I took advantage of a beautiful late afternoon to deadhead my salvia. I've always just let it go to pot, but read somewhere that if I do this, it will bloom more fully again -- and possibly even again after that. I was a bit reluctant; there was still a tinge of purple at the top of the spears and a honeybee madly yammering at me to leave it the hell alone, but I saw tiny buds below and knew that in 72 hours from now it would be 95 degrees, the spears would look barbecued, and I would have no interest in being outside whatsoever.
Bella had been playing in the hose, turned it on herself and soaked her clothes, and decided to run in the house and change into a swimsuit. She emerged a few moments later wearing board shorts, and nothing more. "Let it go," I told Mr. ABF, "she's fine."
I remember quite clearly arriving back home in the hot Arizona desert after spending a year in Germany. I was seven. I walked around my house for the first time in a year, saw my bike, and decided to take a spin around the ol' block. Because it was 10,000 degrees out, and because I had spent a year of my life in a place where all the boys and girls changed for gym together in the same room and used the same toilets and no one thought twice about it, I took off for my ride topless. Somewhere in the trip around the block a neighbor yelled at me to put on a shirt.
It's sad that at some point in our culture girls -- females -- become sexualized. And from that point forward we as mothers and they as emerging women need to take care of chests in public. And it never really stops -- the questions around bras, bikinis, implants, breast-feeding in public. I want so desperately to hold Bella in this place and let her just feel the sun on her skin and not feel embarrassed but simply comfortable. It will come soon enough, the cultural significance of the boobies.
I remembered also visiting Norway after my senior year in high school. And in some now-forgotten town on what I gather was a rare sunny day, in a public park, women sunbathed topless. Oddly, I did not feel uncomfortable, for me or my boyfriend at my side (who I think gamely tried to maturely write the whole thing off for my sake) but jealous. I wanted to join them. I wanted simply to lie on the grass and feel the sun on my skin. But I had been tainted by the whole bullshit of bad which mocked my small boobs and simultaneously told me to please support them and keep them modestly covered at all times. It was too late to turn back and enjoy.
I wish now I had said "hell with it" and chucked my shirt and sat in the sun for a few minutes, because it was probably the last possible opportunity to do so when I felt remotely comfortable with the concept. I breast-fed in public, never caring, but let's face it: six years of (in)fertility has wreaked havoc on my body and my mental status toward it. The good feminist in me tells me I'm more, much more, than the sum of my boobs and my uterus. The other, more vapid and superficial part who wistfully looks at the new Boden catalog wishing I had my '05 body back hates this body -- hates the sags, the pooches, the crags, the bags, the dark spots, and especially the foot that makes it near impossible to improve the rest of it. And most of this, I understand quite clearly, is a result of trying to have children, and most of THAT, a result the Maddy's pregnancy which left me without a will to exercise, an overturned stomach that won't go away despite the sit-ups, and a foot that gave up when I tried to hurry my imagined journey back to the old, firm me.
This part of raising the daughter? The body image part? Scares the crap out of me. It didn't always, but wow does it now. Because I have no love for mine. I must somehow find a way to tell her to enjoy hers, while she has the time and space and opportunity. I've been so hung up lately on whether I'm doing a satisfactory job on raising a big sister whose little sister isn't that I feel I've been letting some other life lessons slide by.
"Mom," announced Bella turning the hose on the lilac,
"I'm going to water Maddy's tree for her."
I almost drop my clippers in shock.