Bathing Suit Hell

fullsizeoutput_4001When the latest spring swimwear catalogue dropped through my letter slot last week I thought Wo, here’s one expressly made for me! It even said so, right there in black and white! It took me a whole minute to realize they  were talking about plain old terryCLOTH and not cloth made for me, the former Terry Sheehy now living under witness protection as Terry Marotta.

All my life it’s been painful to shop for swimwear even when I was a little kid going to summer camp and one of the suggested items for every camper’s trunk was a forest green get-up seemingly made of wool. Anyway it was this heavy furry stuff, done over in a kind of waffle weave that caused even the slenderest camper to look like she’d been rolled in a thick layer of batter.

God had the taken the trouble to roll me in my own personal coating of batter so you can imagine how I looked in it. However my sister and I were told we had to have it because our mother and aunt as the owners/directors of Old Camp Fernwood felt we should set an example. I hated that suit and was so glad when I could pull on the simple cotton one with the ruffles. I wanted badly to look like those glamorous older campers striding long-leggedly toward the lake for a swim.

Friendships 13

Instead I looked like this – and if I tell you that for all my life I’ve had wild curly hair, you’ll pick me out at once in this little lineup:

Olymp off to the lake

But all that was in the past. The task I now face is to find a couple of suits for the present.

Some suits today have weirdly longish skirts. These I am unable to wear as I can’t help but think of them as Eleanor Roosevelt Goes to the Beach.swimdress

Some are tankinis, which means they have two pieces, a very nice feature that eliminates the need to peel off the whole tight cocoon of a thing every time you have to go to the bathroom.


I tried one tankini with a spilt top two summers ago and looked like Who Pitched a Pup Tent on Top of THESE Two Solid Columns?

Then last year I went with the full sun-repelling line of swimwear, consisting of a skin-tight zip up ‘jacket’ tight and bermuda-length ‘shorts’ but that was wrong too: too darn hot for summer wear and talk about Sausage Party!

sausage partyAccordingly last Thursday I ordered this bathing suit and it just came and it is perfect in that it covers my sun-damaged chest, spares the world yet another cleavage shot and lets me to dart free as a minnow through whatever waters present themselves.

saved by the mesh

Now I just need a sarong to cover my thighs and a lightweight ‘shrug’ to cover the ruin of my upper arms and I will be SET!

White House Decor Then & Now

This is a picture of the Yellow Oval Room in the White House during the all-too-brief Kennedy years. Tradition dictates that the walls stay yellow in this room, and that there be some of those white-legged French Provincial chairs and tables. Here’s how Jackie tricked the place out.


I know she had a great eye and all but I’m really not wild about this look. To my eye the yellow in the wall covering is too coercively cheerful somehow.  To me it looks like a house in Palm Beach circa 1960, maybe that very Kennedy house where Teddy, old enough to know better, wandered around half-dressed, before waking up his two nephews to get them to accompany him back to the bars when they were both in their beds and half asleep. And really couldn’t you almost curse just anticipating how you’d catch your foot on those spindly glass-topped occasional tables?

So that was the Yellow Oval Room as the 34th president and Jackie arranged it.

Now here’s that same room the way the 44th president and Michelle have set it up:

Obama White House As Home

Of course we see it from a different angle with the three windows in view and that makes it more appealing right there. But I so much prefer this buttery yellow, and the particular green of the window treatments and the sofas – and of course the deep sherry colors in the carpeting and velvet chairs. It all makes me want to take a bite, just like when I see a freshly scooped bowl of Mocha Almond ice cream – yum!

I’ll admit I had to smile at one thing though: the sight, flanking that center window, of the two candelabra, each teetering atop a slender pedestal. Weren’t Sasha and Malia just little girls when they moved in here in 2008? When my youngest was barely two, he took his little white baby shoes on walkabout, ending up in our living room where an immense Boston fern perched, regal as the Queen Mother, on a mahogany fern stand. The minute he went in there, we heard a whooshing sound followed by a muffled crash. The whole rest of the family tore into the room – where our baby boy, in his uncertain Diaper-bottomed stance, turned toward us eyebrows in the air and lisped out one of the few phrases he had learned. “Just kidding?” he lisped hopefully. That flouncy old dowager of a fern was never the same.

Now let’s go back in time and see what patrician Jackie told the TV audience when she gave that famous White House tour in 1962.  And if you don’t have time for that, check out Vaughn Meader impersonating JFK at a press conference during which his pretend wife Jackie also raises a questions. You might as well laugh as cry in life, and I hope Vaughn Meader felt that way too, even if his career doing send-ups of the Kennedy family came to a crashing halt on that fateful November day in ’63.



Me, I Looked Like Bea Arthur

You hate to think so but it’s true: compared to, say, the French, we Americans look pretty sad. I mean there they are sipping fine wines in their awesome clothes, and here we are chugging down our Big Gulps and boarding airplanes in our sweatpants. It’s not so much that we don’t care  how we look. It’s that we lack confidence and are befuddled when it comes to our dress. Because what else but a befuddlement born of uncertainty could be responsible for the way we go around in clothes as baggy as old pajamas? I mean aside from the fact that we’ve all grown a mite hefty

And when we’re not going around in clothes that are too baggy, we’re going around in clothes that are too tight. Think how many of us look like teddy bears sausaged into pantyhose.

I bet I look like that every time I try going to the gym in that perfectly serviceable leotard from the great Age of the Fonda Workout.

I think we all worry about our ‘look’ these days, in a way that nobody worried in an earlier era, the men in their fedoras, the women in their sheaths.

I recently attended a neighborhood gathering described on the invitation as a ‘cocktail party,’ a word whose elegant associations evidently threw us all for a loop.

We SHOULD have been perfectly casual in our attitude toward the event. After all it would be just us neighbors with no danger of our running into any red carpet moments.

Plus, less than an hour before the party was to start, a storm straight out of the Book of Revelations blew in, and the power went out all up and down the street. Thus, chances were, we wouldn’t even be able to SEE one another.

Still, we all fretted, as we discovered once the sun returned and the party started in earnest.

One neighbor came in classic cocktail-party garb: a little black dress with super-high heels. Yet even she worried she was dressed wrong.

“I had doubts at the last minute,” she told a group of us. “‘What am I doing in THIS?’ I thought, but by then it was too late to change.”

A second guest said, “Heck, look at me! Do you SEE this jacket?”

It was seersucker. Red seersucker, or was it a reddish pink?

“AND it’s part of a SUIT!” he yelped. “I had the whole thing on before it occurred to me that it might just be a little MUCH!”

But to me he looked great, as I told him when we all stopped laughing long enough to resume talking.

What didn’t look great was the get-up I had on, a weird, semi-tunic-y thing that had looked very chic when I saw it on that cruise ship, especially after all the Daiquiris I’d inhaled out there on the deck. In truth I looked like all four Golden Girls rolled into one. AND, with the curse of the curly-haired that is my curse, and the rain that had so lately buffeted us, my hair had Gone Rogue; just swelled right up, like the foil around your Jiffy Pop.

But hey, what are you gonna do? We’re not Parisians and that’s a fact. So really we might as WELL jump into our clothes, baggy or sausage-casing tight and toast the summer – just maybe with a nice French wine instead of a Big Gulp. And while watching this to-me-very-funny video of how some people used to actually dress at the gym. I did! I actually did!

Pedicures Schmedicures

Back in late March, I tagged along with Old Dave to a Plastics Conference where he kept busy attending workshops with names like “Gasket Enhancements 2012!”

Since none of these workshops really piqued my interest, I used my time in the blazing Florida sun to people-watch at the pool, peer futilely into the unreadable screen of my i-Phone  and get a pedicure.

This last thing made me so happy I swore I would keep up appearances footwise for the next six months right up until boot season.

Instead I haven’t been to the pedicurists once,  and here we are more than halfway through the season of the Strappy-Sandal.

Maybe I should feel ashamed going around with the toenails I was born with but somehow I’m not. Ten perfect little ovals looked good enough to God on his drafting table; shouldn’t they be good enough for us?

Or maybe it’s my time of life and curmudgeonliness is at last descending on me. Here’s an adorable piece of cognitive dissonance for you, this lady’s face and what she is saying ha ha..

They’re Secret Ed Grimleys, That’s Why

Somebody had a comment on my post about shoulder pads, asking why you never hear about padding in men’s suits – to which I say yeah, why DON’T you ever hear about men’s shoulder padding, without which most guys would look like Martin Short’s Ed Grimley from Saturday Night Live. Or like this guy at the left here?

They need those suit jackets to look strong and mighty. If men just went around in their shirt sleeves like this guy you wouldn’t give a nickel for them. They’d just remind you of Ashley Wilkes from Gone With the Wind, and you know HE wasn’t the one sweeping Scarlett off her feet like old Rhett Butler did and why? An insufficiency about the shoulders.

Maybe that was a lesson to everyone who saw the movie. Maybe that’s why in every decade since it came out in 1939, shoulder pads have been very much in evidence.

They were in the 30s:

In the 1940s too, as seen in this family grouping where a couple of members appear to have lost their heads:

The styles remained similar in the 1950s and 1960s though what’s going on with the coquettish look and the barely suppressed smirk between these two at the airport? What’s the REAL story behind that glimpse of the lady’s dainty washables?

It’s true men’s fashions took a strange turn in the 70s….

but then they returned to form and stayed there…

Pretty convincing proof if you ask me: Guys’ and their egos just need padding – what else was the codpiece for? And now Ed Grimley himself, natural shoulders and all:

Shoulder Pads Forever

You can never go wrong talking fashion. Even if it’s just fashions in bras like we were saying yesterday, everybody’s got an opinion, right down to the babies, who never miss a chance to plunge their tiny hands down the front of your low-necked top.

Now let’s have a show of hands, speaking of hands: Who misses those awesome shoulder pads of the 1980s that were nothing but a revival of the shoulder pads of the 1940s?

I still wear the coat my mother wore as part of her ‘going away outfit’ as they used to call the post-nuptial ensemble. I have seen only one 40-second film of her and that mystery father of mine on their wedding day, coming down the stone steps at Longwood Towers where the reception was held.

I bet I’ve watched those 40 seconds a million times.There are no pictures of that snowy day; the photographer just never got there.

Mom had donned what she always referred to as a cerise-colored suit with pencil skirt and peplumed jacket under that black wool coat with its persian lamb lining. I found the coat in the attic of our childhood home after she died. The fur had deteriorated but I had it relined in heavy black satin and I wear it to this day, in part because even way back in the ’90s my kids were already slyly approaching me and trying to remove….. my SHOULDER PADS!

“But I need shoulder pads to symmetrisize my hips!” (That was my word for it: symmetrisize.)

“I need some bulk up at the here!” I told my girl Carrie who was rowing Crew in college at the time.

Her response: “Build up your delts.”

And so I have done.

Slowly slowly slowly, day by the day at the Y, in a group Strength class where the sight of others keep me going.

It’s a good system. Because aware as I am of the fact that shoulder pads are O-U-T out I still like them. And this way I get to wear ’em on the inside where NO ONE can take them away heh heh.

Pretty soon with all the working out I’ll look like this… It’s kind of a Power Ranger look. I like it (all but the petulant scowl.)

Get the Good Bra

We’re talkin’ the old days here, or we were yesterday. Back then I was built along the lines of Madmen’s Joan Harris, but it didn’t last long. Life has since sanded off a lot of that padding, which is fine with me.

I mean I’m not thin like the girl modeling the baby doll top from yesterday: the fattest thing about her is her belt buckle.  My situation is that even though I have been going to Weight Watchers for five years now I have yet to reach my lifetime goal even though we inched that goal up ten pounds to accommodate My Changing Body. (There’s a catalog with a name like that and it sets my teeth on edge. It’s for us older gals.)

If I’m skinny-looking at all I’m the keep-the lights-low-while-in-a-bathing-suit kind; the Skinny-With Cellulite kind and hey, why can’t that be a look?

But I’m not here to talk about my personal architecture.

I’m here to talk about bras.

And the best advice you can get about a bra is: SPEND THE MONEY. GET A GOOD ONE.

One of my daughters talked me into going to the Really Good Bra store once and then there was no turning back.

What they tell you at such a store is:

·         You may have all kinds of upholstery around your torso but what they measure is the size of your rib cage. They take that measuring tape and they s-q-u-e-e-ze until they can feel your bones, sunk under there like Lost Atlantis. They write that number down, take a glance at what you’ve got up front and come back with a bunch of bras that make you want to laugh out loud. They said I was a 32 bandwise, me, a person who has to head for the XL’s when it comes to tops.

·         The front of the bra has to touch your sternum. If it gaps out there, you need a bigger cup.

·         You have to clasp it low on your back for maximum lift in the front.

·         You have to bend forward way as you ease the thing on.

·         You can’t ever to put these babies in the washing machine and finally…

·         You have to come back to the Fancy Bra Store and keep buying bras there because costly as they might be, they certainly do do the job.

Save your pennies therefore. A picture is worth a thousand words, isn’t that what they say?

Get the bra that fits.

Always get the good bra:

Kill the Babydolls

See this look? I am now officially done with this look.

They ushered it in a few years ago but come on: We’re going to go back to wearing baby clothes? I mean this chick is skinny but most of us look like we’re in total baby clothes when we wear tops like this.

Or wait are they actually maternity tops?

Some of us remember the days when maternity clothes looked like baby clothes, smocking and all.

I look at pregnant women today with their form fitting t-shirts and think Good for you, kid! Let it show!”

Some of us are old enough to remember baby doll pajamas which looked like this.

And how about baby doll dresses? Peggy Olson appears in such a dress on Mad Men’s Season 5 Episode 7. She wears it to the dinner her boyfriend asks her to when she imagines he’s going to pop the question. (He pops the question all right only it turns out to be, as Joan later puts it, “Want to shack up?”)

It galled me to see her in that dress. Here she is getting so tough this season, drinking at work with the fellas and not batting an eye when that moron who does the art makes yet another reference to his private parts and now she shows up dressed like a child?

What was that in the 60s?

I’ll tell you what it was: it was an effort to infantilize us, make us into little sex kittens (minus the claws, minus the fangs) at a time when we were slowly but inexorably gaining power.

Nice try fellas. It worked, but only for a while. True, in the 70s we dressed like extras from Little House on the Prairie but then came power suits in the 80s. I’m not sure where we’ve gone since then; we can look at that another day. For now though let’s just regard these images and ask ourselves What on EARTH were we thinking? When I got married women 60 came to the wedding dressed like this! I was 21 and I knew enough to stay away from the look.

I was built more along the lines of Madman’s curvy Joan, so I stayed away from this look back in good old 20th century….

…So what on earth made me fall for it in the 21st?

Free at Last

What’s wrong with wearing odd thing on your head like I was saying yesterday? My big sister and I wore sweaters on our heads as veils every time we put on the big Baby Jesus pageant in the upstairs hallway. She was always Mary and I was always Joseph. Well a short, pudgy version of Joseph, that good sport of a guy, forever befuddled-looking in the religious art, forever stuck wearing brown.

It helped that our mom had lots of brown – she looked great in the color – and that the great aunts had lots of blue, blue being the total signature color of the BVM. (Even her eye shadow was blue they used to say around Nazareth.)

It really is fun to customize your clothes like the Catholic-school girls have been doing since Day One. And when you get to a certain age you can go all out. At the end of her life my aunt was wearing her clip-on earrings at the top of her shirt collars just because she liked the way they looked.

I myself have taken to wearing my tops backwards and it’s really workin’ for me I have to say. Spill something down the front of your top and all you have to do is swing it right around and poof the stain is gone from sight, as far as I’m concerned.

Also as the pointiest-breasted pupil in my 7th grade class….

….I’ll admit that I’m also sick to death of my own cleavage, here in a world where you practically can’t buy a top that doesn’t have a deeply scooped neck. So there again I spin ‘em around backwards, having first delicately picked the label off with an X-acto knife and EVERYONE IS FOOLED ! 
I wear high-necked bathing suits even, Spandex right to the clavicles, They’re hard to find. yes, but you really really can’t be wearing a bathing suit backwards. I’d rather go swimming looking like this:

than like this:

Yes I have to to search hard for the high-neck suits but it’s worth it. This was me at the beach this past summer (and look! I finally get to wear blue!)















(I got the wind-machine think goin’ to blow back my hair  🙂 ) 

The Man is a Prince: He Does the Dog

The phrase ‘the second shift’ refers to that whole second workday most women put in after they get home from their real jobs. I read a recently that nowadays  men are doing just as much around the house as their wives.  I certainly hope this is true.

They sure weren’t when Arlie Hochschild spent eight straight years conducting the research for her book The Second Shift. Observing daily life in the homes of 50 working couples with children, she found that only 20% of American men shared the extra work of chores and childcare while women put in an average of 15 hours a week on those tasks,  which add up to an entire month of 24-hour days. 

You could resent the heck out of your spouse living this way, but what many women do is create a ‘story’  that allows them to keep resentment at bay. One woman named Nancy explained that her husband Evan ‘did’ the downstairs while she did  the upstairs – only in their house doing the upstairs meant doing all the work relating to the kitchen, living room, dining room, bedrooms and bathrooms, while Evan, for his part, handled the garage.

Oh, and the dog. He did the dog.

But this  way of framing things allowed Nancy to think of Evan as pulling his weight. When asked by Hochschild to reflect on this, Evan said, “We don’t keep count of who does what,” quickly adding, “Whoever gets home first starts the dinner,” a statement which did not in any way line up with what Hochschild saw as a frequent visitor.

This was just their ‘story’, the ‘family myth’ as she calls it that they had devised to cover up the imbalance. “The truth was, Nancy made the dinner.”

Other husbands in her survey had stories of their own. One said, with a perfectly straight face, that he made all the pies.

“But I was brought up to do housework,” explained poor Nancy, in charge of every room in the house. “Evan wasn’t.”

And there’s the crux of it right there. As Hochschild puts it, “the female culture has shifted more rapidly than the male culture, and the image of the go-get-‘em woman has yet to be matched by the image of the let’s-take-care-of-the-kids-together man.”  

Or as Gloria Steinem said a while ago to a standingroom-only crowd of fellow Smith College graduates, “The problem is that when I go around and speak on campuses, I still don’t get young men standing up and saying, “How can I combine career and family?”

The day will come though, I feel sure – provided we work hard on raising up strong  and fair- minded little girls  – AND  get them the heck away from all that appalling sex-kitten apparel they’re showing these days in the stores.

Tomorrow I won’t be so crotchety, I promise. 🙂