Not much fabric, but a lot of grief

Sunday, May 23, 2004 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 11:09 a.m. CDT, Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Note to readers: I’m resurrecting another old column, again with additional comments.

I just returned from my annual swimsuit quest. I normally love to shop, but this is one instance where the whole procedure is very painful. A one-piece bathing suit is nothing more than a colorful girdle. And those of us who wore girdles in the ’60s know that they don’t hold in the fat, they just squish the flab so it looks for the nearest opening to fan out. And with the latest styles, there is plenty of room for redistribution.

Keeping this basic premise in mind, there are several rules I follow before beginning my search. I never eat before I venture out. And if possible I take a diuretic the night before. I make sure my hair is perfectly styled and my makeup meticulously applied. At least I can look good down to my shoulders. I used to wear support hose when trying on swimsuits so my legs wouldn’t jiggle, but I soon realized that I was in denial. I tried applying “instant” tanning creams, but not only did the creams streak and glob, I haven’t found a product that hides my navy blue spider veins or wormy varicosities.

At my age, I’ve become a realist. Short of wearing a skin-diving suit, I’m not going to find anything that will cover all my faults. So I have to assess my body. I grade each area from a high of five to a low of minus five.

I’ve been told that I have pretty eyes (that’s what you tell a fat girl when you have to compliment something!). But that’s one feature that doesn’t figure in this assessment. My arms have always been a sore spot with me. They look like two giant sausages — a definite minus. The sad thing is I have always hated them even when they were half the size they are now. Historically, Italian women have had big arms, but I kept waiting for my German half to kick in. Anyway, arms are a moot point because since the 1920s all swimsuits are sleeveless.

I once had a bikini WAY back when I was in my 20s. I never had the courage to wear it in public, but I would put it on and sneak out to my fenced back yard to tan in private. Some fool told me that if I tanned my stretch marks they wouldn’t be so visible. So one day, soon after my third child was born, I donned my red, white and blue bikini and laid out in the yard while my children napped. After an hour I was bright red, but my belly was laced with welts. Then it hit me. Stretch means that the skin has thinned and therefore the sun could do damage faster than other areas. It took a month to heal.

The latest style on the market is a tankini — a combination of tank top and bikini bottom. The problem with this suit is if you have even a teeny tiny (and Lord knows, I’m way past tiny) roll of fat, it becomes wedged between the two pieces of fabric and sticks out like a hot dog on a bun.

I’ve tried the standard racing suit, although I can barely swim one pool length. This suit fastens at the neck and has little cutouts in the back — the perfect place for the aforementioned fat to escape.

I no longer have a waist (I just know it’s supposed to be about 2 inches above my naval), so I certainly don’t want a suit that comes with a belt.

My hips and thigh are similar to my neck and shoulders — one continuum stretch of flesh — so I don’t choose a suit with high-cut legs.

I’ve tried the skirted suit. Ironically, the only body type well-suited for this style is a ballerina. However, most women lithe enough to wear it wouldn’t be caught dead in one. So most of these suits are purchased by naïve, overweight women who think they are concealing their thick thighs. Instead the little skirt is screaming, “I bet you can’t guess what I’m hiding.”

A few years ago designers created the “miracle” suit. For years now, I’ve been expecting a miracle every time I go swimsuit shopping. So I gave it a shot. Each of these suits comes with a tag that tells which problem area will be resolved. The two major categories are minimizer and maximizer. When I was younger and needed a maximizer, the only style available was one with pre-formed cups. I looked great standing up, but when I laid on my back gravity took over and I was left with mostly depleted yet still rigid peaks.

Today I’ve maximized everything on my own. And I say if it will hide, then I’ll buy it! Sadly, most years I come home toting a basic black minimizer. One year I became empowered and tried on a suit with tiny daisies all over the fabric. However, once I stretched the material to its full capacity, the daisies became sunflowers.

I’ve decided that since I’m passed 50, it’s time to stop obsessing about what I wear to the pool. Nobody’s looking.

If you have a comment or know where I can get a great looking cover up, please e-mail me at

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