I flipped through the racks of swimsuits, my fingers sliding past the size zeros. After not exercising all year, I’d put on nearly 15 pounds since last swimsuit season. Now I was an 8, just a few Krispy Kremes away from double digits. Finding my new size felt like a trip down Obesity Lane: After zero, there was size 2, which I wore in college when I was a bike-riding vegetarian; 4, my size in grad school, despite all those appetizer samplers at Eat N’ Park; and just a year later, an 8. Trying to squeeze into anything smaller might well violate several states’ obscenity laws. Time to supersize my swimwear.
Then I saw it: a Kenneth Cole gray-and-black python-print bikini. The sexy suit to end all sexy suits. It broadcast the kind of confidence I used to have, the thing you’d wear for a romp in the surf, à la From Here to Eternity.
I found one in my size and headed to the dressing room. I stripped down without looking in the mirror. Then I pulled the suit bottom up over my underwear, latched the plastic bra hook in back, and tied the strings tight behind my neck, lifting each breast into place, a little extra up top being the only bonus of my weight gain. Then I looked at myself.
Now, at the tail end of winter, I was pale beyond white — almost a translucent blue. I hadn’t waxed, and the brutal fluorescent lights revealed lumps and hairs and veins and bulges. I looked like a python, all right — a python that had just swallowed an entire family of rabbits.
So, then, why did I plunk down $86 on the bikini? Staring at myself, I decided that it would be my motivation, chanting the “If you buy it, you will diet” mantra of so many dumbly optimistic women before me. I had to be on the beach in three months, and this suit, if anything, would remind me how I wanted to look.
With it strung across the top of my mirror, I hit the gym after work nearly every day and sulked over salads in the cafeteria while my officemates gorged themselves on sandwiches and barbecue Kettle Chips and cupcakes. When I went on an ice-skating date in the park, I mumbled something about not wanting to waste 200 calories on the hot chocolate my companion offered. I may be rigid, dull, and controlling company, I reasoned, but I’d look good in my underwear. Not that we ever got that far.
Those three months of deprivation dragged on, every day making me a little thinner, a little firmer, and a lot whinier. Then I debuted the suit.