‘I can’t,’ I gasp, bent over double and clutching the backs of my knees with both hands. I’m beginning to see stars and my breathing sounds as if I’ve been on the treadmill for an hour.
‘One more time and you’re there,’ my husband assures me.
Sweat is leaking from every pore and my hair is plastered to my head. Why, I ask myself for the hundredth time, do I put myself through this? I muster my strength and heave with all my might, and suddenly…my wetsuit is on. Well, sort of.
I stand, panting, and look at myself in the mirror. It has taken me ten husband-assisted minutes to get here. The fabric is still pooled around my ankles and the crotch is nowhere near where it should be – unless my crotch begins at my knees. My old wetsuit finally gave up last summer after one too many heave-hos, hence this new one.
I haul at the neoprene fabric as if I’m pulling a net onto a trawler.
‘Do you want some help?’ My husband grabs me under the arms and pulls the suit up, giving me the world’s biggest wedgie.
.. I look out of the patio doors of our holiday-let onto the beach and watch as a gazelle-like woman hops lithely into her wetsuit and does some weird sort of callisthenics to zip it up. All by herself. Her suit even has folds in it where it’s slightly too big for her.
‘Get off, will you? That’s not helping,’ I grunt, bouncing up and down as if on the end of a bungee cord, tugging the suit further up my body. ‘God, I think I need to have a lie down,’ I tell him, shakily making for the bed. I flop like a stranded seal and beg my poor heart to beat at a more sensible rate.
Rolling onto my side, I look out of the patio doors of our holiday-let onto the beach and watch as a gazelle-like woman hops lithely into her wetsuit and does some weird sort of callisthenics to zip it up. All by herself. Her suit even has folds in it where it’s slightly too big for her. She turns and jogs lightly down to the waters’ edge with her board and dives coolly into the surf. I let out a small bleat of misery. I feel a packet of crisps or perhaps an afternoon biscuit coming on, then surmise that neither of those things are going to help my current predicament.
At 49, I’m proud that I’m still up for body-boarding on our annual Cornish getaway. Every year, I resolve to be a size ten again and, every year, I’m not. My thirteen-year-old mummy-tummy is still very much in evidence, and I’m way too cowardly to opt for surgery. So, in the spirit of body positivity, every year I get into the wetsuit and off I stagger into the chilly waters of the Celtic Sea. Its crystalline aqua and its freezing temperatures will literally take your breath away. There are hardy (or foolhardy) souls who brave the waters in nothing more than a swimsuit or bikini, but not me. I’m there in my winter-thickness wetsuit and my sea shoes (surely, I’m not alone in my horror of “something touched my feet!”?).
I’m still lying on the bed, when I realise that sweat is trickling down my back. Perhaps this will have the same effect as a sauna-suit and I’ll lose a few pounds. Hah!
I manoeuvre myself off the bed and struggle, in reverse, to get out of the damn thing. I’ve gotten the sleeves as far as my elbows, but it now seems to be vacuum-sealed around my wrists. I look like I’ve been restrained in some weird neoprene jacket, ready to be whisked off to the nearest padded cell. After a brief tug-of-war involving a real live human arm, my hand shoots out, hitting me in the face. My husband tries, and fails, to stifle his laughter. I thank my lucky stars that neither of us are into bondage.
‘What about your wetsuit?’ I ask, hoping to deflect attention from my current undignified state.
I’m contemplating the fact that I’ll have to factor in a good twenty minutes each day to get myself beach-ready, when my alarmed looking husband comes back into the room, brandishing his new wetsuit.
‘I ordered one with a front zip,’ he says bleakly, holding it up for inspection. Said zip does not run from neck to navel as you would expect. Oh no, this one has some kind of diagonal slash from shoulder to shoulder. We both examine it in fascination and horror. ‘I can’t fathom how you would get into it – other than by turning yourself into a liquid and having someone pour you in,’ he says.
Another brief tug-of-war (this time involving legs) and I’m out of my suit.
‘Speaking of liquid,’ I pant, as I lie gasping on the floor like a newly landed fish, ‘you get the ice and I’ll get the gin.’