Bathing Suit Torture. Part I

photo by genibee

photo by genibee

If there’s a downside to taking a trip to Barbados in April, for a week of repose on an idyllic beach, that thing would be the premature torture of bathing suit shopping.

Of course one could argue, why go bathing suit shopping? You’re going to a tiny island in the Caribbean, not the town pool. No one has seen last year’s bathing suit in Barbados. That was my rationale exactly until things took an ugly turn.

First of all, let me be clear, I have no problem wearing a vestige of the American cruise wear timeline, a garment three to five (possibly seven) years old. I’m a veritable human time capsule of swimwear’s good, bad and ugly. Which practically makes me a performance artist. Anyway, what’s the difference how old they are—as long as they fit—especially since they’re all black. In various leg cuts and strap configurations.

They each have very specific uses: the tasteful, slightly snazzy one for the pool, the one-piece goes to the water park (where it’s not uncommon on some rides, if one is wearing a two-piece, for the top to end up over your head and the bottom down around your knees−scaring young children−ok, everyone−within eyesight,) the swanky one I wear to our friends’ annual 4th of July party, the one that covers the most skin is worn with the in-laws, and the one that reveals the most skin is waiting for St. Barts (new with tags)(and by “new” I mean old).

In examining this summer-of-yore wardrobe, I noticed the tankini’s bottom had completely lost waistline elasticity. I pulled at it gently, but it didn’t pull back. Instead it kept expanding, while softly weeping. That terrible sound that an ancient, abused elastic makes when it’s had enough. A hushed whimper coming from your clothes is sad indeed. One that says, “I can’t take it anymore,” is the saddest of them all.

With a heavy heart I ceremoniously threw it into the trash knowing it must have taken months to find, a myriad of stores, umpteen try-ons.

It would have to be the one-piece to accompany me to the palm tree-bordered beaches of Barbados. It wasn’t my favorite but it would have to do. Until, that is, I noticed that by holding it up to the light of my bedroom window, I could see my neighbor walking her dog, through its threadbare seat. Good Lord. I closed my eyes and shook my head thinking how that must have appeared last summer at the pool.

All right. It was down to the 2-piece halter. Ugh. That one showed a little too much mid-section for my liking and was adorned with a gold thingy on each hip. I must have been desperate and delirious with exhaustion when I bought it. I hate metal trinkets on bathing suits. A third gold goo-goo was sewn at the cleavage. I’d need to try it on. Because of the flashy embellishments it was two summers ago that I wore it last. Better not leave anything to chance. Good news−bottom was fine. Bad news−the plastic hook that holds the straps together was snapped in half. Half a hook is not good. There was enough metal on that thing to send airport security into a frenzy, but the necessary element to hold the bathing suit together was made of plastic.

There were others in the drawer but I was too humiliated to look at them. Out of the corner of my eye, I thought I glimpsed a bikini. In turquoise? That was a long time ago, I reminisced, while unconsciously sucking in my stomach. Why had I kept it all these years? Like I’m really going to lose the ten (seventeen) pounds it would take to wear it? That thing is older than my daughter. The teenager. Do I really need to be taunted by the ghosts of summers past? I closed the drawer.

It would be unavoidable this year. I knew it was time.

What happens next is not for the faint of heart. If you have a weak heart, irregular heart rhythms, take heart meds, we should probably say goodbye here. Thank you for visiting. If not, and you think you can handle it, do come back for the rest of Bathing Suit Torture. Part II. Coming soon.

My Secret Hair Fantasy

photo by The Webhamster

photo by The Webhamster

I will let you in on a little secret. I sometimes fantasize that someday all human beings will be born bald. Okay, I know, a sizable percentage of humans are currently born bald. But I mean, stay bald. Like, never grow hair. An entire hairless human race. You might think a comment like that would come from someone living in eternal hair hell. Thankfully, I pretty much have okay hair. I have my fair share of bad hair days, but I also have a decent amount of good hair days to hang my hat on. And when those happen, I feel great.

That’s part of my problem with hair. Why do I need a good hair day to feel good about myself? That’s nuts. Hair? It’s an appendage for god sakes. My feet never make me feel any better or worse about myself. (Unless, of course, Lord and Taylor is having a huge shoe sale and my amply-sized feet won’t fit into any of them.) So why is hair so important? Of course there are all sorts of twists and turns of daily life which diminish or pad our happiness levels. Things we can control and things we can’t. So why let something as frivolous as hair impact our mood, our self-esteem, our confidence?

Apart from spending a fortune on hair – to curl or straighten it, dye it, perm it, style it, shine it, wax it, iron, extend, remove, highlight, process, tweeze, thread or weave it, etcetera, think of the hours spent on our hair. And sadly, most of the time after it’s “done,” we will likely say—we hate it.

Certain assumptions are made about people based on their hair. Don’t shake your head, you know it’s true. Sometimes these assumptions turn out to be not so wrong. But most of the time, it’s just another way we judge people.

Although at first glance this may seem like something of a girl problem, men are just as vulnerable in the hair department. Some guys have too much. Some guys have too little. When I was a teen, I knew a couple of guys whose egos took a beating from thick curly hair. In the 70’s there were few flattering options. Cut it short? Grow it long?

What about people who lose their hair after medical interventions? Do they really need to feel any additional hardships? Now they have to worry about how to deal with something as inconsequential as hair! Navigating the challenges of life is hard enough. I believe it would be much better for everyone to never have hair. Do we really need it? You live in Minnesota? Throw on a hat! You’re a Brooklyn Nets cheerleader? Work on choreography! You’re a hair stylist? Sorry.

Let’s admire people for reasons that matter. If we were all bald, it would be easier to look past the outside and regard people because they’re interesting, humorous, ambitious, inventive, kind, resourceful, dynamic, determined, talented, tenacious, inspiring, nurturing. Not because they have the perfect shiny bob.

Lead a man to directions, but don’t expect he’ll follow them.

photo by Caesararum

photo by Caesararum

The night of my son’s 14th birthday, he chose to have his celebration dinner at a restaurant in a town about 25 minutes from our house. Typically one would get there by taking the Garden State Parkway for about 10 minutes and exit onto a very busy 3 lane highway for the rest of the trip.

My husband agreed to this choice under one condition: we take the back roads. No parkways or highways. No shopping crowds or traffic lights. No Saturday night crazies. Back roads only.

“But the last time we tried that we got lost and you got irritated and dinner was, well, unpleasant,” I reminded.

“That was before the G.P.S.,” he said. “We’ve got the G.P.S. now. It’s gonna be different this time. Plus, I know these back roads. The G.P.S. will back me up.”

We climbed into the car with rumbling stomachs at about 6. Our reservation was for 6:30. I got behind the wheel as I usually do since I get car sick at the mere mention of a road trip. My husband quickly programmed the G.P.S., or Bev, as we refer to her, it.

Bev chimed in right away. But we really didn’t listen since we knew the way around our own town. My husband told me to drive to my daughter’s school and he would direct me from there.

Early on I had a hunch things would not go well when Bev and my husband spoke simultaneously. I found myself straining to hear what Bev said to see if she contradicted him.

“Don’t worry about her,” he said with a wave of his hand.

(Just a side note. If you were in our car, you’d think this funny, because the voice coming from our nav system is male, though we call her Bev. We actually switched the voice to a female voice for a while, which our G.P.S. allows us to do, but the directions she gave us were horrific. Like when she expected us to drive over train tracks or brought us to the edge of a pond. That’s when we switched the voice back to male and everything was fine. Good directions. It was clear that we got a nav system which identified female, though she’s a factory born male.)

Hubby said, “Just go to the end of this road. We need to go a little farther west before we head south.”

“You sure?”

“Yes, I’m sure.”

Bev did not agree. “Recalculating,” she quickly chimed.

But I stuck to this road, nonetheless, winding through a residential area, dark already yet it wasn’t very late. There were no street lights, no house lights.

The car rattled and bumped causing me to slow to a crawl as I navigated a street whose black top was raked in preparation for repaving.

“Jeez,” hubby said. “This street wasn’t like this on Monday. Alright, let’s get off this street, turn left.”

I turned left.

“Recalculating.” She was now annoyed.

“Take this to the end,” said my husband.

The end came fast and brought us to a dark, one lane stone-covered bridge. It didn’t look like a bonafide street or feel like one either, as I sensed the surface beneath the tires shift to what felt like dirt. There were no cars in sight.

“Should I go through or turn around?” I asked.

“Go through,” he said with certainty.

Bev was not happy with that choice.

“Bev says to go the other way.”

“It’s alright,” implored my husband, “Go through. And hurry. A truck’s coming this way and only one of you will fit.”

“Recalculating.” Bev disagreed. Vehemently.

God, I hate it when they don’t agree.

I shot through the bridge like a shucked pea and tried to keep the peace between those two, bobbing and weaving her “recalculating” and his “don’t listen to her.”

Then, curiously, we drove for a long stretch during which neither of them spoke a word. Odd, I thought. We must be really, really lost. Thank god the kids knew better than to tell us how hungry they were.

After what felt like a couple of miles, Bev’s voice severed the silence.

“Drive one mile. To destination. On left.”

We all cheered.

My husband took out his phone. “I told you I’d get us there.”

“Yes, you did.” I said, sneaking a peek at the dashboard clock. “Who are you calling?”

“The restaurant. Gotta make sure they didn’t give away our table.”

I Never Lie About My Age, Intentionally

photo by patries71

photo by patries71

Once, for a whole year I claimed to be older than I was. A doctor’s receptionist corrected me. My “birthdate” and “age” didn’t match up.

It’s not that I have a strict policy about not lying; it’s just that I don’t think one’s age represents all that much so I don’t get too hyperbolic about it.

To celebrate my friend’s 50th birthday (hers, not mine; I’m not fifty) we planned to see a Broadway show. We would try to get discounted “rush” tickets which are offered occasionally by a few theaters, originally for students who were presumably on a limited budget. More select, are theaters which offer “general rush” tickets, available to the general public the day of the show.

We met at the Golden Theater for Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike. The show would be closing soon and got rave reviews. My friend had arrived before me and attempted to buy tickets. Now she stood under the marquee, a look of defeat plastered on her face.

“They wouldn’t sell me the rush tickets,” she groaned. “I’m not under 35.”

“What?!?! Who ever heard of such a thing? Under 35?”

That’s a little random, no? A 34-year-old could get the cheap tickets but not a 39-year-old?

“It’s not general rush like we thought. It’s “youth rush,” she sniffled.

Youth rush?!?! What kind of ageist shenanigans were going on here?

I gave it a moment to sink in. Part of me was delighted to hear that someone in their 30’s was still considered a “youth.” We had a back-up plan in case the rush tickets were sold out, but they hadn’t sold out, had they? They were just not selling them to us.

I wasn’t leaving without a fight. (Not a real fight, I’m a bit of a chicken.)

I channeled my inner young person.

It took a little longer than expected.

Then a silent pep talk. I could pass for 35! After all it’s only a four year differential. I told my friend my plan. I was assertive. “We’re talking about four years for Pete’s sake, I’m not Betty White!” I thought this would cheer her up. I thought she’d get swept up in my enthusiasm, and my “no one’s gonna shut us out” spirit. She didn’t. Her brows knitted together and a look of deep concern washed over her.

What? What’s the problem?” I begged.

“It’s not just four years. You’re not 39,” she informed.

What? I did the math in my head. Dear Lord. She was right. I’m not 39. Not by a long shot. Holy cow, how long had it been, thinking I was 39? Jeez. That’s embarrassing. I quickly reviewed the film reel in my mind. When was the last time I told someone my age? Did they giggle?

Anyway, who cared. Time to move on and take action.

“Yes, you’re right,” I admitted. “I’m not 39. But I’m not leaving without those tickets.”

“You’re gonna lie?!?” She asked.

“No, I’m not going to lie. I’m simply going to point out that selling “youth rush” tickets is clearly biased and that the obsession with the youth of America is passé. And putting them on a pedestal has been frowned upon for years−I’ll show my frown lines to prove it!” I handed her my umbrella. “They’ll come around once they see it in those terms. You wait here.” I told her to stay put. Outside under the marquee.

I sauntered into the theater and up to the window. I asked, sweetly, for two rush tickets. The solemn lady behind the plexi-glass window looked at me stone-faced, with not a glimmer of kindness or even pity. She craned her neck forward to look at someone else. She said, “I told your friend already,” thrusting her chin at the person beside me, “they’re youth tickets. You have to be under thirty five.”

I looked to my right. I told her to wait outside!

I turned back to the staid lady with the frown. “Really!?!” I managed. The steam building inside me.

“And you need to show I.D. to prove it.” She added for good measure.

Oh really? I.D.! Bartend much! I yelled back at her inside my head. And another thing−you should try smiling once in a while; you might look less ancient yourself! I yelled that inside my head too.

We left the theater.

I don’t know what happened to the speech I planned. I couldn’t muster it. These people obviously missed the memo to stop over-indulging the youth. Disappointed, I looked at my friend and almost wished we were 35 again. But then I grabbed ahold of myself. Everything would be different if we were 35. I wasn’t so sure I wanted that. For one thing, my friend and I wouldn’t have even known each other−we hadn’t met until we were both older than that−and she was the best friend anyone could ever have.

There was one thing I was certain of. There was no way I’d trade in her friendship to be 35 again, not in a million years.

Mostly because, in a million years I’d be turning 50, and I’m definitely gonna need her for that.

P.S. The show was amazing!

I told you I wasn’t leaving without those tickets.