I can’t remember the year exactly, but it was summertime, and it was definitely the mid-ish 80s. My family’s annual trek to Lake Cachuma was underway, complete with drooling canines in the back of our trailer-towing station wagon. It was a vehicle lovingly piloted by my parents, and which my best friend and I had crammed full of cassette tapes, snacks and games. Kibbles and water kept the dogs happy as we motored, although the latter kept sloshing up and out of their water bowl.
My best friend was along for the excursion, and we were ready for campfires, s’mores, stars galore and swimming in the campground pool. I can’t remember if swimming in the lake was allowed or not, but even if it was, you couldn’t pay me all the money in the world to wade down into it. Most lakes freak me out, especially this one, what with its murky water and creepy, slimy trees just below the surface; they were forever reaching for air and sunlight, growing skyward from the depths.
We’d also graduated to the outdoors for sleeping, and were allowed to be roommates in a tiny, navy blue dome tent instead of in the cramped — yet full of good memories — trailer.
I was excited to wear my new bathing suit — a hot pink, sassy one-piece (oxymoron?) that had a zipper which started at the navel and continued to the top of its scoop neckline. To clarify, however, the brand had considered its pre-teen audience, and said zipper didn’t actually function. It just looked pretty sweet.
A day or so after arriving at our campsite, we decided it was time to make the hike to the pool. My parents changed in the trailer, while best friend and I took turns changing into our swimsuits in the tent. She went first, and when it was time for me to change, everyone was all set and waiting, ready to go. I tumbled around inside; it was a day so hot you felt as though you could barely breathe, and changing in a small, nylon tent was the camping equivalent of roasting in hell. As I scrambled out of the tent, excited to 1) be donning my new, stylish suit and 2) ready to jump into an icy cold pool, I heard a squeal. It was my best friend, and she was pointing.
While there’d be no wardrobe malfunctions which originated from the non-zipper of a zipper, I did manage to expose myself.
As in, “down there.”
I blame it on rushing. I didn’t want people to wait on me, so I moved with the quickness. And since the air was still and the heat in the tent was stifling, I completely missed out on any telltale breeze that would’ve tipped me off. You know, about the need to reposition the crotch of my swimsuit — which was pulled completely over to one side.
I don’t know if I knew many curse words yet, but I suspect that I spun around after yelling one or two, covered up, and then proceeded to clash with my hot pink one-piece since I was that oh-so-attractive shade of embarrassment red.
At any rate, I don’t know if it’s because of that scarring experience or not, but there’s not a day that goes by that I don’t check my appearance in the mirror before walking out the door. And I can think of one time in the last year or two when it’s saved me. I had to run some errands on a weekend and, after a day of cleaning the house in my jammies, threw on some clothes to make a run to the dry cleaners. I grabbed the jeans I’d worn the day before, reviewed myself in the mirror, and noticed something extra in my pant leg.
I did a quick hokey pokey shimmy and the prior day’s thong came tumbling out. Ew. But better in my bedroom than, say, in front of the dry cleaning dude whose gaze tends to linger a bit too long each time I go in.
Tonight I am thankful for never having been as exposed as I was that one, fateful day in the mountains 25 years ago or so, and I’m grateful to my brain which remembers to seek out the mirror before I leave the safety of my house each day. That said, the lesson of being exposed is one that reminds me that no matter how big a malfunction might be, time goes on, and the day will come when we can look back on our blunders and laugh.