VIOLA -Buying a swimsuit in winter for a vacation in sunny Isla Mujeres is about as easy as picking out a previously owned car that doesn’t have any quirks, or finding a wand of mascara that doesn’t smudge, or deciphering what kind of face cream to purchase among the thousands smirking at you from the store shelves. I have a lot of experience with all these nuisances, but today my focus is on the horrors of winter swimwear buying.
Options for purchasing a swimsuit in winter are limited. Most stores have hidden them away to make space for wool sweaters and down-filled jackets. Your best bet is to locate a swimsuit online, but this creates issues—lots of issues.
The first challenge in buying a swimsuit online is sizing. I thought I had this figured out by getting my measurements taken before I even started googling “women’s swimsuits.”
I stood in my bra and underwear and bravely handed the tape measure to Dane, who seemed excited to help out. With considerable care and some coaching, Dane placed the tape at the fullest part of my chest and brought it around my back, making sure the tape was horizontal to the ground. “Fifty-two inches!” he exclaimed.
“No, no, no!” I screamed. Once we got the measuring tape turned around and untwisted, Dane started measuring again. I had a sheet of paper and a pencil ready and we recorded the basics: chest, waist, hips. Now I could start googling.
I thought my choices would be a one-piece or a bikini, making the selection simple. Wrong. There are now tankinis.
Tankinis consist of a top and a bottom purchased independently of each other. The top can be an underwire, bandeau, halter, V-neck, sports top, minimizer...but hey, don’t get me started. The bottoms include a mini, pleated, full, swing, or miracle skirt, as well as thong, high waist, boy shorts, Brazilian cut, or any number of other ways designers have designed to cover our bums.
You can spend weeks (I did) searching for the perfect swimsuit before you get close to clicking on Add to Cart. But first you’ll need to click on two other little words: Size Chart.
If your hair hadn’t turned gray before, it will now.
First I skimmed the chart and found my chest size. Next, I found my waist size—but it wasn’t paired with the chest size I’d already found. Lastly, I looked for the number I’d written down for my hips. At first I couldn’t find it on the chart, but alas, there it was, three whole sizes over from my chest.
After pulling out my gray hairs, I decided to add up my measurements, divide them by three, and look for that number in the waist category. Perfect! I chose that size and hit the Add to Cart button.
My search continued the next day, and the next. One day, the word Miracle kept leaping off the page. I felt I could use a miracle. I settled on a tankini with a blue patterned bandeau “miracle top” and blue high-cut, high-waist bottoms. Luckily the company had my size and I soon received an email confirmation.
I slept well that night and dreamed of running and splashing through the waves, looking like Halle Berry. A true miracle.
A week later, when I checked the mailbox, I squealed when I saw the package from the swimwear company inside. I grabbed it, rushed into the house, and headed into the bathroom where I clawed and tore the plastic wrap away with my bare hands and teeth. Then I stripped off my clothes, pulled out the new bottoms, and slipped into them easily—maybe a little too easily.
Next, I yanked the top out of its package and it nearly pulled my arm to the floor. Whoa...heavy, I thought. How can a swim top be so heavy? I hauled it up and wrestled it over my head, where it got stuck over one ear and my mouth, triggering a panic attack. I wiggled and wormed it down around my chest, and pulled its lower edge down to cover the bottoms. Then I looked in the mirror.
This was no miracle.
I learned that a miracle suit is basically armor camouflaged to look like fabric. Two flanks of stiff stuff-you-in material are sewn into the underbelly of the top. If you move, let alone swim, the cute blue patterned fabric creeps up, revealing the boa constrictor material that is sucking the life out of you.
“Awkward!” my brain cried. “Unflattering!” my heart screamed. I started to hyperventilate. It was a perfect storm: a combination of panic and my lungs being crushed by a miracle.
I tried backing the suit up over my head again but it stuck to me like superglue. Yanking and tugging at it, sweat dripping down my face, trying to pull it down over my hips, I assessed my situation: I was a grown woman, in my own bathroom, trapped in a miracle suit. Did I dare call 911?
Tomorrow I leave for vacation with my boring one-piece swimsuit tucked inside my luggage. My not-a-miracle suit is on its way back to the store. I’ve made peace with never looking like Halle Berry on the beach or anywhere else. A miracle swimsuit is a myth. Hasta la vista!