Your Swimsuit Shopping Survival Guide

11005140_367942900076426_1436330351_nI have seen evil, my friends, and it is the 3 way mirror.

Truly, an instrument of Satan designed to ravage and shred the self-esteem of any female over the age of 30.  I can see the devil having an “ah ha” moment one morning while polishing his horns.  “Yes,” he snarls, “The three way mirror will be one of my finest designs.  It will be purgatory on earth,  my new best friend forever.”

He calls for his minions and they take three mirrors and angle them so the human form could be captured front, side and back.  I’m okay with seeing the front. The side I was better with before my body decided to look like it was perennially 4 months pregnant. The back I’d like to never have to expose my corneas to again in my life.

In hell, I’m sure everyone has eyes in the back of their head. That way you’re forced to eternally view your backside 24/7.  Who looks better in the back than the front anyway?  The words back and rear both have negative connotations.  Who wants to go backwards or be at the rear of the line.  Not me, I’m all about the front until that insidious time of year rolls around – swimsuit shopping.

It’s not a task for the faint of heart.  I find swimsuit shopping the pinnacle of shame and an act of self-flagellation.  There you are – all of you – exposed.  Every bad choice you’ve made 364 days prior has laid claim to your thighs, belly,  butt and the bane of middle age – the dynamic duo of back fat and arm flab. (I can verify that, yes, your arms can have cellulite.) Every piece of Halloween candy you stole from your child’s bag, the numerous servings of pumpkin pie you hoarked down at Thanksgiving, the Krispy Kremes you inhaled in the privacy of your car, the workouts you missed or phoned in – they’ve all made their mark and the older you get the more they attack from the rear.

Yes, they’re vicious backstabbers. To make matter worse all your crimes against your own humanity are bathed in the freaky death glow of a retail clothing store’s florescent lights.

It takes courage to muster up the strength to try on those swimsuits.  But, like getting a mammogram once a year, it must be done.  As a mom you’re required to go swimming with your children. I even like swimming, a lot, as long as three-fourths of my body is covered by water at all times. I have three battle plans for swimsuit shopping.  1) Go into stores and try on swimsuits.  2) Go into stores pick out swimsuits and try on at home.  3) Purchase swimsuits on-line and then mail back suits tattooed with your tear stains.

By far, the most gutsy move is to try on the swimsuits at the store. You’re really putting yourself out there. You’re the Navy Seal of swimsuit shoppers. For this plan to be a success you have to move fast. I always like to do a little store recon before shopping begins in earnest.

The trick is you’re in and your out.  You don’t want a sales clerk helping you.  It’s mortifying to have a stranger assisting in your swimsuit selection and then knocking on the dressing room door asking “Is everything okay?”  Of course not “everything is okay.”  I’m naked and trying to squeeze my flab into a lycra swimsuit that looks like it’s an infant’s onsie. Oh and while I’m at it, thank you to both my kids for being addicted to one boob during breast-feeding so my chest is permanently lopsided.  (Just to get even at those two I should use their college fund for a breast re-do.)

Under no circumstances should you ever leave the safety of your dressing room (it’s your foxhole) to walk out and look at yourself in the even bigger three-way dressing room mirror. Trust me on this one – you will not survive that journey.  Once you have selected the least objectionable swimsuit, pay and then run to your car, lock the door, drive to a secluded area of the parking lot and sob.

Battle Plan two is for the inner wimp in all of us. The F Troop of shoppers.  You go into the store and if a sales clerk asks if you need assistance pretend you are selecting swimsuits for a friend.  I have even hit rock bottom and told a clerk I was picking out swimsuits for my mother. (I know the shame, the shame.)  Determine the maximum you can afford to put on your credit card, charge away and proceed to the sanctity of your bedroom for the try on.

I would recommend at this point bringing out the heavy artillery – any kind of alcohol.  For this plan to be a success do not allow your daughter into your bedroom or ask her opinion.  For I have found that daughters are like heat seeking missiles when it comes to your ego.  They always make a direct hit.  I would like to think that our precious daughters don’t intended to inflict pain, but they innocently speak the unfiltered truth.  As in, “I think that would look better on a younger Mommy” or “I’m not going to look like you when I get older am I?”  Ouch.

Battle Plan three on-line shopping calls for blitzkrieg of ordering.  Do not try on the swimsuits until they all arrive.  You don’t want to experience try-on fatigue and depression.  Follow same advice as Battle Plan two and pray.  Select a swimsuit that was the least horrifying and give yourself a pep talk, buy some self-tanner and tell yourself that bronzed legs really do make you look thinner.  Above all be realistic and know that swimsuit shopping comes with some degree of P.T.S.D. (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder).  You will be re-experiencing the original trauma(s) through flashbacks or nightmares. Sorry.

By purchasing a new swimsuit you have won the battle, but, alas, not the war. Shopping for the swimsuit was an air strike.  Now, you must wear the swimsuit in public.  That’s boots on the ground, hand to hand combat. Your best ammo will be a cover-up. It’s the I.E.D (improvised explosive device) of swim-wear.  The best being the full coverage sarong or the maxi dress.  Armed with one of these you can make it to the pool embarrassment free.  Sooner or later, you will have to de-sarong and get in the water.  Here is my time-tested strategy for the fastest way to conquer the water.

Pick the chair closest to a pool entry.  Who cares if your kids don’t want to sit there and forget sitting in the shade.  Pool proximity is vital. Now, grab a stack of beach towels and place them on your chair.  Right before you de-sarong get a kick board and my personal favorite a pool frisbee.  Walk to the edge of the pool, quickly de-sarong and throw it on your chair.  Now use the frisbee and kick board as fat camouflage.  With one hand take the kick-board and hold in your lower stomach and upper thigh region. With your other hand grab the frisbee and place in on your backside for full lower butt coverage. This distracts the eye from both your flab abs and cellulite dimpled lower body.  Now quickly jump in the water.

Do not ever slowly wade into a pool.  The slow wader is a dead man walking.  You might as well shout, “Cue the spotlight and magnifying mirror!”  If you don’t own a kick-board or frisbee I also recommend using your child at fat cammo.  Place your child in front of you.  Drape your arm over your child (almost like a sash) and then walk to the edge of pool and jump in. This works even better if you have two children.  Place one in back and one in front and hit the water as a trio. I call it the “happy family” move.

When it’s time to get out of the pool swim as close as you can to your chair.  Let your child get out first and have them walk to the side with one of the towels you left stacked on your chair.  You haul yourself out of the water while simultaneously grabbing the towel (yes, it does take some practice).  Then with your non-towel hand grab your cover up.

As well as this goes never let your guard down.  Always be on the look out for a sniper.  The sniper is the middle-aged mom who looks incredible in a swimsuit.  She’s constantly running covert surveillance checking out every other mom at the pool.  Her trademark: working a bikini that you haven’t had the guts to wear since college.  She’ll also most likely have a belly piercing, one tramp stamp, a tan, make-up and hair that’s never going to see chlorine . The bikini sniper should be approached with extreme caution and avoided it all possible. Her mission to take a kill shot at your self-esteem.

Above all brave warrior do not surrender.  Be strong.  You can survive summer in a swimsuit. Satan’s 3 way mirror and body image distress will not hold you hostage.  Your secret weapon, your B.F.F., is the waterpark.  Go and know that someone there will look much worse than you.  Find that person and sit by them.

*Attcover_1.3-2ention Snarky Friends, I have a brand new book out. It’s the second in the Snarky in the Suburbs series – Snarky in the Suburbs Trouble In Texas. You can buy it for your Kindle or in paperback on Amazon.  It’s also available for the Nook or you can get it for your Kobo reader. Click on a link and give it a test read.  I hope you like it! 🙂