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Handling the annual horror that is Swimsuit Season
Scripps Howard News Service


June 20, 2005

This time of year, the entire nation convulses in a shudder of anxiety so powerful that scientists actually detect a "wobble" in Earth's orbit.

Yes, Swimsuit Season has arrived. It's time to bare parts of our flabby bodies that haven't seen the sun in months. Time to choose a new swimsuit, one of the few purchases based on the mysterious "jiggle factor." Time to reassess our diets and our exercise regimens and our friendships (shunning anyone who might invite us to a pool party).

In a society that idolizes anorexic supermodels and men with "six-pack" abs, Swimsuit Season exposes the insecurities that plague the rest of us. Women with normal bodies, for instance. Those of us who are government-certified as "overweight." Men who have "kegs" instead of "six-packs."

People in other countries don't suffer these fears. Europeans, for example, seem perfectly content to wallow on the beach in whatever bodies they've been given, comfortable in their own skins. European men wear Speedo-type swimsuits - in some cases, similar to putting a rubber band around the Pillsbury Doughboy. The women wear what appear to be slingshots.

But we Americans are a modest people, especially when it comes to our blubbery regions, which is why summer preys on our minds.

Granted, there are exceptions. Some men not only accept their paunches but take a perverse pride in them. I knew one guy who'd lovingly pat his belly, saying, "It's the only thing I own that's paid off."

I would like to be one of those relaxed males, unafraid of exposing what has taken decades to accumulate, but I'm nervous about being near-naked in front of others. Ever since last summer, when that guy with the wooden leg chased me around the pool with a harpoon ...

Lord knows it's worse for the women. Society puts so much pressure on women to look good in a swimsuit, it's a wonder any of them will hit the beach wearing anything less than a burqa. But at least women have some choice when it comes to swimsuit fashions. They might find a design that will accentuate the positive, even if the search takes years of tearful shopping.

Not so for men. We have two choices: Speedo (see "Doughboy" above) or baggy, knee-length shorts. Unless the shorts are big enough to pull the waistband up to our armpits, that's not enough coverage for our kegs.

How, then, to handle the annual horror that is Swimsuit Season? Try these handy fashion tips:

Patterns and bright colors arrest the eye, drawing the focus to the covered areas rather than the naked ones. Extra-tubby swimmers will want a suit in a swirl of colors so bright they can be seen from outer space.

Use accessories to attract attention away from "problem areas." Try wearing snazzy sandals, bulky jewelry or a large, floppy hat. Maybe even wear a child's beach pail over your head.

Plead sun sensitivity. If people tell you to shuck your knee-length T-shirt, tell them the sun makes you break out in "freckles." If they insist, tell them you'll break out in "a plague of boils." That should make them leave you the heck alone.

Suck in your stomach when standing and refuse to sit down, ever, while wearing your swimsuit. You might want to figure out a way to suck in those thighs, too.

Take care with sunbathing. The only thing that looks worse than pale flab is lobster-red, peeling flab.

If all else fails, do what I plan to do. Swim into the deep end, up to your neck, and refuse to come out until autumn.


Redding, Calif., author Steve Brewer's latest book is called "Boost."
Contact him at ABQBrewer(at)

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