I’m blessed with two little girls, ages 11 and 7. One of their favorite things is to dress me up. If I’m going out, I send them up to my closet to come up with 2-3 outfits to choose from. Unlike me, they have a pretty good eye for style and I typically end up wearing one of the combinations they’ve put together.
Jewelry is another area where they love to lend a hand, but I suppose what girl doesn’t find herself enamored while looking over a big box of baubles? Usually after they find the outfit, they search for complementing earrings, bracelets, and necklaces. They lay them on my bed or dresser, and we browse through them together.
Yesterday I decided to venture into the bathing suit world with my oldest daughter, to see if I could get an honest assessment of what I should be wearing to the beach. I had a huge pile of suits on the bed, mostly tankinis, and a few bikinis. Some are well-worn, and need to be replaced, so I pulled those aside, leaving her with a fairly small selection to work with. Among the pile were my “go-to” Athleta tankini, and a pretty patterned bikini, which I rarely wear.
While I consider myself pretty fit, and take good care of myself, I still feel terribly self-conscious wearing a bikini. It’s one of my worst deep-dark secrets: I spend and inordinate amount of time staring down my stomach in the mirror, absolutely loathing the way it looks. I have friends who are natural pixie sticks and other friends who spend on average 1-2 hours a day at the gym, 6-7 days a week. My belly only seems to look better if I am on the strictest of diets, working out nonstop, or guzzling lemon water until I am peeing every ten minutes around the clock. What fun is that?
Deep down, I am mostly happy with my path of moderation, and believe I lead a pretty well-balanced life. I only wish I could let go of feeling so self-conscious. The amount of time I waste worrying about how I look is something I would never wish on anyone, but I suspect almost every woman I know is wasting it too.
Anyhow, with all of the options before her, my daughter picked two for me to try on, one of which was the bikini that I love, but always hesitate to wear. I tried them both on, and then waited, as she mulled things over like a young fashion assistant prepping for a shoot.
After a few minutes, she nodded her head with certainty, and said, “Definitely the bikini mom. It looks great. You should wear it more often.”
Is there anything better when someone you adore is, for a single moment in time, loving you for the true wonder they see you as, inside and out? Her affirmation gave me a boost I needed to start pushing away the plastic world that surrounds me, dominated by the constant and toxic quest for the perfect body. What she said was real, and genuine, two things in life that matter more than anything.
It was hard to say no to my daughter, whose bright mind has not yet become awash in stereotypes about what looks good and what doesn’t, as defined by our questionable social norms. I can say with certainty if I had told her that the suit made me look fat, I would have forever changed her way of thinking in a horrific and sad way. I know that her views will likely change as she ages, but I don’t want to ever be the one who steers her in that direction.
For now, I’m relishing in the fact that I wore the bikini all day without reservation, and that in my daughter’s eyes, I am beautiful just as I am. Does anything else really matter?