I am not a swimsuit person. Never have been. There is something about a skintight garment, which cuts off right at the thigh meat area, that just does not agree with me. I’m bottom heavy, meaning anything that draws the eye to my bright white hock of a leg is a mortal enemy. But I have made 99.9% peace with swimsuits. Yes, I would love to go to a pool party sans dread (invite involving water play = death sentence).

And I think its awesome when people have confidence to do or wear whatever they want. I wish I was like this. But with swimsuits, its just not there for me and my comfort level. No big.

But then there is the .1% of my life that must involve a hellish endeavor called swimsuit shopping. And in that dressing room, a subconscious monster awakes and transforms me back into a 14 year old girl. I don’t know about you, but I was extremely self-conscious during the preteen and teenage years. Personally, most of that time period sucked. I had no idea who I was. And I compared myself to everyone and cared what everyone else thought. That level of give-a-shit is exhausting. I wouldn’t ever want to go back and I (thankfully) have left most of those traits behind. Now I’m confident in who I am and I think I’m pretty cool.

But staring in the Dillard’s mirror, there’s that girl again: 14 and my own worst critic. (As an aside, what’s up with the lighting in the Dillard’s dressing rooms? Could they give us something other than florescent overheads? It really does nothing for the thigh meat and general sense of self-worth). 

I’m unsure of myself. Down on myself. And all I can think is “ew, I look awful.”

What’s up with this? You’re grown and you like yourself, remember? But I don’t remember. The monster has me.

I’m a lost cause; my monster is too deeply rooted. It planted itself in the fertile ground of my preteen anxiety and tepid self-awareness long ago. So how can I prevent my daughters from cultivating monsters of their own someday? I must say that one of the most beautiful things about raising girls as a woman, is observing them before they have monsters whispering insults in their ears. My oldest absolutely delights in herself. She finds her reflection in everything she possibly can (stainless steel appliances, various kitchenware, windows). On her school’s water play day, she would sprint up the stairs to her friends in just her bathing suit- no monster holding her back. It made me cry; the world hadn’t told her there was anything wrong with her yet.

I don’t guess I can protect my girls from it. Inevitably, some kid (or God forbid me) will make a remark that will deeply wound them, maybe forever. I’ll never forget the boy in my first or second grade class who called me a whale. It will happen to them too and their monsters will be born.

All I can do is try and tame my own monster when it lurches awake and show them that our monsters are better told off and ignored. But I have a ways to go before I’ll be able to practice what I preach in that department. Because taming it probably means shopping for swimsuits in horrendous lighting with a positive attitude (“Look at those pearly white calves shine!”) and somehow finding the inner strength to recover from something a small child told me 25 years ago. It also means telling my monster to “STFU, I’ve grown two human beings and by God, I look just fine.”

Oh, and I guess it means attending and participating in events involving water play. I’ll try to do that too.

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