The weather at the moment is worth singing from the rooftops about. Sunshine, blue skies and temps in the late 20s, even at 8 o’clock at night. It is, of course, the latter half of the month of June, such weather is to be expected unless one lives in Germany, in which case such weather is to be regarded with healthy awe and a dash of disbelief. The other day it hit 33 degrees and we decided there was no better way to celebrate than to go to the lake. Despite menacing looking clouds rolling in, we drove the 50km to the big Murner See with SG driving like a bat out of hell down the autobahn in an attempt to quite literally beat the encroaching clouds. It was like something out of Twister. Despite our certainty the clouds would blanket the Oberpfalz and rain on our parade, we shook out our towels on the tiny crescent of imported sand, the three of us so desperate to do something summery, it could have hailed and we would still have probably gone for a swim. Miracuously, however, in a rare show of defiance, the German sun persisted. The clouds rolled by, the sun popped out the other end and we sunbaked like the vitamin D deprived people we are. SG said, sighing happily, ‘winter really is ending.’ I refrained from saying something witty about it being ten months after winter actually began and therefore about time it considered ending, and we contentedly breathed in the strange iron smell of the Murner See and our neighbour’s cigarette.
But before all of the lakeside sunbaking could happen, I had to buy swimmer bottoms. Just a basic, not-too-revealing pair I could mix and match with my various tops. A pair that covered my bottom and contained the hip gold. A pair a touch bigger than last summer’s pair – the tops from last summer are, of course, fine. Fat never distributes itself in places it would be more welcome. I went to H&M because a) there is approximately one other swimming costume shop in Weiden and from what I can see in the window they cater to a different age demographic b) Tschibo had sold out of its simple black swimming costume briefs c) H&M doesn’t charge a fortune for a piece of lycra (and a few stitches) that loses its lustre after a couple of beachy summer, particularly if one of those summers is spent in the insanely salty waters of the Aegean and rinsing oneself with the insanely salty, barely desalinated water on Santorini. The thing is, H&M has the single most depressing change-room lighting in the world of change-rooms. It is brutal. So brutal there has to be a theory behind its existence. Vessels containing such dangerous power do not exist without reason. Perhaps it has been set up to make you plunge head-long into an abyss of self hatred soothed only by the mass purchasing of a million H&M garments to either swaddle yourself in simultaneously or in the hope shopping endorphins will counteract the waves of negativity rolling off your back fat. No one could possibly have designed the H&M change-rooms and thought, ‘yep, that will give them a little confidence boost’ because it takes one’s scant scraps of self confidence and burns them.
Buying swimmer bottoms the other day proved to be an utterly harrowing experience. As I stood beneath the bright lights of the H&M change rooms, an ambitious selection of pants hung up on the little rung, I felt a rapidly building sense of alarm. Back lit, top lit, front lit, startling fat deposits I had no idea I ever had, jiggled in a sinster manner in the mirror, winking, saying ‘bet you did’t expect to see me.’ A vast expanse of white flesh rose up from my haunches and actually ate the lycra that was trying to contain, simultaneously, my hüftgold, bottom and gut. I actually lost both side panels of a pair of pants at one point and had to flick them free. And all of this while being perfectly able to see every dent, every bulge, every new addition that had morphed from a sugar dusted waffle into lard and clipped itself onto my body, in needlessly honest, direct lighting.
In Australia, when the time comes to throw off the swathes of clothes and try on swimmers in preparation for summer – ‘the summer reveal’ – thereby actually seeing in one go what you look like, head to toe, your body undulating around a tight, waterproof garment, it hasn’t been that long since you last wedged yourself into a bit of vibrant lycra. And it hasn’t been that long a period of time in which you have been ‘covering up’, hiding behind thick jumpers, long pants and boots. Winters just aren’t that long (nor that cold) and mild weather covers a lot of the year, meaning skin is on display far more often than it isn’t. In fact, in Sydney skin is just always on display, it’s what we do. So it isn’t that much of a surprise when you peel off the leggings and inspect the damage of hearty winter meals and a couple of months off caring about your legs and upper arms and what they look like in shorts and summer frocks. Here, though, the winters are so long (and the food so heavy) it is months and months and months spent wrapped in wool and jeans and jackets and scarves. And you are so bloody cold, you (or I) couldn’t give a toss about what your body looks like, you are too busy trying to give it the necessary energy to warm itself or distract yourself from the fact it is sub-zero and grey outside for the tenth day running, by cramming a few more doppelkeks into your face. Therefore the surprise when, bit by bit, these layers come off and the day comes when one must shoves oneself into a sundress or indeed a swimming costume, is a far greater one. The horror of a summer reveal, never pleasant anyway, is vastly heightened by the long winters. Not only is it more likely the gain may have been more generous, but such a long period of time since you last saw yourself in something strapless has elapsed, you have almost lost sight and/or memory of what your physique actually looks like. It’s all too much.
I grabbed a pair of lovely coral coloured bottoms in a sensible size and burst out of the change rooms, throwing the other options at the change room lady and scuttling past a gaggle of loud, mouthy students who are still probably unaware their elastin production will run out someday. From now on it is dim lighting and expert use of shadows until I have become accustomed to what is apparently my body but appears to be entirely someone else’s.
PS: is there anything better than the smell of sunscreen?