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Family Matters

A suitable swimsuit

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For those of us who live in the city that has already logged the hottest daily temperature in the state on multiple occasions this season, it is a safe bet that by the end of each week, every spare laundry room hook, bathroom shower rod and towel bar in our home will be draped with swimsuits of various shapes and sizes.

Swimsuits hung to air-dry by a mom desperate to cut down on her laundry load after an afternoon at the pool, a backyard sprinkler session, or a spin through the washing machine, along with a gallon of sand after a few days at the beach.
Monday evening is typically laundry-wrangling night in our household, and I’ll do a lap around the upstairs and downstairs collecting drip-dried swim garments.
There are little Size 5 trunks emblazoned with things young boys love, like shark fins, Ninja Turtles, and skateboard-riding T. rexes. Big sister’s bathing suits are in practical patterns like stripes and checks that she picked out herself after announcing that she’s “no longer into little kid things” like unicorns and ruffles.
She is, after all, 8 whole years old.

I make my way to the master bathroom and pause when I go to pull my two one-pieces down from their hooks and notice the protruding tags and the fact that the one purchased at the beginning of this summer is a size bigger than last year’s. I’ll give my husband’s swim shorts an extra hard yank from their drying spot over the shower door when I remember with great irritation that his are conversely and precisely the same size that he’s worn since high school.

If I’m being quite honest, the matronly state of my current swimsuit collection has caused me quite a bit of internal anguish.

You may have to be an approaching-middle-age mother of two young children to understand my dilemma, but in recent years, it has become seemingly impossible to find a proper bathing suit that does not resemble a bedsheet and both flatters your figure and covers the areas upon which (apparently arguably) the sun is not meant to shine. It’s a concept that, based on my recent observation at both the beach and pool, is quite relative and open to interpretation by the wearer of the swimsuit, leaving me to wonder when what used to be “wedgie” simply became “cheeky.”

And yes, I know that I’m partly just envious of anyone who is confident enough to pull off swimwear that could have been made with the leftover scraps from the fabrication of mine.

I do find a little consolation in the fact that surely those folks go through much more sunscreen than I do, based on the exposed surface area. And sunscreen ain’t cheap.

I have questions about things like chaffing, comfort and parental approval. But no one asked my old-school opinion. And I do seem to remember that my favorite bathing suit from my college years was a neon yellow bikini that wasn’t much more than two triangles connected by a series of precarious strings, with a coordinating skimpy-ish bottom. Which leads me to speculate whether I still have that swimsuit tucked away in a drawer somewhere, and if my daughter might like to use it as a summer accessory for her American Girl Doll.

These days, I worry a lot less about toasting my buns and a lot more about choosing the correct SPF of my broad-spectrum sunscreen.

I’ll continue my summertime rotation of exactly two swimsuits. I found the hot pink halter top one-piece on a Walmart clearance rack, complete with a ruffly built-in miniskirt for extra, extra coverage. And there’s a slightly saucier, yet still one-piece, olive green suit with forgiving rouching at the midsection and a small keyhole cutout in the chest area that exposes a shocking quarter inch of … décolletage.

While I secretly hope that maybe one day I’ll find a suitable, mom-friendly two-piece that checks all the boxes (and the guts to wear it), I’m glad that in the moment, I can body-surf with my daughter or meet my son’s waterslide challenge without worrying that my top might be floating beside me when I come up for air.
All of this considered, on a recent afternoon at the beach, my kindergartner and I were sharing a towel-on-the-sand picnic when our view of the ocean was suddenly obscured by a young woman strutting by in a purple bikini that left pretty much nothing to the imagination. That left my wide-eyed little boy to whisper, “Mommy, do you think that that bathing suit was unappropriate?” I pondered a tactful response and could only answer, “I don’t know, buddy. It’s what she picked out. And I bet she feels good in it.

“Let’s go catch a wave.”

Column, Claire Mullen, Family Matters