Cincinnati Family Magazine

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February 3, 2023

Swim Suitable

It’s swimsuit season. Joy of joys. Hallelujah. I get to put on a swimsuit. I’d rather change the diaper of a toddler who just ate three ears of corn. I’d rather pull a splinter out of a screaming child’s toe while he kicks me with the good leg. I’d rather spend the afternoon with my sisters-in-law.

Well, perhaps there ARE worse things than putting on a swimsuit.

Let me set the record straight. I didn’t always dread this particular seasonal event. There was a day, in fact, when I looked forward to struttin’ my stuff poolside. Just me, my best friend Tamara and some iodine-laced baby oil.

Sadly, those days have gone the way of the Bee Gees and dark tans. In their places are SPF 50, the Brothers Gibb on oldies stations and a body that doesn’t cotton to anything less than something whipped up by Omar the Tent Maker.

“How did this happen?” I email Tamara as I chew on a Jimmy Dean sausage biscuit. “We were buff. We were beautiful.”

“We weren’t mothers.”

This could be true. Two big, honking babies via C-section, nursing each for a scandalously long period of time and the consumption of many, many Goldfish crackers have taken their toll. The flaw in that theory is that I know lots of skinny mothers. One of my closest friends has about nine percent body fat. She plays tennis and runs marathons, as well as circles around me. She’s got more energy than a leaky nuclear reactor. Just hearing what she can accomplish in a day makes me want to sit down and eat a Reese’s Cup.

It’s not that I’m threatened by my svelte friends; I just don’t want to be poolside with them. I don’t want to be poolside with anyone unless I can wear a muumuu. But then my daughter might drown and a muumuu would be cumbersome in the rescue efforts. So, with a sigh of resignation, I succumbed to swimsuit season and went searching for the impossible combination of Lycra and hope to wear this summer.

I found it in a “Woman’s Sizes” shop located strategically close to the ice cream parlor that will “cut in” extras like cookies or chocolate chips. I don’t know why I glanced furtively around before entering the store. It’s not like doubling yourself is a secret. “Oh, in case you hadn’t noticed my arms no longer hang perpendicular to my body, I’ve put on a little weight.”

My husband expressed concern that shopping in a plus sizes store would be “hard.” He’s amazingly evolved — for a man — and continues to love me for my mind (not to mention my child care, cleaning and errand-running capabilities). Still, I know he longs for the bust line that wasn’t at my navel and worried that I might find comfort in aforementioned ice cream parlor.

No need to fret. For the first time in 50 pounds, I could look at the “low end” of the rack and not find myself tumbling off the upper end, one size shy of what I wear, like the roadrunner unaware of the precipice he just passed. Ecstatic, I bought not one, but two swimsuits, as well as two cover-ups. I might need a little post-traumatic stress therapy for the dressing room experience, though. Someone needs to do something about that lighting.

I know beauty is only skin deep. I know I’m more interesting and well rounded than I was when disco was king. After all, I’ve experienced the miracle of birth and the unmatched fulfillment of mothering two kids. Still, it takes all the courage I can muster to don my black swimsuit with the “slender thighs” cut, lift my chin(s), waltz to the pool, belly up to the snack bar and order lunch. Of course I don’t want cheese on that burger. I’m watching my weight.

Tina Foster Caldwell is a freelance writer and mother of two. She resides in Nashville.

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