Fourth of July fashion: Am I too old to wear an American flag bikini?

Are we the only country in the world that dresses up like the country's own flag to celebrate independence? It seems strange that we would honor the U.S.A. by draping ourselves with trashy, mocking versions of our own global visual representation -- but that's what we do.

And while I say "trashy," it's really not my job to judge how anyone else feels about triangle bikinis. Actually, I went shopping for one myself recently, after I made a promise (read: dare) that if I lost fifteen pounds before the hot dogs-and-explosives holiday, I would wear a bikini at the Fourth of July show my band is playing at Mouth House on Wednesday. I only lost twelve, but in diet world, that's close enough.

To my surprise, I found a star-spangled triangle bikini at Target -- but I didn't want to fork over $14.99 for it. (Wow. Typing that sentence just made me feel unpatriotic, but after working at Shirt Folding Store for the better part of a decade, I have a hard time paying full price for anything. If you work in retail and get a decent discount, then you understand this change in your brain's chemical make-up -- and why you have to tell someone that you only paid seven bucks for the jeans you're wearing. Which actually makes you look worse than trashy. It makes you look like a jerk.)

But really, maybe I just don't want to don a bikini for the Fourth; after all, I am 31. This doesn't mean I'm not game for dressing trashy (I own a version of the weed hat to the left) -- but my trashiness has been redefined. If you're someone who uses your body as a walking prop for jokes, there's an important moment in your life when you have to move those jokes to the next level because you're getting older. This might mean trading in your sleeveless tourist-purchased Las Vegas halter-top with sparkly red lips on it for a knee-length T-shirt that says "I like a seven-course meal: A hot dog and a six pack." I'm not saying getting older means you can't wear whatever the hell you want; I'm saying sexy-trashy and funny-trashy are two different things, and you have to know when one or the other is appropriate. When I wear my "Cool story babe. Now go make me a sandwich" T-shirt, I want the joke to be on me, not about me. I think a triangle bikini would have the opposite effect. Which is where JLo comes in. I love JLo. Like, unabashedly. Although the "J-to-the-Lo"-era Jennifer Lopez is my favorite (when she was dating Ben Affleck), I still find her to be one of the more fascinating pop stars of the last two decades. On the hunt for my patriot bikini recently, I came across this gorgeous JLo for Kohl's strapless jumper. I mean, put a red and white stretchy belt on this thing, and it had my name all over it.

Something about the blue-parachute-as-clothes just made me want to get a perm, put on roller skates and cruise around Wash Park to Andrea True Connection's "More, More, More." But it was $70. and for $70, I could buy three Rocawear HOVA rompers from my favorite store in the entire universe, Dr. Jay's. JLo's jumper was not a patriotic option after all.

Finally, I thought that maybe I could go all Elle Woods, and make the Fourth of July a classy-trashy affair. Though the character of Elle vaguely represents the classism I endured while being "the poor kid" through nine years of Catholic school, I still have always liked her style. When she gets ready to brave Washington with her brains and stuff, her bff Paulette exclaims that Elle's outfit makes her look "like the Fourth of July." But that kind of a get-up would not only cost more than JLo's rip-off of a jumper, it would be too hot. I guess that's why a bikini really is the best option for Fourth of July apparel.

I still have one day left to find the perfect Fourth of July ensemble. While my dream is to own one of those optical illusion t-shirt dresses with a bikini body airbrushed on it (perhaps better than wearing an actual bikini), I know I won't be able to find one in time. I did see a commercial for Kmart yesterday proclaiming that all swimsuits were half-off -- so maybe I'll proceed to let the patriotic joke be on me. Or, I'll just do my best to emulate the true purveyor of American style, Bishop Don "Magic" Juan.

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