How to Know When Bathing Suit Season is Approaching in Italy

27 Apr

[Partial nudity warning: this post contains a full-on wardrobe malfunction. This may or may not interest you to know.]

Holy crap, people. This is a no-brainer. The other day I was walking to pick my son up from school (this appears to be a fruitful practice for generating blog post material) and I kid you not, within a one-block (ONE BLOCK!) radius, all of a sudden I got hit over the head like a sledgehammer by the sudden realization that OHMYGODINHEAVEN it must be bathing suit season in a matter of … well, in a matter of soon.

Why, you ask?

Oh, allow me. It’s all about how shop windows change.

Remember the pharmacy (ie, place where you go to fill prescriptions for blood pressure meds and allergies and certified clinical illnesses?) that promoted this? Well, their windows of late have changed as a harbinger of warm weather to come. Witness:


Oh, where to start, where to start? How about with the name: CELLU DESTOCK. 14 days! (exclamation point added for emphasis) I think if you just throw “cellu” into the product, it automatically communicates “this cream will banish cellulite forever” or something thereabouts.

Clearly the awesome derrière needs no additional commentary, except for my astute observation that I don’t honestly think that Cellu Destock had anything to do with that. However, let’s read what the ad copywriters have to say about it:

SHOW OFF (everything)
FEEL GOOD (in my body)
WEAR (what I want)

I might add: Oh, ladies! All in a little cream!

But hell, don’t take it from me or the ad geniuses behind this miracle product. Just read the reviews:


I love the contrast here. “Girls this thing is working! It took me a while to make a decision on buying this cream.” (really?) to “Haven’t seen any dramatic changes or improvement in the appearance of cellulite on my thighs and hips.”

Um, no. That’s because dramatic improvements in cellulite are not possible. But don’t tell reviewer #1’s husband. He said, and here I quote: “Did you do something with your legs? They look different.”

(I will not dignify that with any additional commentary, it is just too great all on its own.)

But, again: the idea that you can’t improve cellulite? GASP! THE HORROR! Take it away, Dr. Garry S. Brody, professor of plastic surgery at the University of Southern California (a place where they know a thing or two about body image):

Women who believe that they can eliminate cellulite through creams, or even weight loss, are likely to be disappointed, said Dr. Garry S. Brody, a professor of plastic surgery at the University of Southern California. “So-called cellulite is the natural anatomic contour characteristic of many women’s thighs and buttocks,” Brody said. “It is unrelated to weight gain or loss. There is absolutely no surgical or medical solution to women’s dislike of this appearance except for the psychological self-deception of wanting to believe the ads.” [source]

Ok, ok, you’re thinking: but I’m not convinced. Psychological self-deception—pshaw! you say. Show me more!

Your wish is my command:


What about if we frame our formerly-cottage-cheese-laden-thighs with our hands to show how effective the product is, and we put a big ol’ headline that says:

Cellulite is a sickness.
To cure it you have to act on the causes.
Somatoline cures cellulite and helps prevent it from returning.

Whoa! SICKNESS! CURES! Who knew?

But before we leave this (pharmacy) window, let’s look at ALL the products on offer, shall we?


This is maybe my favorite because it combines two things that people want: more sleep, and getting thin. Look at the headline on this puppy: “Get thin in 10 nights*.”

How much am I loving that asterisk?

The tag line says: Somatoline Cosmetic. It works.

I guess being fat isn’t a sickness. You can just sleep it off with this cream. 10 nights, folks!

Let’s cross the street to the profumeria, where they sell makeup and skin care products (non-pharmaceutical, obvs). Hello, window shopping!


Add a neon green line to the profile of the beautiful buttocks. Then show your whole entire line-up of miracle anticellulite products. And see, ironically, this is the one place where we see pills to cure cellulite. The subhead is “Special Perfect Body” line.


They contain caffeine. Like, you know, that other thing called espresso that they drink around here.

And for those of you growing anxious to see boobies, or rather, booby, as promised—fine. Here:


For the low, low price of €9,90, you too can have a cream that, I kid you not, is called Breast Firming and Volumizing* Cream. Volumizing! According to (the venerable Merriam-Webster doesn’t even have ‘volumizing’ as an entry):

Main Entry:  volumize
Part of Speech:  v
Definition:  to add volume to, as the hair; to enhance the thickness or body of
Etymology:  1991

Etymology 1991, that’s awesome, you know that was ALL Pantene Pro-Vitamin B Complex.

Anyways, whatevs. If you want boobies with more body, buy this cream. SOS! Save Our Ship! Sinking Boobies!

What about the esthetician, right? Italy is big on these shops that do all sorts of things to save everything that’s sinking on a human body. Check out these signs in the window:


10 anti-cellulite massages cost €300. But the best part for me is the sexy woman running on a track, advertising the “Weight Loss Fitness Program” that encompasses something called a “Hypertonic Program” that inclues something called an “Electric Sculpure Massage” for €350. That scares the holy bejeezus right out of me, but I am reassured by the underlying print: “Personal trainer on request.” Oh folks, I couldn’t make this shite up if I tried.

Electric sculpture massage? Is that even legal?

A bit of cursory research into the world of electro-sculpure massage reveals that they use things like this device named “Sculpturelle,” that look like this, and say “Professional beauty equipments” on the bottom.


I don’t know about y’all, but if I was subjected to the use of an electric device applied to my body by a company that didn’t even take the time to appropriately translate the words on the device, well—hmm. But, the caduceus is the sure sign of it being an officially-sanctioned medical device. Not that the RMS people even know the meaning of caduceus, but that’s beside the point: this is professional beauty equipments, people!

Oh, sigh. So, you know. This is Italy and we need to get ready for the beach. No exercising, we have electro-sculpture and anti-cellulite pills and booby volumizing cream! This is almost getting exhausting, but I feel I must be exhaustive in my research, to offer you the full range of options. So, let’s not forget the “tummy and hips” cream:


€49,50 and it’s going to “help reduce circumference in 4 weeks” ASTERISK.


My 4-year old daughter saw this one and goes, “Look mommy! She’s standing on her toe!” and I was like, right you are, little one! Don’t try this at home!

This one is “Leg Thinning and Draining Cream, Ice Effect Formula.” This one promises to “Thin legs in 2 weeks” ASTERISK. [Are you loving these time ranges? Very important. This means I can start using it just a couple weeks before I plan to wear my bathing suit, no? But I have to be strategic with my hip and ab cream and my 10-night cream too.]

And, menopausal women? Don’t think you’re off the hook, eh? The pressure to be Photoshopped beautiful continues into post-menopausal age. Just look at your typical post-menopausal woman here:


Sorry this one is so blurry. I think quite possibly my hands were shaking from the realization that the post-menopausal woman on the box has a body that looks better than mine did at 18 years old when I was a high school cheerleader. No matter: the National Institute on Aging tells us that the average age for menopause onset is 51. So, maybe what happens is that starting now, around my current age of 37, my body starts to magically transform (perhaps with the aid of all these costly creams in the window) into a better-than-teenage body by the age of 51. Priced to move at €54 (that’s $75 for my American-dollar-carrying friends).

Well, what can I say? Please don’t tell the Italians that next week I’m embarking on this program. It requires clean eating and lifting weights, in an actual gym, where you—GASP—sweat.

Shh! If they find out, they might shame me into buying a booby-volumizing cream.



26 Responses to “How to Know When Bathing Suit Season is Approaching in Italy”

  1. triciatierney April 27, 2014 at 11:40 am #

    Hysterical and alarming, as always. I remember after giving birth to my daughter in Puglia in 1995, all the other new moms were strapping themselves into a weird girdle thing. Supposedly to get you back in shape. I wondered, but how does this help strengthen your muscles?

  2. Nora April 27, 2014 at 12:52 pm #

    I used one of those girdle things too after the delivery of my first son (in Italy) but I did that to support my back and belly after a c-section, more than to “get back in shape”. Gaining only 9 kilos during my pregnancy was the only thing that “worked” in getting me back in shape 😉

  3. janavi April 27, 2014 at 1:08 pm #

    I have been seeing these ads for these slim while u sleep creams for years, so I assume someone is buying them. But I can’t imagine they have much repeat business.
    Italian women wear so little on the beach usually,so I guess their freak out level is pretty high this time of year. My personal solution is a one piece suit. They probably think I am a nun.

  4. Nora April 27, 2014 at 1:19 pm #

    I have to check how is the “beach body” obsession here in the Netherlands, but so far I didn’t notice anything about it.
    I suppose Dutch people are just so madly happy to see some real sun, they just don’t care about anything else but getting the more they can out of the summer season!

  5. Nora April 27, 2014 at 1:21 pm #

    I love this advice so much:

    “How to get a beach body:
    1) Have a body.
    2) Go to the beach.”


  6. Diana April 27, 2014 at 5:27 pm #

    I love the “sickness” commerical! So funny! E’ una malatia! Ha, ha, ha, ha!

  7. JoAnn April 28, 2014 at 4:07 am #

    Nora, love your second comment about “beach body.” And am loving the quote from the doc, ““So-called cellulite is the natural anatomic contour characteristic of many women’s thighs and buttocks,” Brody said. “It is unrelated to weight gain or loss.” Amen.

  8. Shelley Ruelle April 28, 2014 at 1:25 pm #

    Ha ha ha! Yes, they call that the “fascia” I think. I wore it too! Actually to be perfectly honest with you, I started wearing it to help with post C-section abdominal pain, and it actually helped quite a bit. Nothing to do with trying to look “slim” though 🙂 Forget that. I walked up and down 60 steps through my whole pregnancy in Trastevere, no elevator, so I stayed in good shape. 🙂

  9. Shelley Ruelle April 28, 2014 at 1:27 pm #

    A one piece, yes. I did that too. Not a nun, maybe a grandma. That was the reaction I got from my ex-husband when we first started dating, and I pulled out my (what I thought was) sleek Polo navy blue one piece. He looked at it, stunned, like he’d never seen such a thing. “Only grandmas wear one piece suits in Italy!” And so started the shame spiral 🙂 Ha… actually to be honest, one thing I do appreciate about Italy is that, these ads to the contrary, people on the beach for the most part seem to be pretty comfortable in their own bodies. I mean, the ones who are overweight. I like that the grandmas in one piece suits don’t seem to make it such an issue. 🙂

  10. Shelley Ruelle April 28, 2014 at 1:27 pm #

    Oh man, I can see that. I enjoyed that sun so much last week…

  11. Shelley Ruelle April 28, 2014 at 1:27 pm #

    Really, isn’t it terrible? Then again, there are a lot of made-up “sicknesses” around here: cervicale, mal di fegato…

  12. Shelley Ruelle April 28, 2014 at 1:28 pm #

    YES! Amen to natural anatomic contours! And to have to be schooled on this by a plastic surgeon from SoCal, no less!!! 🙂

  13. janavi April 28, 2014 at 5:26 pm #

    Oh yes, Italian women seem to be much more comfortable with their bodies. What I saw on the Beach in Sicily! Grandmas and some very big women in bikinis. I think its good they are so at ease, tho its not always pretty, to my probably distorted idea of what looks good.

  14. Monica April 28, 2014 at 9:50 pm #

    Hahahaha! Oh yes, after 11 years in Hawaii and a now a few months in San Francisco, I had almost forgotten the Italian ‘beach body’ obsession, with all the wildly-named products and services that go with that! Because it really is an obsession.
    At least 1 out of 10 of my Italian friends come out with statements like: “I am so fat, I am desperate to lose 5 kilos!” – and these are skinny people, who wear a size 4 or 6 as it is!
    The first comment I get from 1-2 members of my family when I step out of the baggage claim at the airport after I haven’t seen them for, say, 2 years is: “Oh you’ve lost weight!” or, worse, “Look at you, you’ve put on weight!” And the same happens with 3-4 more once I see the rest.
    I tell you: it’s an obsession! 😀

  15. Brendan Monroe April 29, 2014 at 12:23 pm #

    That post was Daily Show worthy! (High praise!) I just love how Italian pharmacies get all down with the “sex sells” bit, you’d think you were in a store selling bathing suits, maybe an adult magazine aisle, and it’s a pharmacy! Love it! As for the miracle cream, it’s like religion I take it… You have to really, really believe in it and just maybe you’ll feel better about using it!

  16. Donna Hazel April 29, 2014 at 3:19 pm #

    This is just brilliant. I remember once researching the vitamins and chemicals cited in a few skin and hair products, you know, all those “pro-theramide, co-beta TX12, with sub-particle alkalinic fractal tufts” etc. And none existed. Just loved this post. Is it some sort of conspiracy to keep women so self-obsessed they keep their noses out of the civic trough? Not to mention the money!

  17. Shelley Ruelle April 29, 2014 at 7:21 pm #

    Thanks! And about believing in it–yes, but just like religion, where you get miracles as proof of saintworthiness, it’s REAL when your husband says to you: “Did you do something with your legs?” OMG you can’t make that shit up if you tried.

  18. Shelley Ruelle April 29, 2014 at 7:23 pm #

    Oh, Donna, no clue on strategy here; I think the ad geniuses don’t go much beyond T & A as general strategy. But I do like the idea of fractal tufts 🙂

  19. Donna Hazel April 29, 2014 at 8:06 pm #

    I sort of know that but tend to ignore all this body shit these days, although I didn’t in my tweens and twenties. After that I grew fractal tufts instead 🙂

  20. Brendan Monroe April 29, 2014 at 8:21 pm #

    Perhaps he saw the container in the medicine cabinet and got what his wife was aiming at, but knowing how unperceptive us guys tend to be, probably not :-p

  21. Shelley Ruelle April 29, 2014 at 9:11 pm #

    Wow, see now, I would have never even gone there. Points for sensitivity, Brendan, nicely done.

    Personally, I just crack up at the phrase “Did you do something different with your legs?” as if “legs” are as malleable as a haircut. I don’t know. I’m quite easily amused. I guess that’s why I’ll probably never leave Rome.

  22. Shelley Ruelle April 29, 2014 at 9:12 pm #

    Good call. When in doubt, go for the fractal tufts. I’m all for it.

  23. neonanomaly June 17, 2014 at 10:21 am #

    It never ceases to amaze me that these products can be sold in a country where air conditioning is life threatening and all medicine must dissolve in water.

  24. Shelley Ruelle June 18, 2014 at 9:41 pm #

    HAHAHAHAHA touchè!!!! Don’t forget what is commonly referred to as the “housewife’s little helper” … anti-anxiety DROPS. What is up with medicine in drops? You’re right … we’re back to the liquid thing once again. Dissolve these drops in water too. Turn off the A/C, by the way, I feel a bout of cervicale coming on…

  25. Franco in Canada July 23, 2014 at 12:32 am #

    Ah, if they could all just chill like Signor Armani, 80. (Formentera beach, Ibiza)


  1. Best Bathing Suit For Your Body Type - Bathing Suits For Women - May 1, 2014

    […] famous humorist Erma Bombeck had this to say about finding the best bathing suit for your body type, “People shop for a bathing suit with more care than they do a husband or […]

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: