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A mature ladies swim costume?

Features column

Photo by Vicki Harris

Photo by Vicki Harris

“Welcome!” the young woman said as I walked through the door of swimsuit heaven — or hell, as some affectionately call it — a store filled to the rafters with tops and bottoms of seemingly all makes and models of bathing suits. Green ones with stripes and pink ones with polka dots and neon blue ones with fringy things hanging from each.

I’d rather not say.

“We have something for everyone,” the sales girl chirped and my eyes grew wider and wider at the assortment around me. “These over here are on sale, and those over there we just got in. And there’s a special section up front for our more mature ladies.” I was immediately snapped out of my spandex induced trance by those two little words.

Did she just say. Mature ladies? I cautiously glanced around to catch a glimpse of who she was really talking to. Maybe Grandma Moses walked in behind me. Sadly, no. It was confirmed. She was talking to me.

I have been called ma’am. I have been called older. I have even been asked if I was shopping for a grandchild by an unfortunate woman who clearly must have been blind or drunk. But I have never been called a mature woman.

Mature? Me? Hmmph.

Nevertheless, I embraced my inner maturity and thanked her for her help.

“I’m just browsing,” I told her in my most mature voice. Then I maturely made my way down the pathway of bathing suit hell, past the forest of bottoms the size of gum wrappers, through the valley of itty bitty tops held together by dental floss and prayer, until I found myself at none other than the one place I swore I didn’t want to be — the mature ladies section. Sigh.

What the heck.

I dove in.

“I’m so glad they have this area for us,” a faceless voice on the other side of the rack said and I responded with a polite um hmmm as I browsed through a couple of dozen “mature” suits. I was pleasantly surprised. These are not entirely horrible, I thought to myself. These are actually pretty nice. Not too revealing. Full of space station miracle Lycra to keep things properly squeezed and tethered. Granted, my husband would consider them kryptonite and Nun wear, but I kind of liked some of them. A black one with ample coverage and an ever so subtle detailing at the top caught my eye and while holding it up for further consideration I thought, I really love this one.

It’s respectable, it’s pretty, all of my stuff should fit. this is a great.

“Bathing costumes are fun to buy, don’t you agree?” the faceless voice said and then the body that went with it walked around the corner — it was a very small, very, very mature lady holding up the exact same bathing suit as I had in my hand. “Oh, look!” she said. “We chose the same bathing costume!”

My first thought was that of a woman wearing long bloomers and a skirted top with a sailor collar and huge bow, topped off with a frilly bathing cap on her head circa late 1800s. That’s a bathing costume. Right?

“I told you they don’t call them bathing costumes anymore, granny,” a younger woman said as she came up behind her. “You call them bathing suits or swimsuits. And that one is way too dowdy for you.” Then the younger woman mouthed to me “She’s 92” and I smiled and nodded and the tiniest nervous laugh eeked out awkwardly as the realization set in that out of the hundreds of bathing suits in the joint, I had picked same suit as a 92-year-old woman. And to add insult to injury, her granddaughter who, by the way, looked even older than me, called it dowdy. Should I be upset? Should I be traumatized? Should I worry that we might both show up at the same pool party and be embarrassed? Should I even admit that this whole scenario took place?

“I will call it a bathing costume if I want to,” the spry little lady said and gave me a wink. “I think I might still have the first one I ever bought if I can find it!”

The little lady and her granddaughter made their way to pay for their suits, leaving me there in the mature section alone. I looked down at the suit in my hand, then slowly placed it back on the rack. Sigh. Not today. I would leave empty handed.

I hate swimsuit shopping. But I did learn something — that apparently I hate bathing costume shopping too. I wonder if Granny can find that first bathing costume she ever bought and, if so, would she loan it to me? Hey, we have the same taste.

Mature. Hmmph.