There is something about taking a tropical vacation that just oozes relaxation. The sounds of waves gently crashing against the shore, white sand, fruity drinks are just a few of the staples that make a Caribbean getaway the time to let loose and have fun.
And the best thing? You only need a few things for a beach holiday: Sunblock, shorts and most important, at least for us women, a bathing suit.
It’s not about any off the rack bathing suit. It takes patience, determination and a lot of self-love to find the perfect bathing suit for the season. It’s an art form, this quest, a commitment with a stretchy piece of fabric, trusting it will hide the flabby bits that should never be seen and lifting up anything that needs…. support. It could take days, possibly weeks to find the right bathing suit. Any woman knows this. Well, any woman that isn’t a size zero.
I on the other hand, did the complete opposite, waiting two hours before catching my boat to shop for my bikini. Maybe subconsciously I was dreading the terrifying dressing room with the unflattering fluorescent light or maybe the challenge of searching and purchasing in less than thirty minutes was too tempting to pass up. But for one short minute before entering the store I was sure I was going to find the perfect bikini for my weekend in the British Virgin Islands and get to the marina on time.
How hard could it be? I thought to myself, ignoring all the traumatic experience I’ve had in the past in these same circumstances. I just needed to know what styles flattered my figure and search accordingly. No thin straps, nothing without underwire, no small triangle shaped tops, only bottoms with soft elastic or adjustable ties on the sides.
After a fast raid I found one that seemed to meet all my requirements- a black top with thick straps and a lovely turquoise bottom with ties on the side. Perfect! In my hurry, I only tried the top part on since it’s the one that will determine if I’ll look like a hot tamale or an old lady. Everything seemed to fit fine so in exactly 25 minutes, I had everything I needed and was ready to start my weekend of sun and piña coladas.
Disaster struck the next day in the afternoon after making safely to Tortola, the biggest and main island of the BVIs. Two minutes before everybody decided to head for the beach, I went into my room to change. Sunblock. Check. Hat. Check. Top of the bathing suit. Check. Bottom. No. No check.
As I began putting it on, I felt a great resistance from the fabric, like it might be a size too small. No problem I thought. I’ll just tie it a little loser. But the ties I was counting on were sewed on as decoration. There was no way to adjust it and the result was love handles. As I looked at myself in the mirror, hoping it didn’t look as tight as it felt, I saw a very unflattering, less than desirable reflection. The hot tamale I was hoping to be was more like an overstuffed sausage in its casing. Needless to say, my self-esteem plummeted.
The rest of the day was spent with moments of mini panic attacks, mood swings and completely dry on the deck of the boat.
But I wasn’t going to let an impulse purchase ruin my weekend. The next day, I went straight to the overpriced surf shop at the marina in search of a bottom that wasn’t tighter on me than my own skin.
The options were few since most of the bathing suits weren’t any bigger than a handkerchief. But now I needed to face the dreadful dressing room with the few choices I had and pray to God at least one of them would fit. The problem is nothing looks right with an already bruised ego and fluorescent lights that might as well be a magnifying glass on all of your flaws and bumps. Instead of finding something, you end up staring in the mirror thinking “Is that what I really look like? I was so delusional!”
Three tries. No purchase. I was about to walk out the store, my shoulders dropped, thinking I really had messed up my vacation. If only I had planned better, taken an extra bathing suit as a plan B, then I wouldn’t have to be dealing with image issues or contemplating swimming in my underwear.
And then, I remembered how I had worked out, starved and looked forward to sunbathing and swimming in the ocean. I had thought about it for weeks. It had kept me going through work and diet and I wasn’t about to minimize my fun because of a judgemental dressing room.
I went back to the rack of bathing suits, going through each one carefully and thoughtfully. I wasn’t going to dismiss anything just on how it looked on a hanger. Halfway through, I saw an itsy bitsy teeny weeny pink polka dot bikini and a little voice in my head said “That’s the one!” Earlier, I had just brushed by it. It was pink –not my favourite color- and it was more like a hipster shape than an actual bikini.
Try it on, the little voice said. What do you have to lose?
You’re way pass that, it said. Try it on!
I went back to that hateful dressing room (which by the way, had a four by four wooden door; everybody could see my legs and whatever I took off) and with closed eyes and berated breath, I put the bottom on. And to my delight, it wasn’t too tight at all. In fact, it was quite slimming!
Suddenly I felt my confidence building up as I twirled around to inspect every angle. This was it! I was so relieved to have found it, I did a little victory dance in the privacy of my dressing room. I’m sure everyone saw my feet doing little hops and circles but I didn’t care.
It cost me forty five dollars to restore my self-esteem and salvage the weekend. But it was completely worth it. Think of it was holiday insurance. Even though I learned my lesson of preparing beforehand and having a plan B, I found out what you really need to enjoy whatever vacation you’re about to go on is a positive attitude. Don’t let any bump on the road ruin the rest. After all, it’s the mistakes we make that tell the greatest stories.