I have just been through the annual pilgrimage of torture and humiliation known as buying a bathing suit.
Back in the 1940's and 1950's, the bathing suits for women with a mature figure were designed for women with a mature figure - boned, trussed and reinforced, not so much sewn as engineered. They were built to hold back and uplift and they did a good job.
Today's stretch fabrics are designed for the prepubescent girl with a figure carved from a potato chip. The mature woman has a choice - she can either front up at the maternity department and try on a floral suit with a skirt, coming away looking like a hippopotamus who escaped from Disney's Fantasia - or she can wander around every run-of-the-mill department store trying to make a sensible choice from what amounts to a designer range of fluorescent rubber bands.
What choice did I have? I wandered around, made my sensible choice and entered the chamber of horrors known as the fitting room. The first thing I noticed was the extraordinary tensile strength of the stretch material.
The Lycra used in bathing costumes was developed, I believe, by NASA to launch small rockets from a slingshot, which give the added bonus that if you manage to actually lever yourself into one, you are protected from shark attacks. The reason for this is that any shark taking a swipe at your passing midriff would immediately suffer whiplash.
I fought my way into the bathing suit, but as I twanged the shoulder strap in place, I gasped in horror - my bosom had disappeared! Eventually, I found one bosom cowering under my left armpit. It took a while to find the other.
At last I located it flattened beside my seventh rib. The problem is that modern bathing suits have no bra cups. The mature woman is meant to wear her bosom spread across her chest like a speed bump. I realigned my speed bump and lurched toward the mirror to take a full view assessment.
The bathing suit fit all right, but unfortunately, it only fit those bits of me willing to stay inside it. The rest of me oozed out rebelliously from top, bottom, and sides. I looked like a lump of play dough wearing undersized cling wrap.
As I tried to work out where all those extra bits had come from, the prepubescent sales girl popped her head through the curtains. "Oh, there you are!" she said, admiring the bathing suit...I replied that I wasn't so sure and asked what else she had to show me. I tried on a cream crinkled one that made me look like a lump of masking tape, and a floral two-piece that gave the appearance of an oversized napkin in a serviette ring.
I struggled into a pair of leopard skin bathers with ragged frill and came out looking like Tarzan's Jane pregnant with triplets and having a rough day. I tried on a black number with a midriff and looked like a jellyfish in mourning. I tried on a bright pink pair with such a high cut leg I thought I would have to wax my eyebrows to wear them.
Finally, I found a suit that fit...a two-piece affair with shorts style bottom and a loose blouse-type top. It was cheap, comfortable, and bulge friendly, so I bought it.
When I got home, I read the label which said "Material may become transparent in water." I'm determined to wear it anyway.... I'll just have to learn to do the breaststroke in the sand.