OK. So I haven't had the time to get new clothes since last summer, and I only have a few T-shirts, no shorts, and an ancient bathing suit. I needed a new suit especially badly because I wanted to go swimming the next day, and so on the Monday before my last exam my dad dragged me into a store.
Sometimes I actually do like shopping, but that day I was still upset from feeling like I had screwed myself over by not deciding to go to a private arts school next year, and I was pretty vulnerable. Bathing suit shopping is a bad idea when you're vulnerable, and a worse idea when you're with your dad and four-year-old brother.
From my vantage point at the store's front door, I didn't like the look of any of the suits. I threw my dad a look and started flipping through the rack of one pieces. I didn't want to wear a bikini--it only works on flat-chested stick figures that don't want to risk swimming. I guess it was mostly because I didn't want to look slutty and I didn't want people to laugh at my horrible-lookingness.
Bright blue and black floral print, lime green and yellow stripes, a plain blue suit just like the one at home. I'm ready to start crying again, and my dad looks at me, smiles a bit, and says nothing.
The saleslady comes up to me. "Can I help you?"
"I'm fine, thanks." Lovely. Bright purple. I walk over to the tankinis, and she follows.
My dad looks from me to her, says, "Sure."
"Yeah, okay," I mumble. She's tall, skinny, small-chested, and blond, wearing a white fitted shirt and purple pants. She grins white teeth at me.
"So do you want a one-piece? Bikini?" She looks me up and down. My jeans are stained, holey, and I'm wearing a T-shirt from camp with stars drawn on it. "A one-piece."
We just went through this, I think as we walk back to sort through the black plain nylon.
"Whatever." I shrug at her, smiling, my eyes almost water.
"Well, a tankini, then?" The suits over there are either a brownish green or tye-dyed fairy blue colors.
She holds up a pair held together by curly strings. I look up at her. "Do you think I could get one with straps? I'd kind of like it to stay on when I go in the water."
"Oh, you want to go swimming, then? Good for you." Lacy white tankini? I shake my head. That airy tye-dye mess? I almost smile.
"Well, what about..." She scans the rack, and I think, but I'm a boy.
What? Where did that come from? An image of me in boxery bathing suit comes to my head--running around, free, low voice, laughing on the sand. Huh.
I grab a one-piece off the rack, and the lady shoves a few more through the curtain of my changing room (Festively titled Arruba!).
The saleslady's selection is woefully low-cut, and the bright purple wrinkles on me. I already have a plain suit, anyway. I wanted something different. I imagine a hippie-ish one-piece in reddish-orange India pringt, me laughing in the sun as I race down the beach. That wouldn't be so bad. I don't think they sell those here, though.
With that last vision, I strip off the suit I'm wearing and stumble into my clueless-nerd clothes. It might not look it, lady, but I'm smart. And I'm not usually this insecure. I now how to dress myself, thank you very much, and it will not be in pastel tye-dye.
A few more minutes of attempted coercion as I flip through the beach shirts and skirts--that one would look good on Alyssa, but not me--I have managed to convince both my dad and the saleslady that I am not going to buy anything. We leave.
When we stop in the ice-cream shop to placate my brother, I can't hold it in any longer and I cry into my dad's shirt. He rubs my back and holds me as some young teenage boys stare while looking at their pockets. And I don't know really what's wrong--school is almost over, after all, and I do have a lot of good in my life--except that I just may have turned down the only school of people who know what I'm feeling, and I can't even buy a bathing suit after four years of procrastination and frayed straps.