As my dog (whose name I would like to keep anonymous) yanked me out and into the morning’s welcoming rays, I began to plan the day. There were several items I needed to pick up at the mall – one item in particular…a swimsuit. While eloquently dodging piles of dog droppings and vision still a blur, I could sense the day was going to be a scorcher. It is April after all, and Florida; so, shorts it was. As I began to pine through my closet I was enlightened to find: I only own two pairs of shorts. The reason being that I had planned on buying more once I got into shape: It never happened. And it’s no mystery that I don’t like to show my legs. It’s also no secret that I’ve acquired what seems to be the markings of a mid-twenties overworked, and out of shape woman: cellulite. Instead of hiding behind the mask of self doubt (it’s very unbecoming) I embraced the idea that I might be overreacting. I’m a rebel; so, I put on my shorts and picked a cute pair of pumps to match. Adding a couple of inches can do wonderful things to short legs. I was so proud that I successfully nixed the notion to hide myself under jeans and a blousy top. I can do this, I thought.
Upon entering the mall, I made sure to walk tall and to remain confident. “Fake it till you make it!” And while I sashayed I could feel countless beady eyes sizing me up to super model status. Or were they looking at the tiny flecks of cavernous flesh climbing up the backs of my thigh as I threw one leg in front of the next? There was no doubt about it, I was having anxiety. I was suddenly having flashbacks to the loathsome period of adolescence. Many nights I dreamed of walking into school naked or getting on the bus without my pants on; the sheer terror was traumatic, even so I still have flashbacks. So, to save myself from any more exposure I walked into the nearest store (whose name I would like to keep anonymous). Seconds later and with the beat of Queen’s “Fat Bottom Girls” blaring through the speakers, I could feel my back hunch and beads of sweat blooming under my arms. I made sure to conveniently stand behind racks or pick up articles of clothing larger than my torso in order to cover whatever I could. I’ve never been one for theatrics, but there was without a doubt an involuntarily responding to the vocal ambitions of the late Freddy Mercury. Suddenly, the moment of enlightenment tapped me on the back.
As I made my way to the bikini section of the store I made sure to absorb exactly what it was I was about to do. I made mental notation of every wrinkle and fold of flesh in my mind. I wanted to be as conspicuous as possible and as modest as a woman of my shape should be. Then, almost instantly women started a queue behind me. It was obvious. We were all mortified; trying to finalize a selection with an ounce of dignity would prove to be a conquest that would become a bittersweet triumph. While delicately searching through rack after rack I managed to pick some coordinating suits that would work with what I’ve got. While scuffling through the latex and polyester blends of tiny washcloth sized fabrics it donned on me, one might have more luck winning the lotto than seeing a man rummaging through the swimsuit section mumbling about the flagrant selection of swim trunks. Or, a man vocalizing his disheartenment over the inability to find a pair of swim gear that makes his legs look slimmer. And at that moment I knew what to do. I immediately grabbed a risqué pair of bottoms, and the top to match. I stood there, gazing at the suit in all its glory: shimmer and shine. And with all eyes on me, I smiled, tucked the suit under my arm, and made my way to the dressing room.
* * *
I didn’t buy the suit. I wanted to do the right thing. It would have been easier to ponder about the isles with an armful of board shorts and tank tops. The point of this occasion was to show that it’s important to be proud. Even though I didn’t buy one, I know I gave those women next me a real sense of what the world should be like. I probably won’t need a swimsuit this year. And if by chance I do, I’m sure I’ll manage to wear something that highlights all the imperfections of this Earth Suit I’ve rented. So, the point of this memoir is to render the body; love it, or hate it. Make it into something great (even if there’s a little bit of altering).