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Most people think of food, shelter and  a job as the necessities of life– things without which life is not worth living. Not Gill. She has as her top ‘must have’ items: a bathing suit (Speedo), ear plugs, and ear drops. I kid you not. She is, was, and always will be, a swimmer.

It’s not as though these items were snap judgements. These have been the most important items to her survival since she was in public school. And, now that I think of it, the Speedo of her Grade 8 year might well still be in her closet, carefully stashed for use in emergencies. (I must check her closet, shoo out the moths and grab the suit just in case she needs it when she arrives for her visit this summer.)

And yes, there ARE swimming emergencies! In fact, she’s having one right now. For a person like Gill who abhors change, Speedo has been her dependable brand of swimsuit. The style has changed little in 30 years — except for that unfortunate year when the legs were cut so high they were verging on indecent. I mean, there’s no point in trying to glam up a Speedo. It is a work suit, period. Think Clydesdale horse, ugly brown Oxford shoes, 20-year-old Toyota Corolla .  It is not meant for lounging on the beach trying to attract the attention of cute boys. It is to get real women from one point in the water to another in a timely fashion. Hence the name! Gill has worn her faithful Speedo on California beaches, English beaches, Spanish beaches, perhaps even French beaches. She is the one, as she acknowledges, who looks like a narc in her dark blue or black one-piece. She will never be in competition with the Baywatch babes or the models on the cover of the Sports Ilustrated Swimsuit edition. She is at the beach or pool to swim.

When her current Speedo, the one she uses in Britain, became too see-through and indecent to frequent public pools, she bit the bullet and went suit shopping.Keep in mind that Gill hates malls, hates shopping, hates trying things on, hates anything flappy, flashy, binding, chafing or scratchy. She also hates change — especially when it comes to a product that has been, in her estimation, perfect for years. And keep in mind that bathing suit shopping is the most demoralizing, most hated experience of any woman’s life. You’ll understand why Gill’s day went so badly.

She recoiled in horror when the clerk showed her to the Speedo rack. “But what is this abomination?” she asked, rubbing the fabric of the plain black Speedo between her fingers. “What have they done to the fabric? This is just plain wrong! I won’t have it!”

I’m sure the clerk tried unsuccessfully to justify the new fabric — an improvement as far as he was aware. “But the drag will be terrible!” Gill announced, “I’m not even in the water and I can tell the compression is wrong. There’s no lycra in it. And the back is too high. Even the armpits are too high! And the legs…don’t get me started. Way too low. And cut funny…it will ride up and my butt will be waving in the sunshine when I swim! And I’m not even going to bore you with the flappiness…”

The clerk cringed but still made the sale. Faced with no other option, Gill clenched her teeth and bought the new, definitely not improved Speedo. She took it for a test run to verify that her initial assessment of its inferiority had been justified. Then she ranted to me instead of the poor, unsuspecting clerk.

“Well, dear, you’ll be pleased to note, over Crazy D’s objections (in his new ‘if we haven’t used it in 3 months, get rid of it’ dictum), I argued vehemently for the preservation of your old Speedo in your closet. But you may have to opt for evening swims so the sun doesn’t shine through the many, many holes. Wouldn’t want to shock the young children in the pool.”