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An error in two pieces

By JOE HEALEY jhealey@psdispatch.com

May 25, 2013

Summer’s almost here, and so begins my seasonal, catatonic walk through every bathing suit department this side of the Susquehanna. It’s my version of Groundhog Day: same thing every, single year.


But, this year, I lost a few ounces, and have been Pilate-sizing myself into a fitter imaginary image of myself, so I thought I’d try something truly scandalous: a two piece!


A few days ago, as I was leafing through the Lands End catalog, I said, aloud: (a mistake), “I think mama’s going to try a two piece bathing suit this summer!”


There was, of course, a suffocating blanket of silence. This is never a positive sign. I know where I stand with all the degenerates in this family when they extol their unasked opinions; but silence can be lethal.


“What?!” I squawked: “It’s not like I’m the size of an emu! I mean, I’m no Amy Winehouse, God knows, but I’m not monstrous, either!…Am I?”


Everyone stared.


Finally, my 18 year-old offered this proclamation: “Mom, I’m totally vetoing that idea. You are wayyyy too old. The over/under age for a two piece is, like, 40. And you haven’t seen that number in 10 years!”


I was astounded that 1. He actually had an opinion about anything I wore and 2. He thought he had veto power over anything I wore. Deluded child.


I was miffed and turned into a 3rd grader. “Well, too bad. I’m getting a two piece. I AM! SO THERE!”


He and his brother left the room among whispers of: “…insane! Old ladies should NEVER wear a two piece! She better not swim anywhere with me…So embarrassing…”


Ingrates.


I looked to my Pilates friends for affirmation. They assured me I can sport one, no problem! They encouraged the purchase, in fact! That’s all I needed to hear. (Although, en route to the mall, I did contemplate briefly that this would be the only answer they could offer. They certainly weren’t going to devastate me and tell me I couldn’t wear a two piece). Damn. Well, I’m pretending they meant it.


So, off I ventured, wandering between racks upon racks upon racks of bathing suits. It wasn’t fun, especially since I didn’t see many women under 25 flipping through the tiny hangers. See, the problem for me is multi-faceted: I have one boob, a C-section scar that rivals the San Andreas Fault and stretch marks that can be mistaken for a road map of Jim Thorpe.


It was a challenge. If a top sort-of fit, the bottoms resembled dental floss and a Band-Aid. If the bottoms fit, the top made my chest look like a lop-sided avocado. Some suits made me resemble a stuffed piñata, others hid nothing. And I mean nothing.


Finally, like a beacon in the night! I found the perfect suit. The top masqueraded my boobs well enough to pass as a matched set and the bottoms came up as high as they needed to without looking like my Gramma Jiunta’s big, old, tarp-like panties.


In this electronic, instant age, we don’t wait until we’re home to show everyone what we bought. No sir. We take a photo with our phone, send it to everyone we know and wait on the miniscule, corner bench of a very dirty and drafty dressing room for their response.


The opinions were varied. Anne, my boss/friend was positive. She encouraged me to go for it. But, she knows if she hurts my feelings she’ll have to medicate me in order to get any work out of me the following day. She is very smart.


I texted my daughter and pondered; “Does this look ridiculous on me?” Her stinging, effusive response? “YES!”


Sigh. Next, I tried my sister who chirped; “It’s not that it looks bad on you, per se, but the color is just awful.” That was her way of saying I looked like a watermelon.


I bought it anyway.


I tried it on immediately upon returning home and stupidly asked my son what he thought. He covered his mouth and I don’t know if he was laughing or masking the impending spewing of vomit. He shook his head sadly:”Oh Maria. I just think…uh…maybe a one-piece is a better look for you.” And he scurried away so I couldn’t hit him with the box of Bounce I aimed at his head.


Oh, he’s right. The lights in that dressing room were so dim; I purposely ignored the flaws that became glaringly magnified in my own mirror. Even my knees looked baggier once I got home. Some women of a certain age can wear a two piece bathing suit: Christie Brinkley, Madonna, even Cher…but not me. I can’t do it; I can’t pull the trigger on this look. It’s too…too…flagrant. So back it goes.


There’s an old movie called “The Enchanted Cottage”. In it, a couple, one homely, one disfigured, meet in a magical cottage and they become transformed, but only in each other’s eyes. They morph into beautiful specimens of human beings, or each other’s perception of themselves.


I need an enchanted cottage. I need dim lighting. I need, sadly, a sturdy one piece bathing suit with matching caftan and burka. I need my 20’s back. Otherwise, I’m an emu.