The Summer of the Magical Unicorn Swimsuit

This is my daughter’s swimsuit. Feast your eyes.


This suit has been pulled from the dirty clothes hamper, crumpled and wrinkly, and it’s giving off a strong whiff of chlorine. Even so, it is wondrous.

I only bought this garish, LSD-inspired concoction because my ten-year-old begged for it mercilessly (and it was on clearance). I guess she caught me at a weak moment, because I’m still not sure how she convinced me to shelve all my buttoned-down navy-blue principles, plunk down a whole $10, and give Lucy my blessing to wear this thing in public.

But Lucy loves this suit as if it gives her magical powers. And I now believe it does.

This swimsuit makes her brave. She parades around in it without a trace of self-consciousness, without the first thought of covering up a little body that isn’t quite as svelte as her friends’. “Who cares if there’s a pot belly under there?” she seems to be thinking. “The unicorn is awesome, and thus I AM AWESOME.”

This swimsuit makes her happy. It makes her light. It makes her totally at home with who she is.

I marvel that anyone could feel that way in a swimsuit.

I stare at her and wonder, “What must it be like to be that sweetly imperfect and JUST. NOT. CARE?” She is a superhero with a dazzling white unicorn emblazoned across her barrel chest, and it is a thing of beauty and strength.

I’m afraid the magic will wear off soon. I fear that summers to come will bring downcast eyes and oversized T-shirts and stolen glances at what other closer-to-perfect girls in bikinis look like.

That’s what teenage summers brought me. And honestly, it’s what summer brings me still. I hate to admit I haven’t outgrown all the dumb comparisons, the fear of other eyes, the deadening impulse to skip swimming or playing or living life–just so I can better hide my lumps, bumps, and lack of lady humps from the watching world.

I wish my girl could wear this unicorn swimsuit forever, letting it imbue her with joy and fearlessness every summer of her life.

But even if the spell is broken too soon, whatever she wears, whoever she grows to be, this girl is my hero.

This girl will always be my very own magical unicorn.



Evicting the 13-Year-Old Inside (and Other Life Goals)

A coworker grabbed me walking into work the other day, all aflutter, and announced,  “Hey! There’s a picture in the paper today of a woman who looks JUST LIKE YOU!”

In a flash, he was gone to retrieve it, leaving me to wonder…what great beauty could this be?? Julia Roberts perhaps? Jennifer Lawrence? That county clerk in Kentucky?

Ah, but THIS is the picture he plunks down before me.


Courtesy of Universal Pictures

THIS IS A MAN, y’all.

This is what I’m trying to explain to him — in a distressed voice much too loud for an office setting. This is Eddie Redmayne. A MALE ACTOR. Playing a TRANSGENDER. You’re saying I look like a MAN.

He didn’t believe me ’til he read the caption, so I honestly don’t think he was trying to kill my soul.

But still. If you’re going to make a big hairy deal about how I look just like someone, could you at least cheer me up and make it a FEMALE?

The next day I had a mammogram, which is THE WORST. While I waited in the office, I looked at this.


Sitting in a flimsy robe, waiting to get naked in front of strangers, I’ma tell ya: this did nothing for my self-esteem.

Sofia Vergara must have to block out HOURS for her mammogram, there’s so much ground to cover. I’m pretty sure that cute little technician took one look at me sans gown and thought, “WOW, this’ll be a quickie…nothing here to scan.”

Body image is a bitch. And as much as I’ve grown up and into myself in some lovely healthy ways, those old insecurities of the stoop-shouldered 13-year-old inside never really die.

I mean, I’m not consumed with Seventeen magazine like I once was, analyzing Jennifer Connelly from the top of her scrunchie to the soles of her high-top Reeboks. By the ripe old age of 44, I’ve accumulated too many other things to worry about, which is just as it should be.

But the 13-year-old inside still wants to stuff this bra with tube socks.

The 13-year-old inside still sucks in her gut all day — or hides her muffin top under billowing folds of fabric like Stevie Nicks.

The 13-year-old inside still conceals her unpedicured toes (and their neighbors, the calloused heels) in a stinky pair of fake Toms.

Like everybody else, I’m bothered more than I should be about what people think of me and my veins and my unruly hair with the greys sticking out and my frumpy wardrobe and my pores and my paunch. (I don’t care enough to actually do sit-ups…let’s not get carried away…but still I fret.)

Still that 13-year-old is there.

She especially likes to pop out whenever my little girl takes my picture. (Lucy’s low to the ground so she never fails to get me at the worst possible angles.)


I am ITCHING to delete this picture. I look like I just walked off the set of The Walking Dead. But I am trying really hard to be transparent here…like my skin tone in this picture.

“Oh, delete that! I look a fright!” I always bellow, which is exactly what you should never say to a child following her mother’s lead on the path to a healthy self-esteem.

Of course, she always says something sweet back like, “Why do you always say that?? You’re beautiful!”

It’s true.

Not beauty perhaps as the world sees beauty, not like a starlet cinching her boobs together, getting ready for her close-up.

But to my daughter, I’m beautiful. And I feel exactly the same way about her.

When I look at my baby girl, I am overcome. She’s perfect to me. I could eat every bit of her up.


And my Maker feels the same way about me — yet in infinitely deeper and wider and more unfathomable ways. My physical imperfections are meaningless to Him, except those lines and scars that made me who I am. Those he loves. (He showed off His own hard-earned scars as beauty marks, so I know.)

I’m invaluable and beautiful and precious in His sight. He says so.

Even when the robe is off and my every flaw is exposed, I must cling to that. It’s really all that matters.

And even when the other 5th graders at the party are taking selfies of their “six-packs,” (yeah, that happened), I pray that Lucy will cling to what’s true. That she’ll tell me about it later while grabbing her belly and exclaiming, “I love my chub!” (That happened, too.) That she will see beauty as something more, something deeper, something the mean girls can’t dig their claws into, something eternal.

I want richer, sweeter, wiser, cooler, lovelier things for the both of us.

Because let’s face it. I may never be fully rid of you, but I’m kind of over you, 13-year-old self.

You’re so 1984.