I am online, messaging a stranger about the potential purchase of a fleece-lined swim-robe.
“I’m a bit worried it won’t fit me,” I type into the message box.
Some dots appear above the message, indicating that the person from the swim-robe company is replying to me.
“It’s one size fits all, they’re designed for all shapes and sizes,” the stranger types in reply.
Being a large woman, I'm always suspicious about the 'all' in one size fits all. Maybe they should say 'one size might fit you, but don't blame us if the zip won't go past your hips'. On reflection, that last one is probably not good for sales
This gives me pause. Being a large woman, I’m always suspicious about the “all” in one size fits all. I think to be on the safe side, and to avoid disappointment, they should say “one size fits most” or “one size fits many”. Or “one size might fit you, but don’t blame us if the zip won’t actually go up past your hips”. On reflection, that last one is probably too antagonistic, and not good for sales.
“One size fits all. Hopefully.” That’s much better.
As usual, I am very late to this craze. I should have been pursuing this swim-robe business back in Lockdown 2, when everyone was giving out about them and all sorts of synthetic fleece was flying down at Dublin’s Forty Foot. (Allegedly.) But back then I thought I couldn’t justify spending more than €100 on a towel substitute to wear after a swim.
Then a few months ago I noticed a parent at my daughter’s school wearing one around the place. I was consumed by swim-robe envy. It wasn’t even the idea that it might get me back into the sea that enticed me. I just liked the look of it. It wasn’t a D*yr*be either. Hers was an Orca Robe, an Irish brand with decent ecocredentials. She had even had her initials customised on the front. This robe-wearer always looked so fresh-faced and glowing when I saw her in the park or at the school gate or on any dry-land setting. It was the robe, I reckoned. It imbued her with this outdoorsy vibe. I wanted some of that action.
Which is way I'm logged on to orcaboard.ie, where I'm told the Orca Robes are out of stock but they still have some of their Blubber Robes left. I baulk a little at the branding. The word "blubber" is emblazoned defiantly in white on the back of the robe.
The only issue I have is that the word blubber reminds me of when I showed an ex a picture of me in a swimsuit and he called me a beached whale
“Hmmmm,” I type. “The only issue I have is that the word blubber reminds me of when I showed an ex a picture of me in a swimsuit and he called me a beached whale.”
Those dots appear again. The salesperson is typing. I wonder what the salesperson is going to say. I wonder why I told this stranger about such an excruciating memory. Oversharing. So out of character. Maybe I’ll just exit this chat and pretend it never happened.
“That sort of body shaming is appalling. I am so sorry this happened to you. That was so unkind,” the stranger types back. And, just like that, I’m back on board, reclaiming my human blubber.
I immediately order a Blubber Robe. (Don’t judge me. Well, you can, but I won’t hear you: I’m mostly in the sea.) It’s basically a long black coat with a hood. It’s waterproof and lined with pink “synthetic lamb’s wool” to keep the wearer cosy after a swim.
The robe arrives the next day. It fits. It also feels deeply comforting. I wear it around the house. I wear it to the shops. I wear it for a walk in the park.
I message a hardy, year-round-sea-swimmer friend to get her verdict. To my surprise she has a swim robe herself.
“I love it. A warm, waterproof hug. But I wouldn’t wear it down the shops.”
“I would. I already have.”
“Duvet day, every day?”
“That’s it exactly.”
You can keep your Forty Foots and your Sandycoves: the Half Moon is hardcore. It's where my late dad brought my mum to convince her that Dublin was better than her hometown of London
I stop wearing it everywhere when the hot weather comes. But even in the heat I wear it every time I go swimming. The hassle of changing clothes in public and permanent self-consciousness rather than the cold were my main deterrents when it came to joining the pandemic sea-swimming hordes. With my swim robe I just throw it over my togs, disrobe for the swim and then, under cover of synthetic lamb’s wool, wriggle out of my wet togs and wear nothing but the robe all the way home.
Those in the know tell you to think about more expensive items of clothing in a cost-per-wear way. So I feel that the Blubber Robe has almost paid for itself already and that I will actually be in profit by the end of August.
My best swim so far in the robe was down at the Half Moon Swimming Club, on the Great South Wall, last weekend. I was inspired by the newly minted TD for Dublin Bay South, Ivana Bacik, who was on the radio that morning with her mum, Rina, talking about the long, politically distracting dip they took at the Half Moon as the byelection votes were counted.
You can keep your Forty Foots and your Sandycoves: the Half Moon is hardcore. It's where my late dad went swimming all his life; it's where he brought my mum to successfully convince her that Dublin was better than her hometown of London.
At the Half Moon nobody seems to mind my robe. Or my blubber. We're all sizes here, we're all skin colours and we're bobbing around the bay like we own it.
Swim robes forever is what I'm trying to say.