27 Jul A Client’s Bliss Beneath Swimsuit Shopping Experience
A Guest Blog post by Catherine K.
Swim. Suit. Body.
It’s the middle word that I knew I had to deal with.
The first word—swim—is something I’ve loved since I was a child.
The water has always been a source of calm fascination for me. I’m a bit of a water baby; if I can’t be in it, being near it or on it restores my spirit. I scuba dived for many years, and I still snorkel. I’m enchanted by the underwater.
My body? Well, right now I’d say I’m comfortable in my 61 years of carrying around this soul vessel. I sometimes feel betrayed by the limitations of my physical age; my feet gave out on my earlier this summer, but rehab is progressing slowly but surely. Healing takes longer now. And why didn’t anyone tell me that my post-menopausal body would take all the toning and muscles I built in my 50s and surround them in big, fat cuddles? My ‘roundness’ came as a bit of a shock. But when I run through an inventory scan, everything works well enough. My hearing is shot—from concussions and concerts, plus some age-related diminishing. My eyes, hey, I can still marvel in the sights around me. Feet, toes, arms, fingers, all working. Blood pressure is a little high. Bones and skin, great for 61. My physical self is aging gracefully, my emotional and spiritual self even more so.
So, that middle word? Oh boy. Suit. Yeah, I bought my first post-menopausal swimsuit last week.
Until this time around, I’d purchased all of my two-piece bathing suits from J Crew. Without fail, I could choose any one of several tops and bottoms for my lean-ish, athletic middle-aged body. For 20 years, I wore the same styles, and they served me well. But post-menopause had left me thick in the middle and pretty much bigger all around. So my old faithfuls just didn’t do the trick any more.
I had no preconceptions, no unrealistic expectations; I just wanted something that fit me well, a bottom that would camouflage my belly apron (for my peace of mind, no one else’s), and a top that wouldn’t cause a wardrobe malfunction while I’m paddleboarding (or more specifically, when falling off my paddleboard).
With help from the wonderful, intuitive Tamara at Bliss Beneath, I dove into the task at hand. I wanted basic black or ocean blue; I didn’t want patterns or ‘grandma’ suits. I hoped for something with a halter top (better than trying to fiddle with straps that might slip upon big splooshy falls). Besides, halter tops are almost universally flattering.
“I can’t keep these bottoms in stock,” Tamara told me as she handed over the first pair. “You’ll see why when you try them.”
I picked out a basic bra top with a little frill. Not ‘frilly’ as such, just a little elevated style-wise. Then I saw another top with scalloped edges; again, it was a plain top with a little flourish. While Tamara was finding a size for me, I discovered a skort bottom. Now, this wasn’t the old-fashioned type of swim skirt, the kind that were worn by our moms in the 1950s; this looked just like my pickleball skorts, very ‘athletic’ in design.
Tamara told me that her customers loved the versatility of this skort. It was something that could be worn from the beach (with a bra top) to the beach bistro (with a T-shirt or oversized white blouse). I exclaimed that it was a perfect piece to wear for running, racquet sports, AND watersports. Tamara set off to find me the right size.
Back in the changing room, I slipped on the ‘miracle’ bottom. Sure enough, it not only supported my belly, it also had a magic waistband with no elastic to cinch and pinch! It was cleverly designed to sit flat against the waist. I admit, I was astonished.
What a great start.
I tried on the first top I’d selected. It was a bugger to get done up, I’ll tell you. I was having such a hard time! After working up a sweat (not fun when trying on swimsuits!) I called Tamara. Oh lordy. She fastened it, then the second I moved, it sprung open again. Nope. Nope nope. This wasn’t going to work. And it wasn’t because it was too tight—heck no, it turned out to be too big!
Next, I tried the scalloped-edge bra. Oh, it was lovely. I performed the ol’ swoop-and-scoop (I was a bra fitter, remember?) and it fit perfectly. Tamara popped her head in and let me know it could be converted into a halter top, too. OK. This was a keeper.
Tamara exited, and I was alone in the changing room. Just me. The 61-year-old, post-menopausal me. The compassionate and loving me. The ‘wow, who is this’ me.
I stood and stared. This was not how I envisioned myself.
I gawked at every angle. I will tell you, I really hadn’t taken time to visually scan my body in a while. Sure, I knew it was there, I carry it around with me every day; I was, however, a little appalled at the size of it, because I’d been fairly thin and athletic all of my adult life. It’s a change that is a challenge to absorb. But while the reflection gazing back at me was not what I was used to, I smiled.
What good would it do to criticize, to shame myself at this point in my life? Honestly, the first thoughts in my head were not pretty; I pondered, “Wow, you used to look so young and healthy and fit!
What the hell happened? I never thought I would be so…old and out of shape!”
I had never been critical or obsessed about my body or the way I looked (except when I developed orthorexia after my brain injury). I had pretty much always accepted what looked back at me.
So why start now? Yeah, I used to look young and healthy and fit—because I was! My bodily vessel isn’t what it used to be. I’m in my 60s. The last couple of years has taken their toll on me; I can trace my ‘new’ body back to a couple of years ago, the summer of 2021, when I was caring for my dad and eating on the run and not exercising like I’d had the freedom to do.
And then loss. And grief. Another concussion. And oh yeah, post-menopause. It was a perfect storm.
Tamara slipped her hand through the gap in the changing room curtain. She handed over the athletic swim skort and the frilled top.
I slipped on the skort. It fit like my pickleball skorts, only better. It looked darned good. I envisioned myself on the pickleball court, and on my paddleboard. Oh, it was perfect!
And the frilled top? Oh, it’s a pretty adorable companion to the skorts.
Yeah, I went big before I went home—purchasing two interchangeable tops and bottoms. Pieces that made the most of my ‘new’ body. Clothing that will allow me to get out and swim and paddle and play pickleball, to be alive in the moment, without worrying about how I look. And here’s a neat thing: the activities I’ll participate in while wearing my new gear will help me feel fit and healthier.
Criticism is like crumpling up and tossing out a piece of writing; it doesn’t consider the excellent prose in a few of the sentences on the page. If I’d said, ‘f*ck it, I’m too fat for a new swimsuit’, I never would have gone out on my SUP. I wouldn’t have stood strong and confident while paddling into shore.
I wouldn’t have savored the victory of a new accomplishment. Yes, at my age, in this body, maybe I’m just getting started.