By Vicki Brown
In the early 70s, girls wore bikinis. Only old women wore one piece bathing suits, at least that’s what I thought as a young teen. So as a teenaged girl, I was determined to wear a bikini.
Unfortunately, I was cursed with a little poochy tummy (inherited from my Scottish heifer clan), so I had to have a swimsuit bottom that was raised a little nearer to my belly button than most. It was humiliating, so I usually wore a t-shirt over my bathing suit.
Anyway, I despised wearing a swimsuit around other teens and was in a panic when I found out that our church youth were going to a local swimming hole. It was really a glorified pond.
A few days before the excursion, my friend Carla asked me to go bike riding with her. Carla was everything I wasn’t…blonde, blue-eyed, a year older than me, and the proud owner of a goddess’ body at the age of 15. I desperately wanted to look just like her. No, truthfully, I wanted to be her.
She was my first friend at church when we moved to Sumter from Pennsylvania. I grew to admire her and appreciate her friendship, and the day we went bike riding, we stopped at her house for a drink to cool off. As we talked about the upcoming swimming event, Carla frowned and showed me the bathing suit her father was forcing her to wear. Since it was a church function, she wasn’t allowed to wear a bikini. She had to wear this new suit, and she wasn’t at all happy about it.
I immediately broke the 10th Commandment. I coveted that suit. In today’s fashion verbiage, we would call it a tankini. But back then…it was just different.
Made out of blue denim, it had a bikini bottom, but the top looked like a tank top with skinny straps. It had a giant white zipper up the front, and two small red bandana pockets. It was adorable. I wanted it. It was perfect to hide my body faults. And it just wasn’t fair. Carla would look great in anything, but she could easily wear a bikini without being self-conscoius. As for me, I felt my choices were so limited. Nope. It just wasn’t fair.
Hesitantly, I asked Carla where her mother purchased the suit. She told me, and I begged her to let me buy one just like it.
Now, to help men understand this, you must know that what I asked just isn’t done. Every woman wants to wear something to make everyone else jealous or envious. Women want others to admire their apparel, and they want to make a fashion statement by being unique. So to ask if I could get a suit just like hers would be like finding a company that makes cheap Superbowl rings and everybody wearing one. It just isn’t done.
But I have to hand it to Carla. She was so great about it. She shrugged, said “Sure”, and I immediately went home to beg and plead for my mother to buy me that suit.
After much cajoling, and my parents’ generously rearranging funds and probably postponing paying a bill or two (Thanks Mom and Dad!), my mother bought me that suit. For the first time in my life, I wasn’t self-conscious. I couldn’t wait to go swimming.
At the pond, I was proudly wearing my suit…and Carla was wearing an identical one. She was so gracious and wasn’t bothered at all.
Excited, I saw an empty inner tube floating nearby, so I ran and jumped in the water, landing on top of the tube. That’s when I felt it…a strange “pop” on my chest.
Climbing off the inner tube, I looked down, and there it was…my zipper had come apart…IN THE MIDDLE!
Horrified, I yelled for Carla, and she helped me up the ladder, out of the water and into a changing room. Together we worked and worked, but we couldn’t get the zipper down to try and re-zip it. Finally, Carla managed to find a safety pin which I used to hold the top together in the middle, and I wore a t-shirt over my suit. Back to square one.
I never could fix that suit; it ended up being thrown away. And I never truly appreciated the sacrifice Carla made by letting me buy a suit just like hers, but I do now. She was a true friend.
Thanks, Carla, for being so nice to an awkward young girl, and congratulations on beating cancer. I am proud to know you.