(first published in newspaper syndication, Bad Girl column)
By Melodie Campbell
Last week I had to do something that engenders the kind of enthusiasm that might be associated with a mass accident on the Gardiner Expressway.
I went shopping for a bathing suit.
Now let me make this absolutely clear. I have been a bank manager in a low rent district where the con artists are trained at birth. I’ve taught rowdy all-male classes of engineers. I’ve taken two kids to Wonderland and positively laughed at the lineups. So I’m pretty hard to intimidate.
Except in a swimsuit shop.
“Do you have anything with winches?” I say to sweet little Clerkette.
“Is that a brand name?” She squeaks back.
It is obvious from the start this isn’t going to work. Clerkette looks all of sixteen. She comes back with a two piece that might possibly fit a Barbie Doll.
“Let me make this clearer,” I say patiently. “Things have happened to my body in the last few decades. I may be a little hard to fit.”
“No problem,” she says cheerfully. “We have just the thing.”
I look around the store. Walls of colourful bathing suits on racks, all looking about size 2. The price tags, however, are size 20. Why is it that the smaller the article, the greater the cost?
Clerkette comes back with a couple of fuchsia ribbons hanging from her fingers. “Try this,” she says. “It’s a Tanga. They fit everyone.”
I squint at the ribbons. “Where is it?” I say.
Men don’t have to deal with this. No, indeed. Here’s what happens when a man goes into a store:
Man: “I need a bathing suit.”
Clerk: “Do you want blue or red?”
Man: “Blue is good. How much?”
But back to Clerkette. I try again.
“Do you have something that is a little more structured, if you know what I mean. Something that ‘lifts and redistributes’.”
“Ah!” says Clerkette. “You want our ‘Madonna’ model.”
She hands me a steely black suit with hard cups that looks something like a medieval torture device.
“Perfect!” I say. I go into the wee change room to try it on.
What ensues is a monumental fight between me and the suit that lasts about fifteen minutes. (Shoppers: 0, Fiendish Designers: 1) Finally, various bits of me have been forced into the chambers allotted to them. Breathing is possible, barely. I look in the mirror. The result is not bad. I look like an escapee from a Wagner opera, or an extra from an 80s music video, minus the hair. Take your pick.
Like I said, not bad.
Which is a good thing, because there’s not a chance in hell I’ll ever get out of it.