Making Room to Grow


“People shop for a bathing suit with more care than they do a husband or wife. The rules are the same. Look for something you’ll feel comfortable wearing. Allow for room to grow.”—Erma Bombeck

These words from beloved Erma Bombeck always make me smile.

First, it reminds me of my dread of bathing suit shopping, which explains why I keep wearing the same stretchy black one-piece with a thigh-forgiving skirt ruffle I bought many years ago at a shop near the lake—on sale in October when buying a swimsuit was the last thing on my mind. It fit, it was snug enough to stay put but comfortable enough for body movement, and—much to my delight—I didn’t have to think about wearing it until the following summer. Never a fashion statement for me, a swimsuit is a matter of having something on hand in case I’m unable to talk my way out of a full immersion water activity. You see, I don’t consider myself a strong swimmer, and I most certainly don’t allow others to photograph me at the beach; it’s not an image that brings me joy. I can share intimate details of my love life in my memoir, but I’m not letting my body parts all hang out in a bathing suit photo. I’m far more comfortable dressed in layers to match my self-defined modest and wholesome sensibilities—a place of safety.

These words from Erma Bombeck also remind me how unconventional (a polite word for being a misfit) I am. I never “went shopping” for a spouse. Quite the contrary, I contemplated life as a “spinster”—not because I wasn’t the marrying kind but because I had decided no one wanted me in that way. As a college student I was preparing myself for a meaningful future without the presence of a man in my life. But all that changed when “Victor” came into my life. I fell head over heels in love with him (a curious idiom to use for a person without any gymnastic abilities—that’s how unexpected true love was for me). I had no doubt he fell head over heels in love with me, too.

So we made marriage vows and embarked on countless adventures together. We followed the rules: We felt totally comfortable with each other and allowed for room to grow. Or so I thought.

Those who read my love story discover how the totally unexpected happens—and how I get myself in some serious trouble along the way. It turns out I needed to “allow for room to grow” in other ways.

Let’s face it: I don’t have a beach bunny body. I see those swimsuit issues of magazines showing photos that benefit from airbrushing all the scars, stretch marks, and other imperfections away. I also know plenty of people don’t like the way they look in a swimsuit. In fact, my Google search tells me “swimsuit anxiety” is a thing. But now it’s time to allow “room to grow” in my thinking on this subject in two ways, which can make us feel so much better:

  • Focus on what our bodies can do (such as walk, jump, sit, lie down, relax) as opposed to what they look like.
  • Be aware our loved ones are far more likely to remember the fun times we have playing in the water, not how awful anyone looked in a bathing suit.

News Flash: Attitude adjustment now in progress.

[Photo courtesy of, showcasing the photography of Toni Cuenca; I’m not ready to publicly pose in a swimsuit…yet or perhaps ever.]

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