Las Vegas, NV
I’m in town with my friend Balthazar Diaz for the Southwestern Men’s Tankini Convention. Balthazar is a buyer and he’s brought me along as a pair of unbiased eyes. See, Balthazar wears a lot of these male tankinis and he’s honest with himself about the fact that they all look damn good: shades of neon, monogrammed dragons, pink and black leopard print, bespoke faux high school phys. ed. shirts, etc.
“I’d be willing to bet,” Balthazar says, surveying the convention floor, “most of these guys don’t even have a full t-shirt hanging in their closets—some might not even have full tanks.”
This prospect is frightening to me as a person who not only owns “full t-shirts”, but also as person who didn’t know what a tankini was until two days ago. I was in between gigs (manually labor and white collar crime) when Balthazar swaggered over to my usual table and asked, “How’d you like to eat steak at the Spearmint Rhino on the company card?”
“Not very much,” I replied. “I’m vegan.”
“I’ll pay you.” Balthazar pulled up a chair. “I’ve gotta buy the summer line of tankinis for a few gyms in the South Bay.”
A priori, I assumed a tankini was a combination of the indestructible military vehicle and girls in bikinis. By no means am I a closeted fan of half-naked women dancing around on armed automobiles, but like I said, I was in between gigs.
Every year the SwMTC is held at Treasure Island. If there’s one thing that Hollywood bars and Vegas hotels have in common, it’s that they all look the same after that eighty-third beverage. I don’t claim to be an expert—we weren’t out in the wild with some sort of Iphone app that tells you whether you’re about to pierce a sloth or a platypus through its heart (of hearts) with your bow’s arrow—rather, I had a room key and it read Treasure Island.
Tankini conventions are in many ways the male version of the Spearmint Rhino. They serve booze and it’s not full nudity, yet nipples are flying around like it’s August on the Cote d’Azur. Of course these areolas belong to men. At first, I feel like I’m being violated like—why aren’t these guys covering their nipples up? I ask Balthazar, who is wearing a maroon and teal zebra print tankini, What up with that, yo?
I never get a straight answer.
Three hours later my shirt is getting pulled off—I feel self-conscious. There’s a circle around me of women in bikinis and men in tankinis and they’ve just tossed my “full t-shirt” across the tent. Someone pulls my arms up and slips through them something light and airy. I move my arms around. I feel free! Unburdened. Lighter than I’ve ever felt! Like I could (insert impressive physical feat). I pick up my beverage and bring it to my lips. It’s so light! It all happens so fast. I’m smiling and I can’t help it. Neither can my tankini-clad compadres. My comrades cheer. For the first time I look at my tankini: it’s a smoky silkscreened image of a Hispanic girl sort of shooting pool and mainly sticking her ass in the air (right about in the middle of my stomach before my newfound midriff appears).
The next morning we’re passing Pearblossom, which is either in Nevada or California, I’m not sure which because I’ve been sleeping and it all looks the same out here anyway.
“Some help you were this weekend,” says Balthazar.
I stretch and let out a groan. “What do you mean?”
“Did you see what we bought?”
“The tankinis, man! Did you see the tankinis WE picked out?!?”
I think long and not very hard. I feel nauseous and my arms are cold in this temperature-controlled vehicle. I want a “full t-shirt” but I know Balthazar doesn’t have any and we’ve got four hours of driving ahead of us. “Did it have a graphic of a sun with crossed out eyes—kinda looked like an ecstasy pill you’d get at warehouse rave in rural Washington?”
“Yeah, that’s what I wanted to get.” Balthazar reaches to the backseat and from an enormous cardboard box he pulls out a piece of mustard yellow cloth and throws it in my lap. “Read it.”
I hold the cotton rag up. It takes a minute for my eyes to focus on the text. “Friends Don’t Let Friends Wear Sleeves!” There are too many words for one line, so it S-curves down the front.
“I wanted you’re unbiased opinion as a full t-shirt wearer. I leave you alone for a half-hour and you convert!”
“No one in Manhattan Beach is going to buy these shirts! Maybe Venice… but not fucking Manhattan.”
“I accept your apology. Just know, I’m never bring you to Vegas again.”
“Can you pass me a couple more of those tankinis? I want to use them as a blanket. I’m cold.”
 Created in the mid-70s by bodybuilders at Muscle Beach in California. The tank-kini is the bikinization of a tank top. The objective is to expose as much skin as possible (abs, obliques, bis and tris, delts, lats, side-pec(male equivalent of side boob)) while pretending like you’re just wearing a tank top. Today the tankini remains popular among HGH abusers and professional adult film actors.