Shock and Awe on a Hanger

Hey, with Summer around the corner now, we baby boomers have as much right to be on the beach as anyone else, don’t we?!? Sure we do, but what stops some of us is, How will we look? That’s what got humor writer Kathleen Norton to thinking about an annual war we fight with ourselves this time of year. She calls it Shock and Awe on a Hanger.

Our wool hats and scarves are barely tucked away and KAPOW! Every clothing store on earth has put out racks of little, bitty, colorful bathing suits that assault us when we walk in the door.

Kathleen Norton

It’s the fashion version of “shock and awe’’ and I ask: Must they remind us that soon, all women no matter how tall, short, narrow, or wide begin a period of ritual self-loathing, also known as Swimsuit Season?

If a woman’s hefty, she thinks every suit makes her look heftier. If she’s scrawny, she thinks they make her look scrawnier.

And men do not get it why bathing suits make us suffer so. They just don’t.

Oh sure, they complain about a little flab here and there. They may look in the mirror too when they are 62 and come to this startling realization: OMG! I am not young anymore!

But for the most part, they float along, not caring how they look in a bathing suit except for when a 20-year-old chick walks by at the beach.

For them though, this concern passes quickly and soon they are back to bathing suit la-la land, which explains why you see guys in little Speedos when their little Speedo days obviously ought to be over.

A man would wear the same swimsuit from age 20 to 70 if his wife did not stop him.

“You’re not getting on that ship for our anniversary cruise in the bathing suit you wore on our honeymoon!’’ the woman says.

“But those trunks are only 35 years old!’’ he replies.

“I have crow’s feet older than that. Get a new one,’’ she orders, and he goes to the store and buys the first one he sees.

For the woman? As we all know, it’s not the same.

She would not be caught dead in an old suit because she thinks that like every other one she’s owned since about her 29th birthday, it looks bad on her.

So the woman goes to the store for a new swimsuit and tries on 483 of them.

She repeats this ritual in 13 other stores which, if you are keeping track, is 6,279 swimsuits taken on and off.

Then she orders 146 more online and has to pay to send all of them back because none is right.

Now she has tried on 6,425 suits, spent $1,460 on return shipping, and adds “buy wig’’ to the To-Do List because she’s pulled out her hair in frustration.

After a good cry and a vow to undo damage from a late-winter delivery of Girl Scout Cookies, she starts again.

Eventually, she finds a suit she likes. Loosely translated in woman-speak this means she hates it less than the others.

On the cruise, he thinks he looks great –– guy-gut and all. She hardly dares to breathe and let out her stomach.

Turns out the “tummy control’’ tag that came with her suit, and every suit these days, is propaganda worthy of the old Communist Party.

Which takes us back to those racks of bathing suits in all the stores.

We could let them get the best of us again this year. Or, ladies, we could buy them up and have a spectacular polyester bonfire.

Matches, anyone?

Follow Kathleen online. Click here.


  1. What a smile your post brought to my face! It is amazing how such a beautiful geographic location can cause such angst in women! I cannot go to a beach without a pair of capri’s to walk around with, and I assume no one really looks at me in my bathing suit when I am lying down. That is how I handle the beach.

  2. I got to a place in my life where I stopped buying bathing suits–about the time my demographic “disappeared” from most retail stores. I dropped out of the misery since I really do not like the beach anyway. I would only go buy another suit because of aquatic exercise classes. Even then, I’d probably get one that is more functional than fashionable.

  3. I was chagrined to realize a while back that I tend to buy clothes for the life I’d like to live, rather than for the life I actually live; not to mention for the body I’d like to have rather than one I do have! So, yes, I have a very nice but totally inappropriate bathing suit to contribute to the fire!

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