The Miami Herald

On the swimsuit front

(This classic Dave Barry column was originally published May 19, 2002.)

Ladies: It's time to get in shape for swimsuit season! If you start a program of diet and exercise NOW, in just a few weeks you can shed that extra 10 pounds, so when it's time to ''hit the beach,'' you can put on that new bikini with the confidence that comes from knowing that you will immediately take off that new bikini, put on a bathrobe and spend the rest of the weekend in your bedroom, weeping and eating Häagen-Dazs straight from the container.

Because let's face it, 10 pounds is not going to get the job done. Not these days, when the strict bodily standards set by supermodels and top Hollywood stars dictate that no woman is supposed to weigh more than her lipstick. How do these celebrities stay so impossibly thin? Simple: They have full-time personal trainers, who advise them on nutrition, give them pep talks, and shoot them with tranquilizer darts whenever they try to crawl, on hunger-weakened limbs, toward the packet of rice cakes that constitutes the entire food supply in their 37,000-square-foot mansions.

For most celebrities, the biggest meal of the day is toothpaste.

But you don't have a personal trainer, which means you have to rely on willpower. And of course you don't HAVE any willpower. If you did, you'd be doing stomach crunches right now, instead of reading this worthless column. But there you sit, lumplike, while the millions of fat cells in your thighs mate furiously and give birth to gigantic litters.

Perhaps you are thinking: ''But the super-thin look is out! The fashion industry recently declared that larger sizes were fashionable! Even Vogue magazine ran a photo spread wherein some of the models were normal human females!''

No offense, but: You moron. This is a TRICK, a prank that the fashion industry plays every few years. It causes millions of normal-sized women to go to the chic clothing stores, looking to buy the clothes they see in Vogue, only to discover that the fashion industry makes these clothes only for mutant women who wear size zero or lower.

''I'm sorry, but we don't have that in your size,'' you will be told by the snotty 78-pound salesperson, who enters and leaves the store via the mail slot. ``You might try across the street, at Big Betty's Duds for Whales.''

So what CAN you ladies do to prepare for swimsuit season? You can do what we men have been doing, with great success, for so many years: nothing. Most of us men have no problem parading around the beach in a bathing suit, even if it reveals that we have enough spare belly tissue to create a whole new person. What is our secret? Why are we so secure about our bodies? Simple: We have no idea what our bodies look like.

This is because of the way we use mirrors. Most women check out their body from all angles, in this order: (1) front, (2) side, (3) back. Naturally, the last two views are the ones they remember best, and over time they come to see themselves as consisting almost entirely of a stomach and a butt.

Most men, on the other hand, never look at anything but the front view, which is the most flattering. I'm a perfect example. For decades, having looked at myself only head-on, I thought I had a normal nose. It wasn't until I reached my 40s that I realized, after seeing explicit photographs of my profile, that my face is dominated by a glob of nasal flesh the size and shape of a mature Bartlett pear.

So now I make a conscious effort to keep my head pointed directly toward people, so they can't see my profile. If I have a passenger in my car, I drive using peripheral vision, which means I may run over the occasional person on the sidewalk, or even inside a building. But at least my passenger thinks I have a normal nose.

You ladies can use a similar technique for swimwear. Your role model should be the football defensive back. When the receiver goes out for a pass, the defensive back stays right with him, but runs backward and sideways, so he is always facing the receiver. It looks as though the defensive back is extremely self-conscious about the size of his booty.

Study this technique, ladies, and use it at the beach! If your footwork is solid, nobody will ever see anything but a flattering, head-on view. If you suffer a knee injury, try to fall so that your back is on the sand. If you need surgery, demand sugar-free anesthetic. And above all: Have a great summer!

(c) 2002, Dave Barry
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