Last weekend, I saw hell in a Topshop mirror. Hours I spent, whole ironed-out hours – time would go very slowly and then very fast and suddenly it was 5pm – in the changing rooms of a selection of high-street shops, trying on swimming costumes. I was going to Center Parcs on the Monday you see (by the time this is published I will have enjoyed a week with three generations of my partner’s family under its magical dome), and had been wearing the same bikini since I was 18. I needed something that would not slide off on a slide.
This year, even the kinder gussets provided only a suggestion of arse coverage
So I started by strolling among the racks with my usual meditative glee at being among so many possibilities of transformation, many of them neon, and entered the changing rooms feeling good, feeling fine, feeling like a person, with a body, who might take it swimming on Monday. That feeling lasted until I stepped into the first swimsuit and yes, saw hell. A waterproof apocalypse.
If I might take a moment to talk about my body? It’s a sort of meaty trunk of flesh, with everything, I thought, largely where it should be, ie 1 x belly, 2 x nipples, 2 x legs, 2 x arms, etc, the former in the middle, the latter closer to the edge. If there were a size 11, it would be that, neither obese nor emaciated, sturdy, effective, and yet, it turns out, entirely the wrong shape for a swimming costume. To begin with, the gussets. Usually there’s a selection of bottoms, from shorts to thongs, but this year, the fashion is for a very narrow chocolate eclair sort of shape that extends between the legs and up towards the belly button, requiring even the blondest of women to depilate almost an acre of flesh. So that’s the gussets.
But I was prepared for that, and indeed had taken it into consideration when selecting swimsuits, leaving behind a number of costumes that, rather than offer a covering for one’s genitals, instead provided a sort of will-this-do mental floss, like a hastily erected crucifix to show where one has buried the cat. But even the kinder gussets provided only a suggestion of arse coverage, the designer perhaps having never seen a human bottom, instead having only studied medical charts about digestion.
I’ve always enjoyed a bikini. No longer. Today’s bikinis are created only for people such as Love Island contestants, for whom the ability to wear a bikini with confidence is the basis of their career. Purchasing one is as ridiculous as, say, a chef buying a chisel – it is the wrong tool for the job. Haters are going to say, “Didn’t she have a baby? Isn’t she in her mid to late-30s with a largely sedentary lifestyle? Isn’t that why she can’t find a flattering bikini?” To them I’d say, yes yes, but surely even the most Hobnobbed of us should be encouraged to swim? Should expect that, at the very least, a bikini should contain the rudest parts of our body, rather than, as these ones did, offer the merest suggestion of coverage, and that’s standing up. Lying down in one of these fabric panic rooms made of three Doritos threaded together with a kind of lurid vine would cause a whole body to puddle beneath the sun lounger.
Bikinis though – bikinis, we’ve all held a women’s magazine in June, we all know that we must protect the world from the sight of women in bikinis after the age of 28, what was I thinking? Twist! After a day’s research I can confirm that this season’s all-in-one swimsuits are by far the more obscene choice. They are cut narrowly, to expose the erotic “side-boob”, but if you are larger than a B cup, then they offer a whole teapot of tit to your neighbouring bather. Nothing is adjustable; nothing is safe. At any point you might look to your left and greet an entire breast or buttock that has escaped and has been enjoying your conversation with the waiter for some time, just so so pleased with itself.
There is a trend, this year, for “cut-outs”. These are shapes hacked out of swimsuits in unlikely places to add interest and mystery – is it a swimming costume, is it a bikini? Who knows! The result, apart from inevitable tanning complications, is a costume with built-in landmines – step carefully, women of 2018, for these cut-outs are liable to take a whole breast off. While also creating little pouches of excitable flesh that will burst through the nylon like summer hernias, hello! Hello, I love you!
I travelled home gingerly, in this body that had been exposed to me as trouble, resigned to a holiday sat by the side, cheering the children on. Waving with a hand now revealed to me as a swollen meat puppet, balanced on the end of something wobbly, attached to a machine so complicated and mottled that it should not be driven in public, and certainly not in water. Thanks to this season’s swimwear, Center Parcs slides will be safe from the groaning problem of my body, for this year at least.
One more thing…
After I wrote about migraines, hundreds wrote in suggesting cures, including coffee, magnesium, therapy and fasting. But in the UK we’re lucky enough to have the National Migraine Centre, so if you’re interested in taking part in a clinical study trying new treatments, go to nationalmigrainecentre.org.uk.
The Staircase, a great true-crime documentary that debuted in 2004, has come to Netflix, reminding me of the early days of my armchair law practice, where, over tea and biscuits, my partner and I took on cases that included those detailed in The Jinx, Making a Murderer and The Keepers. Semi-retired now, we recently took on one last case - Evil Genius. We’re very, very good.
As Sex and the City turns 20, please enjoy the Woke Charlotte meme on Instagram. She has no time for casual imperialism or institutionalised sexism. One of the greatest things to come out of a great show.