My earliest memory involves the pool at our house in Texas. It was a beautiful pool that I loved to spend hours in. I was probably 6 at the time, and that summer my prized possession was my set of three matching bathing suits. They were one piece suits with spaghetti straps, and a little ruffle around the hips. I had them in blue, pinkish-red and another color that I don't remember. The suits themselves were irrelevant but for the sparkles strewn across the material. I loved them more than anything. They had multiple levels of sparkle, you see. The material itself had a slight sheen to it, but sparkles of different sizes were sewn in on top of that. If my mother had allowed it, I would have worn those suits to school. As it happened, this was shortly after my phase of wearing shower caps to the grocery store, so she was holding her ground.
I loved those bathing suits. I loved the way they shone. I invented occasions to wear them that made very little sense to anyone not inside my six-year-old mind ("peanut butter and jelly bathing suit time!" "bathing suit breakfast!"). I can still feel them against my fingers: stretchy, slightly prickly, but durable. That material was strong, virtually indestructible.
In my earliest memory I am standing in one of those bathing suits -- the red one -- running my hands over the fabric, only this time it's different. This time, instead of marveling over the beauty of my swimsuit, a new, foreign thought snuck in. I ran my hands over the slinky material covering my stomach and thought...
Hmm... My stomach sticks out a lot from the rest of my body.
I don't remember what happened next. In fact, I don't even remember where I was, not perfectly. This memory happened over and over that year, and every year following, so it doesn't matter where I was. Change the background a dozen times and the picture is still the same:
A six-year-old girl who would never feel comfortable in her own skin again.