But those days are long gone now. Since my children came on the scene, my idea of the perfect beach vacation has morphed into "anything which requires little to no effort on my part." Presently, my idea of heaven on earth would be to simply alternate between lazily bobbing in the ocean and languishing on a towel in the sun. A trashy chick-lit novel might make an appearance in there somewhere, but only if I felt the need to engage my brain in something more stimulating than people-watching.
Unfortunately, on our recent trip to Bethany Beach in Delaware, I was neither afforded the opportunity to nap on the beach nor to frolic in the waves. And the only people I got to watch were my children, who, left unsupervised, would have quickly wandered down the beach to disappear amongst the throngs of vacationers. (Dammit, why don't they sell leashes along with the beach toys on the boardwalk?)
No—I spent most of my time struggling to confine our little rugrats to our family's immediate area, which only served to annoy the little monkeys. They expressed their frustration by alternately throwing sand at me and marauding through nearby vacationers' areas to plunder the unsuspecting tourists' beach gear.
My 20-month-old daughter was particularly interested in everyone else's flip-flops, and occasionally she would insist that some grave mistake had been made, and that the nearby ten-year-old's Spiderman Crocs were not his, but instead were—in fact—her own. We were forced to ride out several theatrical tantrums before my little girl found my Glamour magazine and discovered that tearing pages out of it was almost as much fun as stealing shoes.
I decided I was happy to sacrifice the mag if it meant I could plop my ass in a chair for a few minutes and could stop apologizing to everyone in our immediate vicinity.
And I must admit that she did look quite adorable in her little shades, paging through my Glamour mag and occasionally tearing out the choicest pages.
Even though I knew that bringing little children to the beach would be wrought with complications, I was nevertheless determined to have a damn good time. I had been looking forward to this trip for at least six months, and I had actually begun preparing back in March when I had formally initiated my search for the perfect swimsuit.
Now, I think we can all agree that bathing-suit shopping is one of the most torturous activities we endure as women. I don't know of a single woman who enjoys swimsuit shopping, even if she's a size 00, has had no children, and is built like a praying mantis with boobs (I'm talking about long arms and skinny legs here... not bulging eyeballs—that would be creepy).
But once you add a belly that has accommodated two children and boobs that have gone south from having breastfed two greedy little mouths for many long months, it's damn near impossible to find a suit that makes you look like anything other than what you are—a MOM (unless you're Heidi Klum, in which case I will refer back to my previous praying mantis reference).
Last year I was still nursing during our beach trip and had yet to lose some baby weight, so I was in full-on mom-suit mode. I had purchased my suit at K-Mart from the Jaclyn Smith collection, since those suits, although ill-fitting and generally unflattering, offer ample coverage of—well—everything really. Let's just say that the skirt on the tankini was so long I could have worn it out to a nice dinner.
But this year I was determined to wear something that was at least slightly reminiscent of the sexy gal I used to be, and since a dear friend had raved about what Victoria's Secret suits do for "the boobies," I had gone on a full-out VS Swimsuit-buying mission, beginning five months before the actual vacation to make sure I had enough time to find the perfect suit.
I perused catalogs, searched the web and sent my family and friends endless messages via Facebook, asking them to help me decide between the merits of swimsuit A vs. swimsuit B, then comparing them to the other ten I had proposed the previous week. I knew I had started to go overboard when, upon logging in to check my Facebook messages, I was repeatedly greeted with the message "[Insert name here] has left the conversation." My friends started dropping out of the voting process with startling frequency, but I just couldn't stop—I had to find that perfect suit, and I just didn't trust my own judgment.
One day, after I had whittled down my choices to two finalists and sent out the photos for voting purposes, my mother responded angrily, "Just buy both of them for God's sake and be done with it!" So I did, mostly for fear that in the future, any person that I would approach for advice would stick her fingers in her ears and shout "La la la la la... I can't hear you!!!"
Fortunately, my bathing suits arrived and were glorious. My boobs stood at attention (well, almost... it pretty much takes an act of Congress and some heavy-duty construction equipment to haul them back up to their original location these days, but at least the effect was light-years better than what Jaclyn Smith had to offer), and the bright patterns nicely camouflaged my post-baby pudge. They even had cute matching skirts that hinted at being sexy while still managing to hide my cellulite and sagging rump. I was ready for the beach!
Ready, that is, until hurricane Irene turned the calm surf into chaotic seas on our last day at the beach before being evacuated.
Before that day, I had spent all my time on land, supervising my children and making sure that they didn't suck on too many broken seashells (Clara was fascinated by their texture on her tongue), eat too much sand or ingest any seagull crap. But dammit, regardless of the fact that the seas were ridiculously rough, it was our last day at the beach, and I wanted to go in the ocean.
My husband bravely volunteered to accompany me down to the edge of the water, where the waves were crashing heavily and lifeguards were alternating between whistling at people and occasionally rescuing floundering swimmers. The rest of our family was huddled under umbrellas, safely out of reach of the angry seas, and my in-laws had promised to keep an eye on the kiddos while my hubby and I attempted to take a romantic stroll in the surf on what was to be our last day at the beach.
Wading a few feet into the water was awkward—the waves kept crashing on us full-force, knocking us around. I tried to convince my husband to accompany me slightly farther out, past the breaking point, where the ocean was a bit calmer, but he looked at me like I had two heads and basically said, "No freaking way.... LOOKOUT!!!"
I turned just in time to see a huge wave about to break on top of us, and I reached out to grab my husband's hand, but it was too late. The wave crashed right into me, knocked me off my feet, and forcibly ripped off my bathing suit bottom. I was fortunate to save it with my foot before it got washed away, and I frantically thrashed around, trying to get both legs back into the bottoms while being repeatedly pounded by the waves.
My husband saw me flailing about in the surf and tried hard to yank me to my feet. "Hold on!!!" I kept shouting. "Wait! I can't stand up!"
I had my bathing suit bottom tangled around my knees and was frantically trying to get it up over my butt while the undertow threatened to suck me back out to sea. Honestly, at that moment I would have been content with being dragged back out—at least I could have held my breath while using both hands to get my bottoms back on! Instead I was stuck in no-man's land, being tossed around in the surf, trying to get my skirt back up over my butt with one hand while my husband yanked so hard on the other arm that I thought it might just pop out of its socket.
"Get up! Hurry! Another wave's coming!" he screamed at me, frantically trying to haul me to my feet while struggling to keep himself upright.
(Apparently, while this was all going on, our relatives were watching from the shore with mild concern. Various theories were being tossed around as to why I was flopping around in the surf like a dying fish.)
But despite my husband's continued insistence that I stand up right now, the absolute last thing I wanted was to be the girl that lost her bathing suit bottom in front of an entire beach of vacationers, my in-laws, and the numerous other relations that had come along.
Eventually I got the skirt back on (albeit twisted halfway around), allowed my hubby to yank me to my feet and wobbled back toward our towel on shaky legs. When we returned to our family and told them the story, the following picture was taken to commemorate the moment. I'd like to note that, in this picture, I have about a pound of sand lodged in my butt crack and lady parts. Thank God for the skirt, or the entire beach would have thought I'd pooped myself.
Looking back on the incident, I suppose it's rather sad that I would have preferred being dragged back out to sea over having the entire beach population see my pale, dimpled ass and C-section scar. But I'm not going to waste the precious few brain cells that motherhood has left me with by analyzing this.
No—instead, I'm taking this as a learning experience. And what I've learned is this:
A. Buying an expensive, brand-name swimsuit does not guarantee that said suit will stay on my body when it matters most.
B. Victoria's Secret suits are great for lounging, playing in the sand, and being gawked at... (the boobs do look rather good, no?), but when it comes to real water action, I'm best off buying a sexless racerback by Speedo.
C. I don't necessarily have to go in the ocean to have the perfect beach vacation; sometimes, it really is enough to just stay on land, "read" a magazine with my daughter, and help my son dig his hundredth hole in the sand.