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She recently wrote about one of the most embarrassing moments of her adolescence. You’ll have to read it for yourself. (Painful.) This set in motion the squeaky wheels inside my head. It didn’t take long for me to recall the summer of the yellow maillot.
This is Christy Brinkley in Sports Illustrated. This is not me. But I had a yellow bathing suit like this. It didn't make me look like Christy Brinkley.
That summer, I thought I’d somehow gone to sleep one night and awakened the next morning as a hottie. That’s because as soon as it was officially bathing suit season, I was getting a lot of male attention. Maybe it was my sassy haircut, which looked like the Farrah, only more brownish, less fullish and without the accompanying facial bone structure to complete the look. Maybe it was my new kohl-pencil eye liner. I’d taken to applying it super-thick to both upper and lower eyelids. I’m sure it made my big, brown eyes smoulder. Maybe it was my new pair of cork-heeled wedge sandals. I’m sure I looked like the perfect example of jail bait.
Then there was the yellow maillot, which is some kind of fancy designer name for a one-piece bathing suit. It was designed based on something from Paris and then configured for the JCPenney marketing model. Still, it was shiny and as yellow as a sunflower. It had French-cut leg openings, a halter top with a wooden ring at the bodice, and straps that tied behind my neck.
So much attention that summer. At the pool. At the beach. Even at the swimming hole at our cottage. Attention from guys my age and also much older men, who seemed to want to stop and talk to me about just about anything: the weather, ice cream, President Jimmy Carter.
Not until Labor Day Weekend, when I was performing my final underwater somersault at the city pool, did my BFF inform me in no uncertain terms that my bathing suit was TOTALLY TRANSPARENT WHEN WET.
Did you miss that detail? It was see-through. It left nothing to the imagination. It was a free show for all to behold.
She told me this while I was in a pool filled with hundreds of my peers. I’d have to climb out of this pool, in my totally see-through bathing suit and walk across the pool deck to get my towel. Then, I’d have to wrap myself in that towel, walk to the dressing room, and tuck myself into a locker and die.
I went home, wore the suit in the shower to see if it was true. It was. I didn’t speak to her for two days.
Why did she wait until Labor Day to tell me? She swore she didn’t notice. She said when the suit was dry it didn’t reveal all. I knew that. I picked it out.
I thought back to all the attention — especially from the older men. Those dirty perverts! It wasn’t the not-really-Farrah hair or the raccoon eye liner or the high heels. It was my 13-year-old body on display for the whole world to see in that stupid, cheap, linerless bathing suit. Not a soul said a word. Mean girls just stared and gossiped. Horny boys just stared. I was oblivious.
Years later I would find myself at a nude beach in Spain. I had on an itsy bitsy teeny weeny little bikini. It stayed on. Even though everyone around me was bouncing their naughty bits around in the sand and surf. I could not bring myself to untie or step out of anything. Not even after several cuba libres.
And every bathing suit I’ve owned since then has been a very dark shade.