by Linda Hummel
“Oh, how I regret not having worn a bikini for the entire year I was twenty-six. If anyone young is reading this, go, right this minute, put on a bikini, and don’t take it off until you’re thirty-four.” – Nora Ephron
The pool is crowded. My daughter is in charge of her newborn and all the accompanying paraphernalia. I have the hand of her 3-year-old son and all of his stuff. There is a lot going on. Still, I can’t miss the older woman, about my age, standing at the edge of the pool, talking and gesturing to her family.
Her stomach and thighs are paunchy and generous, like mine. When she laughs, everything jiggles, and not just a little bit. Her breasts are low and abundant.
And she’s wearing a black bikini.
Okay, I stare a little. She’s not the least bit unsure of her body (or her lack of suit) as she jumps into the water with the goal of splashing her grandchildren. She is having the time of her life. I have spent the last hour talking myself into even putting on my bathing suit, a one-piece deal with enough spandex in it to make a seal look slightly slender.
I struggled a little at the pool last season, and I’m finding it true this year as well. I’m disappointed in myself for that. Feeling self-conscious about my 64-year-old self goes against one of my three main rules of life: You can’t put off going to the dentist. A nap makes everything better. Carrying body issues into your seventh decade is ridiculous.
It’s ridiculous because I became invisible to strangers a long time ago. Had I known that men appreciating my body wouldn’t last forever, I might have amended Nora Ephron’s advice and had a different mantra back then: “Oh get off your high horse, it’s going to be mighty quiet once you hit 40. Just take a breath, notice how tight your abs feel this morning, and try to remember this for later in life.”
Being invisible is so predictable these days. It happens most often in stores where associates are trained to ask people if they need help, like at Home Depot. As I wander the aisles, the same man wearing an orange apron will encounter me three, or maybe four times during one shopping trip.
Each time he says, “May I help you find something?” his tone makes it clear that he has never laid eyes on me before, even though he saw me 90 seconds ago back in lawn supplies. Sometimes I try to say, “No thanks” in a slightly different voice so he won’t realize this fact and feel bad.
I can see the woman in the black bikini from where I’m sitting, though. When you’re in charge of the 3-year-old, you don’t sit much. When my grandson wants to switch locations — from the pool to the playground and back again — I decide that I don’t really need my cover-up.
So that means — that for today, at least — I’ve conquered my three rules of life.
I made an appointment with the dentist.
I know there’s a nap coming my way this afternoon.
As for my body, I have a little extra stuff where none used to be. I jiggle here and protrude there. But I realize I’ll never get this glorious day back again, so that needs to be okay.
Woman in the black bikini, I love you.