When Bathing Suits Are Too Small

LORI OSIECKI ILLUSTRATION

Ever notice how over the years, bathing suits have gotten smaller? This would make sense if people had gotten smaller, too. But most people have expanded. So we got to stretch less and less bathing suit over more and more skin, which means there is a lot of sunburning going on.

It is bad enough for me, and I’m on the skinny side, but my sister-in-law Larva is the bounteous type. She decided she’s paying way too much money to Coppertone, while them bathing suit manufacturers are making out like bandits, cutting corners and letting parts of her ooze out that should never see the sun, she says to me. So, no more expensive teenie weenie bikinis for her. She is going to buy something that covers a reasonable amount of her, or find a nude beach and let it all hang out.

Now she and me were raised Catholic back when Catholics believed in sin, and nudeness was at the top of the sin list. So I hope she ain’t serious.

We head for the absolute-final-end-of-season-every-bathing-suit-must-go sales, which they always have in July – even though we’re going to be sweltering in the heat for two or three more months. But noooo, they can’t wait to pack the store with Christmassy coats and Santa mittens and hats with tassels, which nobody even wants to think about yet. And then some expert is going to come on TV and say the stock market is down because consumers ain’t buying, which indicates they’re worried about the economy – when what consumers are actually worried about is sweating to death.

Larva picks out a couple of real colorful two-piece suits – lightning bolts on a deep purple background, and hot pink starfish on a turquoise sea. They are supposed to be figure-flattering and don’t expose the midsection. From what I gather from reading the label, the bottom will flatten your lower belly by squooshing all the fat up to your middle, and the top will flatten your middle by squooshing all that fat up into your armpits. Then you just try to keep your arms down, I guess.

She heads for the fitting room and I wander off to look at the As-Seen-On-TV shelf in the store.

Larva wiggles herself into the deep purple bottom of one suit, but once her fat is squeezed upward, it’s hard to pull the top on. She gets her head and arms into it, but it don’t want to go down over her middle. Finally she yanks with all her might, and she hauls it down, but before she can get a good look at it in the mirror, it snaps back up like a window shade. Now she has this tube of elastic parked over her boobs, and it won’t budge. The more she struggles, the tighter it gets. She don’t know if they’re trying to sell her a bathing suit or a boa constrictor.

She peeks out the curtain for help, but the clerk ain’t around, and I’m off marveling at an As-Seen-On-TV foldable hose you can carry around in your pocket. So she’s on her own. She considers just pulling off the tag, putting her clothes on over the suit and waddling to the front of the store and paying for it. Then she could cut it off when she gets home – if she’s still breathing. But that would be destroying a new bathing suit she just paid for.

No, she got to get it off. She shoves one hand up between her boobs and the suit, for leverage. The suit tightens up on her wrist, and now her wrist is stuck. She shoves the other hand in to get the first one out, and it gets stuck, too. Then her cell phone rings.

It is me, outside the fitting rooms, wondering where she is. I got the phone up to one ear, listening to it ring, and with the other ear, I hear a cell phone playing the “Hallelujah Chorus” from inside the third dressing room, and under the curtain, I see a purse fall. I see feet actually kicking the purse. Then the ringing stops on my phone and the “Hallelujah Chorus” stops in the dressing room. I deduce that Larva is in the third dressing room.

I say “Larva?” and I hear a lot of language that should not be heard by children, and I peek around the curtain and I see Larva’s problem.
I don’t take her picture and post it on Facebook because I ain’t that kind of person. I start to help, but Larva says to stop because I might get my hands trapped in there, too, and we’ll be stuck together and have to call 9-1-1.

I go find a clerk, a burly one named Benita. She don’t even act surprised. Maybe her customers get stuck in bathing suits all the time. She drags two chairs into the fitting room, puts one on either side of Larva, and I stand on one and she stands on the other. We each grip one side of the bathing suit top. Benita tells me whatever happens, don’t let go. Then she tells Larva to drop to the floor. Larva tries, and for a minute she bounces in the air like paddle ball, but then POP! she plunks down and the bathing suit flies up, and me and Benita go over backward. But it’s a little bitty dressing room, so we hit the walls and don’t actually fall down.

Then Benita says she has just what Larva needs. She gets an extra-large long T-shirt with a life-sized print of a sexy lady in a bikini from the neck down and a pair of shorts.

Larva takes it. So she’s saved from the nude beach. No swimming in sin this year.

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