T was wrapped in his towel and cuddled in my lap after bathtime. He poked my belly. “What’s in there?” he asked.
He is really into Disney Princess stories right now. One of his classmates was dressed as Rapunzel last week on pajama/dress up day at school and he asked me to tell him the Rapunzel story later that day. I started, but couldn’t remember the details so I told him I’d look it up online.
The plot of the Brothers Grimm version on wikipedia was pretty damn dark for a three year old-blinding by falling into thorns, agreeing to give away your baby when you’ve been caught stealing, a knocked up 12 year old. I don’t want to sugar coat the world for T, but jesus, that is a lot to explain and I needed to start making dinner. I went with the Disney version and had to explain pregnancy anyway, although it was less complicated than talking about tween pregnancy….
He seems to dig the idea that I grew him and his brother in my belly. So the other night after bath T poked at my soft, blobby stomach and asked what was inside. I told him nothing, that I was done growing babies and distracted him with tickles.
He asks about the milk in my breasts when I’m nursing his brother. Of course he is going to ask about the contents of my belly. And eventually he’ll notice that I’m not as skinny as some moms and more skinny than others. I’m sure he’ll mention it to me. I don’t want to feel self-conscious around him. I don’t want to feel ashamed of my body, of the fact that I don’t fit some unattainable standard of beauty. I don’t want him to expect that women are supposed to look like fashion models. I want him to enjoy beauty, but to find it in all shapes and sizes. Mostly I want him to be attracted to who people are inside rather than what they look like outside.
But if I want all that stuff I probably need to stop berating myself for being tubby. For having wrinkles. For my ghost white skin covered in moles and freckles. For my pale lips. For my ugly man hands. For my tree trunk legs and thighs that rub together. For the stretch marks on those thighs. For the stretch marks around my belly button. For my enormous ass. For my lank hair. How can I teach him and his brother to find beauty in more than the narrow definition fed to us by advertisers and the media if I can’t forgive myself for not fitting into that ideal? Why does it matter to me that I don’t have a banging body? I’m a feminist, god damn it! It’s not like my celulite and average looks are preventing me from having wonderful friends. When giving me a grade my professer isn’t using my physicality as part of her rubric. And not to get too graphic, but Z seems more than happy to get it on with my non-perfect self.
Doing right by these sons of mine is so important to me. Raising them to be good men who value women and who know in their bones that women are every bit their equal is my number one goal. Other stuff is nearly as important to me-raising them to be hardworking and responsible and kind. But equal respect for all people is my top priority. I want them to be outraged that women face so much violence in this country, that women are more likely than men to be food insecure, that women make less money for the same work. I want them to be part of the solution.
But raising these boys right starts with me. For years I’ve wanted to find confidence and pride in my appearance. For years my anxiety has won, whispering to me that I am worthless and ugly both inside and out. For my sons I need to figure out how to let the anxiety go.
So I got a new bathing suit the other day. Ready for some honesty? And some major uncomfortableness? And some fucking fearlessness? I’m going to post unfiltered pictures of me wearing it. So what if I have tree trunk legs that glow in the dark? So what if my thighs rub together? My body has gotten me through a hell of a lot-it created two amazing and beautiful boys. My body! Created beauty! It got me through a devastating mental breakdown. And hopefully it is going to continue to get me through this life for many years to come. So I don’t look like a 15 year old model. Well that makes a shitload of sense being I’m a 36 year old stay at home mom. T and C love me the way that I am. So does Z.
Deep breath. This is me. And I’m trying really hard to be cool with who I am.
And now I’m trying really hard not to point out all the flaws.
And now I’m trying really hard to not imagine that you are laughing at me. I’ve heard that there are some folks out there who enjoy a little junk in the trunk.
And I couldn’t resist including this one. Do you see my glowing legs? In high school my best friend used to call me Powder.