Day 27 of my 30-day writing challenge
My husband and I took the kids to the beach this morning. It was perfect beach weather – bright and hot, low humidity, no haze. But the water conditions weren’t great for swimming or, much to my son’s disappointment, for body boarding. The surf was rough and shallow, and the lifeguards were warning swimmers away from a riptide. We still enjoyed ourselves thoroughly, but we also got knocked around and scraped across the sand a few times, even those of us who stuck to the water’s edge. And we all ended up with an unholy amount of sand in our bathing suits. I hadn’t seen my daughter’s bottoms that full since she was a nine-month old with a guacamole habit.
Before we left for our vacation, I bought a new swimsuit. I purchased it with a very strict set of principles. It had to be small enough that my husband didn’t feel cheated, but large enough so that nothing that was supposed to stay in ended up out.
Here’s the thing: I’ve had three kids. I’m not in terrible shape, and I’m genetically on the small side, but there are certain realities about the post-pregnancy body. If I stand up straight, my stomach looks almost like it did before all my skin stretched out to make room for a trio of watermelons. Once I slouch or bend or scrunch, however, I look like E.T. I might as well forget about a swim and start phoning home so my peeps can come get me.
As it happened, any bathing suit I could possibly have bought on any planet in the solar system would not have compared to the attire of the person sitting right in front of us, shaded by his umbrella.
It was a mankini. And not just any mankini. A string mankini. A very, very, very tiny string mankini.
I live in New York City. I’ve seen lots of things. So a mankini sighting, while not visually appealing to me personally, was not particularly shocking. Nobody else on the beach appeared to even blink. I just didn’t know this was something people actually wore.
Coincidentally — or at least I hope it’s a coincidence, because if not, I can’t imagine what the universe is trying to tell me — I learned that mankinis existed only last week, after I finally watched the latest episode of Sherlock. I was underwhelmed by the episode itself, but reading reviews of it led me to a delightful interview of lead actor Benedict Cumberbatch by Louise Brealy, the actress who plays medical examiner Molly Hooper. In the interview, Brealy jokes that the Christmas present her character gave Sherlock in an earlier season was, in fact, a mankini. Specifically, a Borat mankini, invented by the actor and comedian Sacha Baron Cohen, and somehow important enough to have its own website. I am not posting a picture of it, because it is not something you can unsee. Follow the link at your own risk, and keep plenty of eyeball bleach handy.
The great thing about seeing everyone so blasé about Mr. Mankini was that I felt I had no excuse whatsoever to feel self-conscious in my own swimsuit. I think E.T. himself would have felt right at home. Even if he had been the one wearing the mankini.