When I left my house last Friday morning, I had packed my husband, my daughter and myself for more than a week. I managed to get all of our shoes, underwear and toilet articles in the car and only forgot a few things.
Unfortunately, one of those forgotten items was my swimsuit. And since we chose our hotel based on its promised water park and super slide, that was a problem.
Luckily, though we were several states away from home, we were there to visit friends. So I ordered a clearance suit from Target and had it shipped to my friend’s house. I picked it up yesterday and we headed back to the hotel.
Nervously, I opened the packages and pulled out the plain black swim suit pieces. (As in a tank and a swim skirt, not a bikini. Please.) I stepped into the bottom and thought, “Well, that’s not what I was hoping for.” Then I wriggled myself into the top and though, “THIS IS THE WORST THING EVER.”
And then I did the thing I swore I’d never do (and until this week, had never done). I said – out loud and in front of my daughter – how awful I looked. Specifically, I said, “This is hideous.”
Because I’ve struggled with body image issues as long as I can remember, I’ve determined to be uber careful about how I talk about myself in front of my daughter. I know it probably won’t prevent her from wishing for fuller lips or longer legs (or whatever the must-have attribute of the day is 10 years from now). But if I can find it within myself to model a healthy self esteem, maybe it will help a little.
(For the record, my parents did everything they could to help me feel beautiful. As a matter of fact, my mother still insists on calling me her beautiful baby girl. So I’m aware that, as a parent, some things are out of my hands. But I want to do the best I can with the influence I have anyway.)
But back to the other day.
As soon as those words came out of my mouth, I was horrified. And it wasn’t one of those instances where my child completely ignored what I said or remained oblivious to my personal stress. Oh no. She looked at me, confused, and said, “Why did you say that? You look beautiful!”
Oh, my heart.
I promise you that I did not look beautiful at all. AT ALL. I won’t tell you what I think I looked like, because I really am trying to stop talking to or about myself in an ugly way. But not only did I not feel pretty, I really did not look pretty.
But I’d promised my family that I’d go swimming with them. And my worn-out, stretched-out suit was safely at home, hundreds of miles away. So I really didn’t have a choice.
I tried to make the best of the situation. You know, getting on with life? I grabbed a pair of my husband’s gym shorts to cover up. BUT THEY DIDN’T FIT. (Is there anything more humiliating than not fitting into my husband’s pants? I THINK NOT. . . . Fine. I’m sure something might be worse. But not this week.) So I grabbed a t-shirt, sucked in everything I could suck in, and walked to the elevator with my family.
When we got to the pool, I was beyond relieved to see that we had the whole place to ourselves. Still, I felt terrible. I smiled and played with my daughter, but inside, I was curled up in a ball and covered with a large blanket. I didn’t want anyone – even the people I loved most – to see me.
As I stood in the water, telling my kiddo that yes, of course I wanted to watch her jump in, two annoying tears slipped down my face. Since I had yet to get my head wet, my husband wasn’t fooled and asked, confused, “What is wrong?!”
I didn’t tell him. I couldn’t tell him.
But I didn’t keep crying, either. Slowly, I focused more on my family and less on myself. And I swam a few laps and did a few minutes of water aerobics moves. It wasn’t very long before I felt strong (because swimming is hard, yo) and remembered how to relax and have fun with my family.
And when we went back upstairs and I eagerly went to peel that hateful suit off my not-perfect-at-all body and COULDN’T GET IT OFF? Well, all I could do was laugh. Because really, that’s way better than crying – and being stuck in that soaking wet, octopus-like bunch of polyester was the kind of irony that I couldn’t help but appreciate.
I may never put that swimsuit on again. And I may think twice before booking a hotel room in a place that boasts of a super slide. But despite the horrible feeling of wearing that thing and slipping up in front of my kiddo with the “hideous” bomb, I didn’t let it ruin my day.
Although there was no saving my hair after that.
What’s your least favorite thing to wear? And what’s your favorite? (My favorite is, hands down, yoga pants and a long-sleeved t-shirt. Comfort over style IS my style!)
Photo by janfredrikf