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Lessons on Bathing Suits From a Little Girl in Lycra

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SARAH CHANG
Sarah Chang

Over the last 20 or so years I've bought more bathing suits than I can count. I've coveted expensive pieces and despised ones that simply didn't fit (and should have never been purchased). I've found a select few that were perfect (and sadly, didn't last forever). I should add that I've also invested in a stack of modest cover ups, like any self-respecting woman.

I still remember one of my first swimsuits -- a Wonder Woman one piece. I wore that thing to bits, because who wouldn't? Conquering the monkey bars was possible simply because of that suit. I was a 4-year-old on a mission, baking in the hot Louisiana sun. The world was my oyster. Superpowers and all, I was clad in a little piece of lycra.

Since then, bathing suit memories are littered across my past; tributes to summers well spent. The skimpy pieces I wore throughout high school and college; the more refined ones I choose as a mother of two. I have a swimwear drawer that reflects the changes my body has experienced over two pregnancies and breastfeeding stints. Selecting a swimsuit two months postpartum isn't anything to scoff at. Finding something that's appropriate for nursing on a pool deck? Equally complicated. In certain two pieces I still have moments when I wonder whether the line of my c-section -- the best battle scar I could possibly hope for -- is showing. "Who cares?" my husband says.

He is so right.

When I first found out Gemma was a girl, I made a conscious promise to abandon any body image issues -- or at least confine them to my own mind. I certainly didn't want to pass that type of negativity on to my girl. And now, with two daughters, it's a goal that's even more poignant. I want them to feel beautiful because of who they are and what they can do, not how they look. Easier said than done, you say. Agreed. But I strive to be a rock in the sea of images and voices that consciously (and subconsciously) echo "you're not good enough". Because those will always exist. And it's my job to drown them, as a woman with over 36 years of experience.

I am strong. And they will be too.

I first spotted a tiger suit on the J Crew website two months ago. It was perfect for Gemma, my big cat-obsessed daughter. I pulled the trigger on the 39.50 price tag (a bit steep, but did I mention it was perfect?). Since then, she's worn it to practically every visit to the pool. She's become "the girl in a tiger suit who pretends to be a tiger." Diving and jumping and floating (and even growling, periodically). A tiger.

Last weekend, we visited my parents in Connecticut. Gemma selected the suit for a dip in the pool. Her grandparents were impressed. We all discussed how "incredible" and "beautiful" it is.

"it's not beautiful," she responded. "It's fearless."

And my heart sang.

If only she can remain so fearless. Clad in a little piece of lycra.