My objective was to make this bathing suit shopping experience as painless as possible. The environment would be key. I needed a store that was calm with wide open aisles, soft music, helpful salespeople. Crawling under a disheveled clothes rack, searching for the elusive bottom to the perfect top, while wrenching it from the clutches of a woman who believed it was hers, would not work. Been there, done that.
So at 9:05 Monday morning I coaxed myself through the doors of Lord & Taylor.
There wasn’t a soul in the swimwear department. I glided around the circular racks like a carefree guppy until I could see virtually every one. It was so civilized. Scanning my options, I unconsciously let out a sigh–I started to feel lighter, optimistic. I could do this.
The right bottom was important. Not too Betty White, not too Kardashian. I found one in a good shade of black. I felt around for the tag to see the size and saw instead the price, $98. I gulped. Immediately I rationalized that although it was more than I wanted to spend it would be worth it if it fit well, looked good, and had me be back in the car with my ego intact. Was that too much to ask for?
I glanced over at the matching top, took it off the rack and twirled it around to see the back. As I spun the hanger, a tag flew under my nose that read $198. How could that be? The price tag on the bottoms said… No way! Oh my gosh. I froze. They couldn’t be suggesting…
Yes, they wanted $98 for the bottom and $198 for the top. Assuming you’d need both, it would set you back $296. The last time I bought a bathing suit, you got the top with the bottom for one price. Gotta love the 90’s.
Before you could say “are you out of your freakin’ mind?” I was back in the car driving to the nearest Marshall’s, using the energy from my anger and hostility to fuel my focus. I gave myself a mini pep talk in the car. Don’t make this complicated. Just saddle up to the nearest cluttered, over-stuffed rack and start pulling.
But unlike Lord & Taylor, these bathing suits would be organized (disorganized) by size, not style. So what size was I? I really had no idea. I held up a 4, 6, 8, 10, 12 and 14. They all looked the same. So I grabbed them all. A combination of two-pieces and one-pieces and one that looked like a two piece but was really a one piece. Something strange was happening, somewhere in the middle of this haphazard plucking, I got rather bold. I pulled patterns and colors, bathing suits with zippers and buckles, one that had more than two straps with something attached that looked like a shawl, or was it a turtleneck? I didn't know. But I was going for it. And it felt good. It was time to step into 2000, I mean 2012! Geez, where had the time gone?
I decided to try the size 14 first−start large and work my way smaller, no?
I climbed into the leg holes and proceeded to snake myself into the rest of it. It did not go swimmingly. It was unclear which open spaces were arm-holes and which was the head cavity. I twisted at the waist and looked in the mirror to see what was going on in back. There was nothing back there. The remainder of the bathing suit was connected to one hip. I assumed the rest had to sweep across my body and perhaps be held up by one shoulder strap. But there were several stretchy synthetic appendages, so I yanked at them to find the longest into which I stuck my arm. However, it didn’t make it past my armpit. I curled my shoulders toward each other and hunched over while twisting from my waist toward the left−and yanked again, getting it only slighter higher up my bicep. It didn’t seem right. The strap was digging into my flesh. There were still other pieces of fabric hanging from my hip. What to do with them? This thing needed an owners manual. The strap had to be moved. It was quickly turning the lower half of my arm a concerning shade of red and now I was getting pins and needles in my hand. My body was still hunched with limbs braided. But moving the strap in either direction, up or down, would necessitate some form of contortion. I bent my knees, (useless) tipped my head down toward my stomach while twisting my left shoulder across my chest and tugged at the strap. Then something terrible happened.
Since I have never been in this position, and more importantly, humans were not designed for this position−I threw my back out. Snap. I was frozen in excruciating pain. It knocked the breath out of me. I was a twisted wire hanger with two unbound protuberances. The strap on my arm still cut deep into my skin, my lower back felt like it was bludgeoned with a garden tool, I was for all intents and purposes naked, and now, fearfully immobile. A breathy “help!” was all I could manage. Anything more aggressive would have ruptured an organ. I heard someone walk by. “Hello! Help! You, please!” I cried through the dirty louver door. I nudged the door lever with my good elbow and the door popped open. The look on the woman’s face was disconcerting. Sometimes I still see that look in nightmares. She turned away and shielded her eyes. She said something in a language I wasn’t familiar with. “Please help me get this off, please! I can’t move!” She stepped toward me and I yelled at her, “no, don’t touch me, get a scissor−you have to cut it!” Of course this was mortifying. But it was all I could do.
A moment later she returned with a group. I was now, officially, a side show. One of them had a scissor. The moment she snipped the strap off my arm I felt the tears stream down my cheeks. The relief was extraordinary. One lady yelled for someone to get me a robe. They asked if I wanted them to call the paramedics.
All I really wanted was a bathing suit that fit well, looked good, and had me back in the car with my ego intact. I guess that was too much to ask for.
*Has a dressing room experience ever left you in traction? Let us have it!