps I'm just put out that I spend time trying to find flattering swimwear that fits and that won't traumatize small children, when obviously it no longer matters. Bring on the pasties and the big straw hat! I'm goin' for the gold this year!

Posted by Big Arm Woman at June 17, 2004 09:36 AM

If it makes you feel better, here in LA there's a cloting-optional monthly meeting of Overeaters Anon. I've been tempted to attend, just because.

Posted by: Kate at June 17, 2004 11:31 AM

It's not just swimwear. The younger generations have different (dare I say lower?) standards of presentability. While my students think that my matching earrings and necklace are "cute" ("Just like my grandmother!" one student told me, right before I ripped her limb from limb and tossed her body out my window, where the blood spattered on the street, just like Jezebel's demise), I marvel that they sport GLH (girl love-handles) and trousers hanging *all the way* off their punk asses.

I'm of two minds about it, though. The GLH issue, particularly, might be interpreted as striking a blow for feminism and perhaps a weakening of the ideal of scrawny perfection. At the same, you won't catch me with GLH! I'll stick to my matching jewelry (and my modest tank suit that Betty Grable would have been happy with).

Posted by: meg at June 17, 2004 02:41 PM

Self estem is great. I've got loads. But I know what my body looks like, also. Age and gravity get to everyone. I would love to wear a sexy suite [actually I do in the privacy of my friend's pool] but I know I would not be comfortable in public. Wish I could be like the people you talk about, but I know what I really look like and believe me, less is not more. We just need nicer one piece swim suites.

Posted by: Junebugg at June 18, 2004 01:45 PM

Move where there are no bodies of water. Then you never see a swimsuit except on very young neighbor children of indeterminate sex in their yards; and the only memory it brings up is of grass clippings adhering uncomfortably to your skin as a kid, in your own yard.

I imagine there are still places that swim-clad age-appropriate people go to pick up other sexes of people, but I don't know offhand where it is. Out of sight, in any case.

Posted by: Ron Hardin at June 18, 2004 01:52 PM

I love the GLHs and what they say about self-esteem and body image!

As usual, my own teenager is behind the times. Still insecure about her looks, despite all my supportive efforts - maybe I'm making things worse. She won't wear shorts because her legs are "ugly". They just look like legs to me. What do I know. (Well, she's pigeon-toed and knock-kneed, and her toes are weird. But who's perfect?)

Posted by: Laura at June 18, 2004 08:26 PM

Number one: no man over the age of 20 should wear anything but baggy swim trunks.

Numero two-o: no parents worth their salt should allow anyone under the age of 20 to wear anything but nice, baggy, American swim trunks.

These are rules that made this country what it is, not Speedos, for the love of all that is holy.

Numero three: all women look hotter than a $2 pistol in a bathing suit; 1, 2, or ten-piece. So please wear them, as often as you can. Please. The children won't even remember, so don't worry about them.

Posted by: Scott Chaffin at June 19, 2004 12:43 AM

"all women look hotter than a $2 pistol in a bathing suit; 1, 2, or ten-piece. So please wear them, as often as you can."

Thank you for that affirming statement.

A few years ago we found ourselves in Fort Lauderdale. I rejoiced to see fat old ladies wearing LOUD floral print tanks, with matching scarfs wrapped around their straw hats, wading in the surf. When I get old and fat, I hope I still feel like a girl.

Posted by: Laura at June 20, 2004 08:15 AM

I don't care what I look like (to other people anyway) in a swim suit, but out of consideration for these same other people my swim costume consists of a pair of bicycle shorts, a tank top, and a t-shirt over it. There are some things that weren't meant to be shared with the bulk of humanity. Also, it keeps the cost of sunscreen down.

Posted by: Andrea Harris at June 20, 2004 10:15 AM