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  • Jan Flynn

My All-Season Body

Outliving bikini season angst

The author, age 3

This weekend, I was reminded to be grateful for a gift from the aging process. Like many of its gifts, it takes an adjustment in my perspective to appreciate, but once I do, boy howdy.

Get Your Summer Body Here!

I spotted these words on the marquee of a med spa. My husband and I were driving home from a late-winter brunch. Swept along in the traffic flow, I drifted into a waffle-induced reverie.

I pictured entering the spa and handing over my credit card to the receptionist at the front desk. She would discreetly inquire about the budget I have in mind before ushering me into the display room.

And there, in a display room decorated in a beachy vibe, would stretch row after row of bikini-clad, headless figures.

This year’s Summer Bodies, ready for transplant!

With an easily transplantable Summer Body, you can be ready for swimsuit season in hours instead of months! No more week after week of deprivation, frantic exercise, or the embarrassment of seeing your lumps and wobbles under fluorescent lights as you try on bathing suits.

And right now during the Pre-Summer Shame and Panic Sale, every model in the showroom is available at a 15% discount from the MGSRV (Male Gaze Suggested Retail Value)!

As in a high-end bridal salon, the Summer Bodies are grouped by price range, according to their EDQ (Expected Desireability Quotient).

EDQ pricing starts at the budget level “Unobjectionable”, rising through “I Wouldn’t Kick Her Out Of Bed,” thence to the more aspirational “I’d Hit That” and “Nice @$$”, and finally the premium tier, “Smokin’ Hot.”

Financing is available on approval.

All models are customizable by skin tone, waxing style, and tattoos for an additional charge. Model cost does not include transplant charges, but the spa offers package pricing that covers all services, including Winter Body storage in a climate-controlled facility.

The return policy covers manufacturing defects within two weeks of installation. While the spa is committed to customer satisfaction and receives many five-star reviews on Yelp, it cannot guarantee results. Aesthetic decisions regarding head-to-body compatibility are entirely the responsibility of the customer.

We get that question a lot, but no, the spa does not currently offer male-gendered Summer Bodies. There simply isn’t enough demand.

Nor are we licensed to transplant the heads of male or non-binary clients onto our models at this time. Not that we wouldn’t be happy to provide that service in the future, but until the laws here in Idaho change — well, we do want to stay in business, haha.

Shall I get a changing room started for you?

Trust me, I know better

I mean that on more than one level.

The med spa — like all the other spas, gyms, salons, and weight-loss centers that fasten onto women’s culturally-induced body shame like remora on a shark — cannot offer instant, total transformation.

But they can and do insist that such transformation is not only necessary but worth every pain and penny. Whatever dieting, sweating, lasering, buffing, sanding, and contorting you have to do to get your currently unacceptable body into presentable condition, now is the time to get on it, ladies.

Because if you wait until the first heat wave, you’re screwed.

Or worse, not screwed, because you’ll have missed the window of opportunity and failed in your obligation to be summer-sexy. There you’ll be, lumpy and dumpy in last year’s saggy bathing suit since you were too demoralized to shop for a new one.

Amidst a panoply of lithe, smooth damsels clad in little more than dental floss, you’ll be about as sexy as a walrus in a tutu.

Who wants that?

I know this mantra well, having absorbed it through my pores since my tween years. That’s why I relish reaching the threshold of Summer Body Exemption.

I have one, all-seasons, body now

When it comes to summertime and bathing suits, I’m like a very slow boomerang. From my early days as a pudgy, unselfconscious toddler gleefully splashing in the kiddie pool, through long years of gut-sucking, standing just so, and wishing I could contract my thighs at will, I’ve returned to a state of happy nonchalance as I plotz at the pool or the beach.

Put another way, I no longer give a f***k.

It was all a lie anyway. I know that now. I wish I’d known it long ago, but I was up against a vast industry that is very good at what it does. Which is to generate enormous profit from a carefully cultivated, incessantly reinforced message conveyed by all means available to women, starting in early girlhood.

That message is: your body is an item to be appraised — and trust us, it doesn’t measure up. But with our help and your unrelenting vigilance, you too can enter the realm not just of Unobjectionable, but Smokin’ Hot.

It’ll cost you, of course. Lots of time, lots of dollars, lots of self-denial. But look at what you get in return! Acceptability. Approval. Safety, for a minute anyway.

Sure, the finish line keeps moving away from you, but don’t give up! Never, ever give up.

I have given up

I’m not sure exactly when it occurred. It may have happened long before I realized it, which is sad when you think about it: me, still trying to meet the impossible standards even after I’d aged out.

Not that anybody ever admits that, or even talks about it. Nobody tells you when you can stop worrying about a Summer Body. But once you figure it out, it’s a liberation.

There were a few summers when I did, through a combination of youth and stress-induced slenderness, achieve Summer Bodyhood. The experience was at first heady, then fretful, and finally miserable.

Summer Bodies are ferociously difficult to sustain, even through Labor Day, and don’t get me started on the childbearing years. Women’s bodies, certainly the one I have, refuse to obey the societal expectation that they should freeze their form at an optimal age and shape.

Which is generally speaking, at twenty years old and twenty pounds less than one’s natural setpoint.

Like I said, I know better now

I eat healthy food (okay, with an occasional waffle brunch) and exercise five or six days a week. But I do that to maintain my health, not because I still think that if I only try hard enough I’ll look like someone in a Victoria’s Secret ad. Or even a Land’s End catalogue.

My body has changed throughout the decades. I expect it to continue to do so, and I am confident that those changes will not be Summer Body compatible.

My skin, for instance, is no longer the blank canvas it once was. It is gradually painting itself in a slowly evolving palette. Spots and patches appear like algal blooms, while veins emerge in a riot of colors and dimensions, from tiny, red, spidery traces to purplish-green protruberances the size of nightcrawlers.

And the creamy layer of adipose tissue that once kept my epidermis smooth and tight? It has retired, packed up, and moved south to what I fondly call The Terraces, a region of ripples along my inner thighs, the subcutaneous version of a condo complex in Florida.

My muscles are still defined and robust. But they are now swathed in linen rather than satin. Everyone knows that you can tell good linen by how much it wrinkles.

Here’s the wonderful truth: nobody cares

When I’m at the beach or poolside, I am blissfully aware of the absence of the male gaze — with the exception of my husband, who sees me through a lens that somehow kaleidoscopes all the decades in which we’ve known each other.

I observe the young women with empathy. A few look honestly comfortable in their (very exposed) skin. More often, my weathered eye of experience detects discomfort: the way these girls pose, tug anxiously at their suit bottoms, or flick their eyes fretfully toward the other swanning sirens. Their competition in an endless, vicious contest.

Me? I no longer need a Summer Body. I’m good with my one body, doing its gradually subsiding thing, all year long, oblivious to judgment. Nobody is looking at me unless I fall over or start drowning.

I am free to splash around or flop on a chaise lounge with the happy abandon of that long-ago little girl.

What a relief.

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