Stuff I Write, Stuff I Like

Stuff I Like: Sir Mix a Lot, Bathing Suits at 72, Crushed Velvet Anything, and Love (of course)

In Uncategorized on April 11, 2013 at 7:57 pm

Just a few months before she died, my mother did something she hadn’t done in many years. She got into a bathing suit. It was a flowery one-piece with a tiny flounced skirt and a built-in push-up bra for beach cleavage.

My mother was 72 years old.

OldLadyBathingSuit

For decades, she’d sworn off beaches and bathing suits.

“Who in their right mind would want to look at this,” she’d say, and jiggle everything that jiggled.

“Imagine,” she’d say. “A bathing suit. At my age.”

But then our neighbors, three beautiful kids, asked her to join them in their backyard pool. That summer had been very hot. Our neighbors had been very persistent. My mother loved them very much.

“Come on, Bertie,” they’d said. “Just a little dip.”

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My mother also loved fun. She turned our neighbors down until she couldn’t turn them down any more. Then she drove her little red sports car to JCPenney, rooted through the sale rack, and came back with something she could manage.

“It’s sensible,” she said about the suit. “Nothing that leaves my ass hanging out.”

My mother was still a double-D, so the push-up bra was important, too.

“With a little boost, these make a good tray table,” my mother would say, and pretend to balance a glass of iced tea on her boobs.

***

Even at 72, my mother said and did things like that. She also still wore fake Ray Bans, could eat an entire pan of peanut butter fudge in one sitting, and had a collection of animated animals she’d pick up at dollar stores. One of her favorites was a duck dressed like a rapper, complete with bling and its own pair of Ray Bans.

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Flip a switch and the duck shook its tail feather to “I Like Big Butts” by Sir Mix a Lot.

“Catchy,” my mother said of that song.

***

My mother had, by all accounts, a blast that day in her very sensible suit, although there are no pictures to prove this.

“She told us she’d kill us if anyone came near her with a camera,” one of our neighbors said.

The suit was still hanging on a clothesline in the basement after my mother died. It was the subject of a lot of funeral-home conversation.

“Imagine,” people would say.

***

I do imagine.

I imagine being like my mother when I’m 72. I imagine being like her right now.

I still worry too much about things that don’t matter.

Bathing suit season, for instance.

At the mall earlier this week, the Beach Boys were playing on repeat. Macy’s smelled like coconut sweat. Everywhere I looked, there were preying-mantis mannequins lounging between racks of hot pink bikinis and day-glo orange tankinis, metallic mono-kinis and suits with names like Miracle and Magic and, simply, Control.

I think about that word, Control, and what it means to lose it.

Every year, my kids like to go to water parks. This year’s no different. The other day, I caught my daughter Googling Kalahari, America’s largest indoor water park and our family’s favorite.

“We’re riding the Zip Coaster together again this year, right Mom?” she said.

I love my kids more than I worry over my own dignity. I’m 49, and like my mother, I love fun. The Zip Coaster — half rollercoaster, half waterslide — rocks.  Nothing says family bonding like throwing ourselves off a man-made waterfall in a raft that looks like something out of “Land of the Lost.”

Still, the idea of a bathing suit makes me recoil. And this season, I’ve gained a few pounds and need a new one.

“Who in their right mind would want to look at this?” my mother said.

I try not to think about everything on me that jiggles. I try not to Google anti-cellulite cream. I make plans to hit the gym as soon as I can find my membership card, which is probably lost somewhere in my sock drawer. I think about self tanner a lot.

Jergen’s makes a good one and it’s cheap ($8).

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I’ve always been — um — curvy, back before Sir Mix a Lot and my mother’s animated duck liked big butts. I’ve dreaded bathing-suit season ever since I was 17 and my high school boyfriend convinced me I’d look great in a white bikini.

Maybe because my top curves never matched my bottom ones, I’ve never been comfortable in bathing suits period, let alone bikinis, but I went with him to the store, where he picked out a suit he thought was perfect.

This act is, of course,  its own kind of love, although a very young and misguided one.

When I got the suit home, I tried it on, not looking in the mirror. I walked out to model it. I tried to suck everything in. It is impossible to suck hips in, not to mention thighs, but flexing helps.

“So, what do you think?” I said, spinning like a rusted jewelry-box ballerina.

He paused for a minute, then said, “It looks weird. Like someone inflated your butt.”

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***

You’d think I’d be over worrying about how I look in a bathing suit. I’m not. It still feels scary and humiliating to be exposed like that. But the good thing about these waterparks is that they’re filled with other parents, many of them curvy like me, many of them marked with the cuts and bruises and sags that come with raising and loving small children, the fun that comes with that.

“We’re easy to spot,” my husband says.

Years ago, when I asked my mother why she gave in about the bathing suit, she said,  “Well, they asked me.” She said, “I didn’t want to miss out.” She said, “I figured it was time to get over myself.”

Yes, I think now. It is.

***

P.S.

O.k., so I found this sensible and beautiful suit over at Mod Cloth. It’s velvet, even. Imagine.

I may not be over myself just yet, but I’m working on it.

“Rome wasn’t burned in a day,” my mother, the master of the mixed metaphor, would say.

Small steps. Small steps.

bathing beauty

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