a recent frigid day in February as I was entering Target to defrost
my nose hairs and purchase a designer toilet brush, I noticed that
they already had an array of skimpy women's swimsuits on display,
which dredged up some disturbing memories for me.
If you've ever wondered how awkward it might be taking adolescent
daughters shopping for swimwear, imagine that you're taking adolescent
daughters shopping for swimwear. That should do it. For fathers of
girl children all over the world, except maybe in Saudi Arabia, bathing
suit shopping is a task that ranks right up there with taking an armload
of feral cats down a waterslide.
For me, this harrowing event with all three of my daughters took place
a couple of years ago on a Sunday afternoon in March, ALL Sunday afternoon.
When we hit Target's swimwear section, I first noticed that each suit
was designed to reveal everything except one shoulder blade. I actually
thought we might have strayed into the first aid section and were
looking at a new line of colorful ACE bandages.
I've never understood the apparent gender bias of swimwear. Bathing
suits for males typically look like long gym shorts, and most of the
girls' suits I was looking at would have made J-Lo blush. Whatever
happened to those nineteenth-century bathing machines that were rolled
down to the water so that no one could get a glimpse of female skin?
I guess Target has something against history.
My main criteria was that any suit we purchased exposed only enough
anatomy to allow for the intake of oxygen. Eyesight and hearing would
Surrounded by bikinis, tankinis, monokinis, and other suits with important
segments missing, I was in a constant state of paranoia about being
tackled by security, struck with a purse, or spotted by someone from
church while I held each suit up to the light to determine whether
I could see through the fabric.
After gathering a few unlikely options, the next phase of the ordeal
involved my daughters' attempts to wedge their bodies into these perforated
sausage casings in the dressing room. My task would be to evaluate
each suit modeled by one of my daughters and, inevitably, return to
the swimwear section (exactly one mile from the dressing room) to
look for something with more coverage.
Each time I returned to the dressing room, I first had to knock on
the door and identify myself, which always resulted in screams and
giggling-and not just from me. Then the girls would castigate me for
opening the door too widely. When I managed to squeeze into the dressing
room through an opening almost large enough for my left earlobe, the
real agony began.
The room looked like the aftermath of an Olympic Swim Team slumber
party. As the girls modeled the suits, my wife had them squat, stoop,
and contort themselves into various unnatural poses while I made rude
gas noises to lighten the mood. The girls would then disdainfully
order me back out of the dressing room (to my great relief) and tell
me to look for another size, color, shape, style, texture, etc. Apparently,
they weren't open to something made of burlap.
Eventually, my wife and I were able to find a few fairly modest swimsuits
that I could tolerate (once I'm dead). And the process was no more
painful than having a chimpanzee remove my spleen with a popsicle
These days, our swimsuit approval process is done mostly through text
message since I've now been banned from participating in-person. (Thank
the sweet and merciful Lord!) And despite my ongoing disappointment
that their bathing attire choices don't more closely resemble hazmat
gear, I really am proud of the mature young ladies my girls have grown
I trust that their maturity will show itself again when I surprise
them with my plans to move us all to the Middle East. Burkinis, anyone?