If you’ve ever wondered what it would be like to take your daughters bathing suit shopping, imagine that you’re taking your daughters bathing suit shopping. That should do it. For fathers of daughters all over the world, except maybe in Saudi Arabia, bathing suit shopping is a rite of passage that ranks right up there with having your spleen removed without anesthesia by a chimpanzee wielding a popsicle stick. It’s like taking an armload of cats down a waterslide-it can’t end well. For me, this harrowing event with my three daughters took place on Sunday afternoon, ALL Sunday afternoon. I guess I thought that it being Sunday, God might intervene. Alas, he seemed to be enjoying the spectacle and drug it out as long as possible.
The first thing I noticed when we hit the store’s bathing suit section was that each suit seemed to be manufactured with a single spool of thread and was designed to reveal everything except one shoulder blade. I actually thought we might have strayed into the first aid section and I was looking at a new line of colorful ACE bandages. I never really have understood bathing suits. A man’s bathing suit typically looks like a pair of long gym shorts, and most of the women’s/girls’ suits I was looking at would have made a Victoria’s Secret model blush. Whatever happened to the old nineteenth-century bathing machines that women would change in and be rolled in down to the water so that no one could get a glimpse of any skin? I guess Calvin Klein has something against history. Once my daughters assured me that these strips of elastic were, indeed, bathing suits, the selecting began. My only criteria was that any suit that we purchased exposed only enough of the body to allow for the intake of oxygen. Eyesight and hearing would be optional. Pretty reasonable, I thought.
The next phase of the ordeal involved my daughters’ attempts to force their bodies into these perforated sausage casings in the presence of my wife in the dressing room. My task was to evaluate each suit modeled by one of my daughters and, inevitably, return to the bathing suit section (exactly one mile from the dressing room) to look for something with more material. Once I was back in the women’s bathing suit section rifling through the racks, my primary goal, other than finding something like a waterproof tarp with which to cover my daughters, was to avoid being tackled by security, struck with a purse, or sprayed with mace. You might imagine the expressions of the exclusively female shoppers when I placed each suit over my head to determine whether or not I could see through the fabric.
Each time I returned to the changing room with my selection of scuba-wear (technically swimsuits), I first had to knock on the door and identify myself, which always resulted in screams and giggling-mine, of course. I would then be violently castigated for opening to door too widely. Apparently, my wife and daughters would have preferred that I crawl under the dressing room door so they could witness my being arrested. Once I had managed to squeeze through an opening almost wide enough for my left earlobe, the real agony began.
The room itself looked like the aftermath of a Junior Olympic Swim Team slumber party. I really had trouble understanding how there could have been any suits left on the shelves. They were all in here-along with various other articles of clothing that had either been recently stripped off or had been snuck in on the way to the dressing room to try on. (I knew I wasn’t getting out of there that easily-or inexpensively.) Occasionally from beneath this pile of laundry, one of my daughters would emerge wearing an array of rubber bands holding hands, which I would reject immediately while making rude gas noises to lighten the mood. (My heartfelt attempts at humor were not appreciated.) I would then be ordered back out of the dressing room (to my great relief) and told to look for another size, color, shape, style, texture, etc. Apparently, they weren’t open to something made of canvas.
Eventually, my wife and I were able to find a few fairly modest swimsuits for the girls to wear (once I’m dead). I suppose this is just another part of their growing up, and I really am proud of their beauty, their sweet spirits, and their maturity. I trust that their maturity will show itself again when I surprise them with my plans to move us all to Saudi Arabia. Burqas, anyone?