A fashionista, like a member of The Walking Dead, garishly rose and attempted to take everyone down with a bathing suit purchase.
I stated in a post last week, The Sudden Death Of A Fashionista, that my ego-driven, body self-conscious, cover-up the-blemishes-girl had expired. Regrettably, the fashionista was merely toying with me, cat to my mouse, lying in wait until I got stupid.
On the way to a lakeside vacation, I had a hellish realization. My trusty bathing suit, one that took hours of sweat and humiliation to purchase, had been left behind.
Uh-oh—this was stupid with a glop of delusional.
I hate when I’ve done that—state that I’m finished with something before the race has even been called.
This situation is a perfect example of how I have moved through the seemingly endless stages of enlightenment: think I’m done, know I’m done and then tell everyone that I’m done, ultimately discover how undone I actually am.
To compound the stupid, I had showed and told on the internet.
Personal growth is a lot like measuring the height of a child—stretch up, using the door jamb as a back boost until a pencil swipes against the paint and occasionally stand on tiptoes hoping that no one notices.
When I wrote about the death of my fashionista, I was using a step stool plus a knee up. The time of death of my fashionista had been erroneously called. The old girl still gasped and, unfortunately, she would get kicked to the curb in an outfit designed for an Oompa Loompa.
I have yet to meet a woman who thinks bathing suit shopping is anything other than a shame-fest under a bucket of ice water. In everyday clothing, we can overlook a bulge or two with avoidance, subterfuge and outright lying to ourselves.
But standing in front of a mirror trying on bathing suits is like tryouts for a nude revue in front of the hot body police. Regularly, we curse ourselves for not buying several of the same suit, which would enable us to go through the performance once every six years. Countless hours of the interim could be spent researching the best garment for our situation.
There are articles upon articles about the “appropriate” bathing suit style for body issues, as though a gawker is immune to the actual size of a bum when it is attired correctly.
I read a piece on Oprah.com called How Not To Look Fat In A Swimsuit. It lists plenty of “don’ts”—skimpy tankinis, splashy prints, and too-tight boy shorts, plus a tip to wear heels during a try-on session.
No offense to Oprah, but I don’t think pretending I’m Miss America would make bathing suit shopping any better. That’s subterfuge with a frosting of subterfuge and a heavy-handed dose of subterfuge sprinkles.
The Oprah list also leaves out a very important reminder: “Never Leave The Perfect Suit At Home,” because to do so requires an illusion-seeker to shop far, far away from their go-to stores.
Imagine the voracious verbal atonement I unleashed upon myself when I faced the frightening truth that I would need to purchase a swimsuit at the only store within a 100-mile radius—a Walmart.
I have never known swimsuit shopping to be a one hit wonder. The task, if done with the right obsessive need to conceal, has previously required several store options, online skill, patience, and enough enamel on my teeth for a good grind.
Dear God. I was destined to look like an over-done tiki bar. At least I could look the part while ordering a zombie cocktail for my non-dead fashionista.
This isn’t a slam on Walmart, known to carry a worthy assortment of camping equipment, anti-aging cream, cheaters, and diapers, even offering caskets for online purchase. (The latter may come in handy if that witch the fashionista ever actually croaks.)
As the only store available to me, it was actually the perfect place for a self-flagellating ego denier. The fact that I had preemptively outed myself on elephant journal is what dragged me through the front doors of the store kicking and screaming. It was readily apparent that Madam Fashionista wasn’t going down without a very public girl fight.
There wasn’t a real bathing suit on any rack in the Walmart. I know this because I hand searched for over an hour. The only workable outfit remotely close to my size (I use “remotely” very loosely), was a pair of purple running shorts with a baggy something-or-other for distraction and a non-matching sports bra. After struggling into the costume, I turned cautiously to stare at myself in the mirror.
I was skimpily attired in every one of Oprah’s don’ts.
The sight of me chubbing out of the ill-fitting combo took me to the depths of lone witness humiliation. (That’s the term for the silent scream when viewing oneself in a mirror as a fashionista gurgles until silent.)
Sighing with defeat, I gave the old girl last rites. There was nothing left to do but purchase my compilation suit for the funeral and wear, it if not proudly, at least somewhat resembling a woman who doesn’t care about the size of her doodads.
That afternoon I furtively looked up and down the empty lakeshore, oodling out of my coverings until the water reminded me what is relevant and what isn’t.
The great lake stretched beguilingly in calm splendor, with widening ripples motioning out from the center of nowhere, continually accepting everything as is.
My arms reluctantly let go of the crushing need to hide from the world. I waded into the water with my belly exposed for the first time since I was pregnant with my now 22-year-old twins. Eight months along, I remember rolling up my tee shirt beneath my ample bosom. The expanse of my flesh tumble-bumbled with the movement of the two life forms who were not yet known, but already beloved.
The sun kissed all three of us as we lolled in the lounge chair, not caring who saw or smirked or judged. My blooming body lay beneath the sky and the feeling was beyond freedom. It was an unmistakable awareness—of being simply as is.
Twenty-two years is a long time for a belly to stay tucked away from prying eyes.
Standing in front of the lake, again stripped bare, I waited for the experience to become traumatizing. When it didn’t, I laughed and played in the water with my family until sunset.
Fifty-five seems like old enough to stop believing in or requiring the high-heeled illusion. My fashionista has at last been declared dead and buried.
May we attend the mass funeral of our clothing illusion and long live whatever comes next.
Author: Deb Lecos
Image: Matthew Kane/Unsplash
Editor: Emily Bartran