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Bathing Suit Season: Shopping for Suits at 74

I may no longer look like Esther Williams, but then neither do my friends.

About 50 years ago, I was living on a small island called Jersey and had a different bikini for each day of the week. Though my little two-piece suits felt daring at the time, they were quite modest by today’s standards. Now when I browse in stores, it’s hard to tell if that 60-dollar thing or thong hanging there is a bikini or an oversized piece of dental floss. At 74, I am looking for something a bit more modest, something like what they had at the turn of the 20th century (complete with cap to stop my bleached blonde head from turning into a frizzed-out pot scrubber). I find what my grandmother would have called “sensible,” try it on and assess myself.

I start at the top: It doesn’t look bad; things haven’t gone south yet. Then I catch a glimpse of my legs—oh my! Those lumps and bumps are cellulite, I suppose. They must have traveled first class, because they seemed to have arrived overnight. And what is all that hanging stuff—it looks like the grand drapes of the old Bijou movie theater. But the legs are not fat. As a matter of fact, in a pair of Spanx, I could imagine myself looking no more than 72.

Later at the pool, my friends cry, “Come on in. The water is warm.”

“Thanks, I’m not quite ready,” I reply. Surely it will be dark soon.

Then I notice underwater my friends’ killer thighs. It’s like watching a school of whales practicing a new trick for Sea World.

“Looking good there, kid,” cries Earl, king of the combover and gold chain group. His swimsuit has inflated so much he looks like a mini-Michelin Man.

Well, what the heck, I think—we’re all on the Titanic of sorts. It’s the season of bathing suits; I’d better enjoy. So I splash on my Esther Williams smile, execute my best swan dive and try to imagine Ricardo Montalban waiting for me as I surface. It’s only Earl.

I wonder if there are any swimming pools in heaven. The white suit with the inflatable wings would be perfect.

The AARP Bulletin's "What I Really Know" column comes from our readers. Each month we solicit short personal essays on a selected topic and post some of our favorites in print and online. Barbara Costa is a reader from Cedar City, Utah.

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