El Traje de Bano

She is fortunate she does not have to shop for el traje de bano.

Words written in my novel so far: 25,398

Miles run today: 4.5 (in the rain! Heaven!)

Bathing suits bought yesterday: 0

I remember sitting in the Language Labs at college, playing and rewinding conversations in Spanish. On a tape deck.

“Cualeselnombredesuperro?” “Jose.”


“Cualeselnombredesuperro?” “Jose.”

And rewind again.

See, the problem was not that I was horrible at Spanish, but that the people talked so darn fast. Speedy Gonzales fast.

And my brain needs some processing time, muchacha. Even in English.

I had taken Latin in high school, and I remember it to this day. I remember a lot of Spanish words, too. Just not strung together, like in a cohesive sentence.

My Spanish I grad student teacher had a big head, long dark hair in a ponytail and a serious manner. She couldn’t have been more than eight years older than I, but the gulf between us felt insurmountable. It was clear she had been too busy speaking Spanish and writing dissertations to join the rest of us in the 1990s.

The fact that twenty-five real live people sat in her classroom each Monday, Wednesday and Friday at 8 a.m. seemed to surprise her each time. She spoke the real Spanish Spanish, none of that foolish Mexican stuff for her. So each “denada” morphed into “thaynathah.” It was very proper, but I couldn’t help feeling like I’d developed a lisp.

One day, a few weeks into class, we got to study something I could wrap my head around: la playa (the beach). The textbook had lots of children’s storybook illustrations of sand and sun and buckets and towels. I was in my element.

After our teacher introduced us to these fun, new beach words, she arrived at our next class with a box of beachy things. She attempted to overcome her schoolmarm rep by jumping into the room with a beach ball and shouting, “Pelota de playa!” and tossing it at an unsuspecting boy. She pulled out all sorts of la playa-ready items: a beach towel, sunscreen, a bucket and shovel… and passed them around the room, with each of us repeating the Spanish words aloud.

And then she pulled out a bathing suit.

“El traje de bano!” she shouted.

We all sat in horror as she passed the bathing suit to the boy in the first row. “El traje de bano,” he muttered, trying not to touch it too much as he shuttled it down the row.

The boys held it gingerly by one strap, tossing it like a hot potato, but I was fascinated. Did they really make bathing suits with busts that big? Without exaggeration, my bikini top could have fit into the bust of that suit seven times over.

It was mesmerizing.

As the suit got passed to me, I marveled over the almost-steel-plated bra part of her traje de bano. It could serve as a bullet-proof vest in a pinch.

Fast forward to yesterday.

My kids were fighting, and I was done, done, done with the mediation. Punishment: no pool. And: they had to go shopping with me. At the mall. For bathing suits. Because, as every good shopper knows, this is the time to get a whale of a deal on bathing suits.

So we headed to the department store bathing suit area.

You can now start calling me a Tweener, because here were the two types of suits: El traje de banos that are too matronly for my 84-year-old grandmother, and bikinis that only pretend to cover parts I’ve managed to keep private, lo these many years.

There was angst. There were suits examined in M, L, even XL. The XL ones appeared to have no more actual fabric than the M ones, just a band that stretched farther in a horizontal fashion. Do they think people who require an XL bikini bottom have three foot hips and no bum? I am mightily confused.

My kids stood outside the dressing room, and I emerged to find them inside a rounder of beach cover-ups. I wanted to join them.

We were much more successful at the LEGO store.

All of the LEGO figures were wearing more fabric than a traje de bano.

Conclusion: I will require more traje de bano fabric if I buy a 50-percent-off bikini roughly the cost of completing three freelance articles. I shepherd dos ninos to la piscina each day… help a Midlife Tweener out, el traje de bano designers!


26 thoughts on “El Traje de Bano

  1. Carrie Rubin says:

    “My Spanish I grad student teacher had a big head, long dark hair in a ponytail and a serious manner.”—After reading this line, I thought you were about to tell us your Spanish teacher was Antonio Banderas.

    What a funny post. We can all feel your pain. And in terms of taking the kids to shop with you after being fed up with their rivalry? Best punishment ever!

  2. joshmosey says:

    Anne, you have a great voice. Thanks for sharing!

  3. 4amWriter says:

    Haha! I hate H-A-T-E shopping for bathing suits. They really don’t make them for women like me, I am certain of it. Bringing your kids to the store is the greatest punishment I have ever heard of, and I will have to remember that one!

    • annewoodman says:

      I’m just wondering who they make these suits for, then. I have friends who are built completely differently from me, and they can’t find suits, either. Are we all mutants? Sigh.

      I have now been shopping exactly twice since summer started, and it was no walk in the park. The kids are helping out financially by keeping our shopping budget low. Like zero low. ; )

  4. thepoelog says:

    As a total shopaholic, I have to admit, I get no pleasure from shopping for bathing suits (who really wants to see their pale wobbly flesh under florescent lights and in multiple mirrors?) or jeans. I must take 60 pairs of jeans into a dressing room only to emerge with nothing.

    • annewoodman says:

      Sadly… me, too. But jeans are at least partially forgiving. And I can fake it till I make it by adding heels. But bathing suits? There’s no faking it.

      • thepoelog says:

        Maybe wearing heels with a bathing suit? Luckily, we don’t go to the local pool, so the only time I have to wear a bathing suit is when we’re on vacation in some foreign place around people I will never see again. (Having said that, I just realized I haven’t actually bought a new bathing suit in at least 3 years).

  5. AmyMak says:

    This is very funny. And thanks for the comments on my blog…I love a new blogging friend!

  6. robincoyle says:

    Bathing suit shopping today honey? I am pouring you a double martini right now. Why is it they put fat mirrors and fluorescent lighting in changing rooms? Every lump and bump shows. On me, that is. You don’t have any of those nasty things.

  7. jmmcdowell says:

    Have you tried Land’s End? They make a variety of mix and match styles with decent amounts of fabric that aren’t matronly. You can find bikinis that actually work on women with real curves or tanks that don’t look like battle armor. They worked for me when I last bought a suit.

    Interesting punishment for the children, although my mother still reminds me about the times I embarrassed her in the stories…. 🙂

  8. Carla Helms says:

    I laughed out loud – several times – I really needed a good laugh today… Thanks!

  9. Tania says:

    I’m still wearing my string bikinis from 40 pounds ago. Shocking but true, I just let out the strings a little… a lot. Of course, I’m pretty anonymous when I go to the beach, I’m not with a bunch of kids and mama peers. I do agree though, we are in bikini no woman’s land. I feel the same way about the petite department in Macy’s as well, my 90 year old neighbors are looking at the same stuff I am.

    You’re writing a book! Woo hoo! I applaud you!

    • annewoodman says:

      You must wear a bathing suit even more than I do! “Bikini no woman’s land”–yes, so true.

      It’s so funny–at 5’9″, sometimes I look longingly at the petite section… the clothes (not bathing suits, exactly) always look so cropped and perfect. I worry that if I step foot inside the petites, an alarm might go off: “Imposter! Imposter!” Giant woman has stepped into the wrong section!

      And I guess maybe you should wait to applaud me until I actually complete the book. ; )

  10. Stephanie says:

    I totally thought that your grad teacher was Antonio Banderas too! Ha! Bathing suit shopping is truly traumatic. The only thing more traumatic for me than buying a bathing suit is actually wearing it.

  11. […] how I touched a strange woman’s bathing suit, […]

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