Little Shop o' Horrors

And the trouble is, if you don’t risk anything, you risk even more.

— Erica Jong

One day I will be abel to do this!

The day started out with great promise. Early June, rainy, high in the 70’s – a lovely day to go to the mall. A bathing suit was first on my list.

It’s never been a challenge for me because I’ve always gone straight for the performance suits, as Speedo calls its lap swimming bathing suits.  I can usually walk right over to a rack and take something down that will work just fine.

This time, I felt that things were amiss. Two young women, perhaps in their 20’s, were carefully unfolding and hanging gauzy garments on velvet hangers. This is not my mother’s bathing suit store, I thought. Heck, it’s not even my bathing suit store!

Ever the optimist, I decided to give it a try. However, I probably got us off on the wrong foot by being too upfront.

“I am looking for a one-piece, I am a lap swimmer, I wear size 4 and I’m 66 years old.”

Perhaps I imagined it, but I think I heard a gasp from one of the sales clerks. I whipped my head in her direction as discreetly as my tight neck muscles could muster, but she was still unfolding and hanging, eyes downward. I wasn’t sure if it might be worse to be ignored or to be gasped at. Ah, the dilemma of being my age and shopping retail. The reactions are always suspect, rarely positive.

The young lady with the courage to look me in the eye said: “We only have vacation bathing suits.” Wait a minute, I thought. Don’t 66-year-old lap swimmers wear one-piece bathing suits on vacation? Ignoring what I am now sure was code for: “You really don’t belong here” I replied “That’s fine. As long as it’s one-piece, I’m sure I can swim laps in it.”

And, with those words, the challenge was on. She, with the false eyelashes, knee-high boots and butt that would fit into a cellophane wrapper, jumped off her perch behind the counter and began showing what she interpreted as my request.

After a sweep of the racks, I headed back to the fitting room with a dizzying array of one-piece bathing suits. As she handed them to me, the words: “Perhaps you’d be more comfortable in a swim dress or swim leggings” left her lips. Our eyes met, and I’m convinced she was mind-melding me into believing that I would never walk out of there with one of their “vacation” suits.

Success! Each of the five suits was the correct size. She knew her stuff. But the swim dress was designed for a butt that fits into a Havana cigar wrapper, not one that has lugged small children and large animals on leashes. My legs, which I’d so proudly congratulated as they carried me along a 13.1-mile half-marathon route, just didn’t do the Blanco bathing suit justice.

When I’d had my second son after 15 minutes of easy labor, my mother had said: “You were born to breed.” Well, that sentiment is the raison d'etre that a crisscross bathing suit just won’t work. The ripples across my back just aren’t sexy enough to showcase.

I must have been sighing or hyper-ventilating in the fitting room when my sales clerk came back and asked: “Are you doing alright in here?”

“Yes, I’m doing great” I replied. “I love all these suits, but I’m not going on vacation any time soon. Maybe next year.”

And, as I walked out of the store, I know I heard a gasp. This time, I didn’t even turn to check. Some things you just know when you’re 66 years old.



Hello, I’m Janet, career coach, writer, workshop leader.

I help women create their best lives through personal writing.