As we enter our first summer since the Sept. 11 attacks, many of us look to New York and Washington, the Middle East and Afghanistan, and wonder if there's anything we can do to help the war effort. The irony, of course, is that the best thing we can do is what we already do best. You see, this is a war born of symbols—the extremists who've vowed to destroy us understand this—and there is one symbol that sends the message loud and clear that our way of life cannot and will not be defeated.
Yes, it's the bikini.
You didn't see a lot of bikinis in Johnny Taliban's Afghanistan. No, women there were objects of repression and cruelty—kind of like being Southern Baptist—told to cover up and shut up. In America, we celebrate everyone, including—especially—women in bikinis. In America, God bless it, a woman in a bikini is free to talk about anything she wants—politics, religion, how her bitch roommate totally could see the Pepsi Twist had her name on it but she drank it anyway but what do you expect from someone who keeps their hairbrushes in such poor shape—and American men will listen. God bless you, boys!
Yes, the bikini is what unites and defines us. It is our strength. Women understand this, which explains why even though the economy has dropped off in certain areas, it has remained strong in swimwear.
"It's been terrific this year," said Yvette Perdue of Yvette's in Seal Beach, who has been in the business more than 30 years.
Merchants like Yvette say they're selling lots of bikinis. Bikinis that show a bit of this and a little bit more of that. But they're also selling a lot of bikinis that allow for activity.
"Something we call the 'hipster' is really popular," said Lara Nemec at Huntington Beach's aptly named Dare Wear. "It's worn just off the hip, and a halter goes with it. It allows more movement."
Listening, evildoers? America's women are nearly naked and on the move. Dressed in their hipsters and consistently popular tankini—a bikini bottom with a tank top—that allows a person to do more things because, Nemec said, "girls want to do more things at the beach now than just lie around and get a tan."
Indeed, Americans understand the strength inherent in our swimwear. America's Greatest Generation understood it when they were motivated to fight the Hun by proudly displaying Betty Grable in a swimsuit. In fact, Betty sometimes motivated them two and three times a day, so the sergeant would finally have to tell them to stop motivating themselves and put their hands back on their rifles. During the Vietnam War, Bob Hope paraded bikini-clad starlets and told our fighting men, "I just wanted to show you what you're fighting for!" The men would hoot and cheer because they finally understood what the war was about: sacrificing their lives so these women could go home and advance their careers by having rough sex with Doug McClure and Barbara Stanwyck.
"I've noticed that really strong, really bright prints are in, especially something really bright set against something black," said Sierra Caldwell of Balboa's Persimmon Tree. "Anything denim has been hot and, of course, anything Hawaiian. I do think the jeweled [bikinis] are starting to fade, though."
Oh, those colors might fade, but they don't run, though it's a good idea to wash them in cold water, you know, just to be safe. Our colors reveal our optimism, and there is reason for such because we know we are not alone in this fight. Indeed, for those who truly want to take the fight to the enemy, their weapon of choice is not American but Brazilian.
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"The most daring suit we have is probably what is called a true Brazilian," said Gail Hammerschmidt of Persimmon Tree. "True Brazilian means skimpy, lower in the front, small in the back. The best way to describe it is 'barely legal.'"
Barely legal? Yes, well, Lincoln had to suspend habeas corpus. Such is war. Women understand that. They need look no further than their history books or a recent Museum of London exhibition that featured a string bikini believed to date back to the first century A.D. and to have been worn by a Roman acrobat. The Romans understood the strength of the string, understood that the sight of the acrobat's strapping buttocks flapping unabated meant to the mud-dwelling Brits that they had been utterly defeated and thus consigned to a future of sheep intestines and Cliff Richard records. Devastating.
We Americans know it. We celebrate it in our culture, whether it's the beloved film Bikini Bistro, in which the owner of a failing vegetarian restaurant hits upon the brainy scheme of dressing the waitresses in bikinis, or The Bikini Car Wash Company, in which the owner of a failing car wash hits upon the brainy scheme of dressing the car washers in bikinis, or Bikini Drive-In, in which the owner of a failing drive-in hits on the brainy scheme of dressing the employees in bikinis, or The Bikini Car Wash Company 2, in which the owner fights a hostile takeover by dressing up the car washers in bikinis.
Our strength as a nation lies not in our stars but in ourselves. Ourselves wearing really hot swimwear. As Yvette accurately, and defiantly, put it, "Nothing will ever beat the bikini."