- Does it fit?
- Do I like the color and pattern?
- Does it suit my needs? Lap swimming? Surfing? Hanging with my buds?
- Do I want to show off my junk or hide it?
I'm a girl and bathing suits and I have a long and sordid history together.
One of my earliest memories is paddling in the kiddie pool with my sister and mother in one of the many public swimming pools in England. Back then things were simple. Did I like the color and pattern of the suit? Yes. Poof new bathing suit.
This lasted for many years. Paddling with my mom and sis when I was really little. Swimming lessons with my dad in the hotel pool on Cape Cod just after we emigrated to the US. Swimming lessons from the lifeguard in the tidal river down the street from my house. All was well until one day, I was diving off the docks into the tidal river with my friends. I was in a two piece suit and dove in headfirst. The bottom half of my suit came off my bum. Luckily it got stuck around my ankles and I was able to pull it back up before anyone could see me. I was mortified. That was the last time I ever wore a two piece suit.
My favorite suit back in those days was a fuzzy orange one. I liked it because it was a one piece and because the fuzz kept me warm so I could stay in the water longer before needing to come out and sit in the sun to warm myself up. I LOVED being in the water. My sister and I spent every single summer day in and around the water. If it wasn't at the local beach with family or friends, it was in the local motel pool where my mum worked as a chamber maid. She said we swam like fish. We spent as much time underwater as above.
Suits were fairly easy to shop for back then. I was a standard size. They didn't have all the fancy cuts and patterns yet. You picked one piece or two piece and a color you liked. There really wasn't much variety. It became a ritual. Each year sometime in the spring my sister, mother and I went bathing suit shopping. We would each find a suit that would be worn that year. It was a thing.
I went off to college and took real swimming lessons from a real swimming coach and I learned all the details of proper lap swimming. All four years I swam laps in the pool at college and if I were home I swam laps in the ocean. I don't remember much bathing suit angst back then. I always got a once piece that was practical for lap swimming. I usually went suit shopping with either my sister or mother or both. I rarely went by myself. It is a girl thing. You have to have someone with you in the fitting room to let you know which suit looks best on you.
As I got older and fatter things started to get weird. Each time I moved I sought out a gym that had a pool so I could continue swimming even if I didn't have access to the ocean. I love being in the water and I found lap swimming to be very relaxing. But now that I was older and out of school I was working in offices or labs at a desk all day. I got bigger and bigger and eventually I got too big for the regular size suits. I had to go to the plus size department. The suits had gotten fancy by this point; wraps, plunging necklines, various cutouts. To boot, plus size swim suits were really for sunbathing or paddling not hard core lap swimming. Suit makers seemed to think that plus size gals didn't exercise hard. Every year was a struggle to find a suit that fit, that I looked good in and that would work for lap swimming. I would be standing in the fitting room flailing my arms around to see if my boobs would stay in the suit. And I no longer shopped with my sister or mom since I had moved away in order to get work. I was on my own in plus sized hell.
Slowly I went from colored, patterned suits to plain black. As I got bigger I was trying to hide my body. At some point I had become embarrassed by it. By my size and my tubbiness. I store my fat around my middle so I look very rotund. I joined water aerobics and got very good at it. I added in weight training and land aerobics and lost quite a bit of weight. For one glorious year I got to wear a blue suit with a pattern on it.
During my pregnancy, I loved being in the pool. In my last trimester it was a relief to get in the water. I no longer felt pregnant as the water buoyed my very large tummy up and took the weight of the baby off my spine. I could stand up straight. Other people in the aerobics class would tell me that they didn't know I was pregnant until I got out of the water. I also loved the maternity bathing suits. I could wear colors and patterns again since I wasn't embarrassed about my chubby tummy anymore.
After my son was born, I had to take a hiatus from the gym. I didn't have time to work full time, take care of a newborn and also go to the gym. I got very fat pretty quickly. Eventually, several years later I found a gym with a pool and started swimming again but it was back to the plain black plus size swim wear. I moved a lot back then. When I had time and money I would join a gym and start either lap swimming or water aerobics or both. However, it was sporadic. I had to find a sitter since hubs didn't work regular hours. My body was huge and my boobs were enormous. Suit shopping had become almost impossible. It also wasn't much fun doing it by myself. I missed my mom and sister. Then I found H2O Wear. My water aerobics instructor wore their suits and highly recommended them. I loved their suits. Plain, practical and fit pretty well. Now instead of the spring ritual of raiding the racks of swim suits at the local mall I mail ordered one from H2O. While this didn't reduce body embarrassment, it greatly reduced suit shopping angst. A small but appreciated improvement.
I was lucky enough that when I bought my house it happened to have a pool in the backyard. Hubs didn't want anything to do with it, so all pool maintenance fell to me. I learned how to take care of the water chemistry, how to vacuum the pool, how to backflush the pump. I was so happy we had the pool. I took very good care of it and swam in it almost daily during the summer months for ten years. I even did water aerobics in it. One of the great joys about having a pool in your own backyard is that you can go skinny dipping at night. I LOVE swimming nude. I would turn out all the lights in the house so no one could see me in the pool. Hubs would hold the towel for me when I climbed out so the neighbors couldn't see a thing. During the day I was in a plain practical black suit. Plus sized of course. No more angst since no one could see me just the little old lady in the upstairs apartment next door. She used to trot out onto her deck and watch us swim. Sigh. I couldn't grow a hedge tall enough to block her view but swimming at night was my absolute favorite.
Then I came down with CFS. The first summer I managed to take care of the pool chemistry but couldn't always vacuum it. I would get in and putter around. I couldn't really swim because I would crash for the next several days. I remember one day specifically. I did the stretches I was taught in water physical therapy I had a few years before. I felt fine so I vacuumed the whole pool afterwards. The next day I came down with the "flu": shakes, fever, hit by a bus, etc. I didn't know about PEM yet and didn't realize that I couldn't do a lot of exercise. I told my doc and he thought I was nuts. The following year I could no longer control my body temp and if I could manage to get into the pool I would be frozen within minutes and be forced out of the water shivering. I had gained weight so I was swimming in a very stretchy swim skirt that I had been using for figure skating and an old oversized tshirt. The following year we didn't even bother opening the pool. I packed away my bathing suits with the clothes that no longer fit me. I didn't bother even looking at new ones.
This will be my fourth summer with CFS. I keep looking at bathing suits in the catalogs that come in the mail. I want to buy one. I really REALLY want to buy one. But what is the use? We won't be opening the pool. I can't take care of it and my kid doesn't want to. I'm a 3x/4x depending upon the brand name. I'm HUGE. I'm not sure if I'll be even bigger next year. Each season I have to buy bigger clothes. Who knows what size I'll be next year.
My mom came to visit me this past week. We went clothes shopping as usual. I bought some nice new tops for summer. As she wheeled me into the plus size department in Sears, we passed by the bathing suits. And I had a sad. I was shopping with my mom and I wanted a bathing suit really badly. I wanted to pick out a couple of pretty suits and go in the dressing room with her so she could help me decide which one looked best on me. It would be like old times. Spring bathing suit shopping like when I was a kid.
But I stopped myself. When would I use it? When would I get to the beach? Would I be able to even walk across a beach to go sit in the water? If I'm just sitting in the sand why would I need a new bathing suit? Wouldn't I outgrow it by next year anyway? So, with my sad, I bypassed the bathing suits. Mum flew back home the next day and I showed hubs my pretty new shirts.
The following day hubs burst into the house, "do you want to go swim in Rich's pool with me?" (Rich is our neighbor across the street) "He has asked me over and you can come too." All the angst came pouring back through me. I should have bought a suit when I was out with my mom. I'm way too fat to be seen in public in a bathing suit. I only have tee shirts and shorts to swim in. I probably can't even walk across the street never mind actually swim in the pool. What if the water is cold? What if I get stuck in the pool and not be able to climb out (this happened to me a few times the last summer I was in my own pool)? I would be embarrassed. I would be mortified. Fat, huge chick gets stuck in neighbor's pool unable to climb out. I was embarrassed about my body. I was embarrassed about my clothes. I was embarrassed about my lack of athleticism. I'm a huge, fat, lump. I decided to stay home and with a simple "no thanks". I let hubs go by himself.
As soon as he was gone, I broke down in tears. CFS sucks. Swimming is yet another thing that I love that has been ripped from me. I was so happy last year that I got to sit in the sand and get my butt wet by the waves one of the few times I had enough energy to tolerate a ride to the beach. I haven't done any lap swimming in over six years. I haven't done water exercise in over three years. I miss the water. I miss floating. I miss the quiet of it. I miss the gentleness of it. I miss the freedom of it. Being able to flip, turn, float, push, kick, roll. I miss having handstand contests with my kid or diving for quarters tossed on the pool bottom. I miss suit shopping in the spring with my mom and sister. I even miss vacuuming the pool. So I cried and cried.
I'll get back in the water someday. Water yoga is going to be my first exercise class followed by water PT or vice versa. But for now I have a huge sad. I'm grieving for yet another loss caused by CFS. This SUCKS! Maybe I'll buy a new suit just to tell CFS to suck it. That way I'll look pretty while sitting in the surf the one day I manage to get to the beach.