bikini birthday blues


With a big birthday coming, I’ve encountered all sorts of advice on how a woman should approach her advancing age. Some of it is actually welcome. Especially the words of one woman after I boldly announce I’m going to be “a-hem, cough, cough” in April. She said, “Don’t ever say that number again.”

And so, today at least, I won’t.

I get another opinion from my aunt: “Pretend you’re 40, and then go out and have a good time.” She’s 96, maybe she’s on to something.

And a friend says this, “It’s not as bad as buying a bathing suit,” an unusual comment but one that captures my imagination.

With a b-day beach trip planned, this might be a good time to test the theory. So long as I’m upset about one thing, why not add another; I’m already miserable.

So I go for it. I order an assortment of blues and greens, flowers and stripes from Swim Outlet, 13 choices in all, a mountain of stretchy misery. Can a sophisticated woman of a-hem vintage tackle this daunting task without lying on a bed, making fists, and crying her eyes out amid a tangle of buckles, pads and straps?

Or will she save that mature response for the new age that looms larger than the belly?

May the worst option win.

Soon as I open the box, I realize the effort, like facing a milestone age, requires a steeliness you wish you could bring to your hindquarters. Like aging, you must prepare your cool, calm composure for a rude awakening that will make your ears smoke.

Is this really, absolutely, are-you-kidding-me me?

For years, you’ve attempted to keep the truth under wraps -- both your age and your imperfections -- with skin creams and blousy tops. Now offers of free hearing tests and investment advice bulge out of the mailbox, at the same time flab bulges as you wiggle into a skimpy high cut brief. You’re getting it from both ends at once.

“Why are your thighs moving so much,” my husband asks quizzically, as I model the suits, “what’s wrong with them?”  At the time I was standing still.

Yet nothing creates more havoc than the muffin top perched unflinchingly at the top of the bottom and the bottom of the top. Again, you’re getting it from both ends at once.

Face the facts, I say to myself. You’re getting older and older demands more body coverage yet less time left in the big picture to drag that body to the beach, to the bar, to the bedroom, to the boardroom.

Oh grow up!  

The last time I was this unhinged by an age was when I turned 30 and feared the dividing line between the bikini and the tankini was just around the beach bar.  

Yet, though the body is hanging on by a thong, the mind is less willing to cave in. At 30 I thought my freewheeling spirit wouldn’t cross the line with me. Today I know my spirit will eventually sprint over, though my body may slowly jiggle. I don’t raise my fists and cry anymore. At least not about that.

So which is worse, the birthday or the bathing suit? Neither is a stroll on the sand, but I’d say facing down the day is worse than facing down the mirror. I’m not delusional about what’s most important.

I did manage to buy a navy blue suit with cute shorts, and it did take a bit of moaning, still it’s no contest. Without the one-of-a-kind birthday suit beneath it, how could this non-delusional 40-year-old even trudge to the next exciting adventure?

March 24, 2019

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