Summer half-term is like a seasonal consumer groundhog day for me. I inevitably find myself in one of those large cheap shopping emporiums like Matalan with my daughter and the reason we’re there is to buy a new swimming costume.
For a girl of fourteen there are no swimming costumes. The girls section is hyper-sexualised and frightening and only goes up to age thirteen anyway. The adult section is just awful; garish, fussy and ‘glamorous.’ As she is in the changing-rooms trying on the pair of shorts we didn’t come in for, I find two costumes that look the most normal and take them in for her, and she comes out shaking her head. We leave with a pair of leggings she really did need.
‘That was a long way to drive for a pair of leggings,’ I say on the way home.
‘Yeah,’ she says. She looks a bit down, as I would if I had just tried on a pair of shorts and two swimming costumes.
I have a sudden overwhelming sense of sadness turning to fury that maybe she too will find this one of the most depressing parts of her life from now on.
‘I don’t get it,’ I said, ‘I don’t want to look glamorous on the beach. It’s not a night out. I only want to lie around on the beach reading, and swim in the sea. I don’t want to Look Sexy. Why do they design swimming costumes to make you look like you’re out for a night on the pull.’
‘And the sizes!’ I continued, fuming now, ‘nothing ever fits me. I have what is known as a ‘long torso’ so if I buy my usual size it bloody slices me up the middle, and I have to go two sizes bigger to get the length, in which case the costume comes with two huge tit-buckets which just make my breasts shrink further in embarrassment.’
‘That’s why I wear bikinis,’ I said, ‘because at least nowadays you can mix and match and buy a size 12 bottom and a size 8 top. And get a tankini thing to wear over the top. But what I really want is a baggy long costume that covers up my bum and thighs – like what boys get to wear on the beach.’
‘Yeah,’ she said.
‘I really don’t know why no cool hip young design team has done that for women yet,’ I said, ‘because in most areas of life, in the contest between feeling ‘sexy’ or feeling ‘cool,’ I think ‘cool’ generally comes out on top. In normal life, when you’re just, you know, living.’
‘Oh yes!!’ she said.
My daughter has a talent for design and loves to make things from scraps of material. When, in a few year’s time, that hip young design team presents their first collection of cool beachwear for girls, remember you heard it here first.