Thursday, September 30, 2010

Sizing Up

I knew there would be tough conversations. But I figured with death already in the rear-view mirror, how hard could boys, sex, alcohol, drugs and rock and roll be? At least those are sorta fun things, yes? And if I threaten death in any one of those conversations, she knows I mean it and that it's not some abstract notion -- like in the classic Victorian novel where the protagonist meets a boy and then symbolically cuts her hair and listens to Elvis and winds up face down in the pond at the end.

I forgot all about the body image conversations, largely (no pun intended) because I didn't think they'd come up until she was 22 16 12. But no, here they are already.

Bella grew two sizes since last fall. She is by no means overweight, or remotely what I'd classify as "chunky" or "hefty" or any of the nice synonyms that kids clothing makers use these days like "plus" or "husky." Good lord, to a six-year old, a husky is a DOG, people. And this isn't mom talking out of her ass; I asked her doctor to please spare me the percentages and go straight to the BMI and tell me if I need to be worried: No. She's fine. Pefect even. So far.

But like any human being, she is not constructed exactly like every other human being. And so it came to be that she opened a box for her birthday and was presented with a pair of jeans. I cringed.

Before she tried them, I had a discussion with her: Sweetie, they make different kinds of jeans for different sized people. "But I wear a 7, and these are size 7!"

(Gulp.) "Right, but there are different size 7's. For example, some girls don't really have butts."

"Do I have a butt?" she asks turning around to check her backside.

"Yes, you do, and it's lovely, and believe me, girls who don't eventually want them. It's a good thing."

She smiles.

"But some girls, even though they're the same height, have different sized legs. Or different size thighs. So they make different kinds of size 7's, and if these don't fit you, we'll go and find a pair that does, ok?"

Bella proceeds to do the classic 1980s move where she lies down, shimmies herself into the jeans, stands up to button them, and stands there immobile unable to bend or move.


"Sweetie, you can't even sit down in those."

"Yes I can!" She says, leaning against the window seat like a paper doll.

"No, you can't, and they're uncomfortable, and jeans shouldn't be uncomfortable. We'll go and find another size 7 that fits."


And she seems incredibly cool with this and not remotely upset and I think I've done my job pretty well, thank you. And then I get a look at the tag:

Are you FUCKING KIDDING ME?? Just how many things do you find wrong with this descriptor? (Leaving aside for the moment that our classic American company jeans seem to be made in the country hiding terrorists.) I was fuming. It's one thing to bitch about the obesity crisis and how kids are getting bigger thanks to high fructose corn syrup; it's another to tell my six-year-old, medically sanctioned proportional daughter that "Super Skinny" is "Regular." Skinny is not even "Super" in my opinion. It is not. (And last I checked, "Super Skinny" got one checked into a clinic.)


As much as I'm trying to have these level-headed conversations with Bella so she doesn't turn into an eight-year old with an eating disorder, I'm struggling with the same debates in my own head. I know kids pick up on parental signals, and so I try -- I really do, much harder than I try and monitor my salty language (just yesterday, my husband yelled up the stairs during the baby's naptime, which led me to give him a loud and bewildered, "What the Fuck?") -- and keep my own self-image in check. Actually, this hasn't been too too much of a problem given that for some reason (well, breastfeeding plus cutting dairy and the fortunate ability to run, who am I kidding) I've managed to lose a chunk of weight. I'm ahead of where I'd thought I'd be when I had that chit-chat with myself about realistically losing weight following this pregnancy.

So I've been fairly cool on the "Jeez I'm huge, nothing fits" talk (done with huffs and eye rolls and yes, occasionally tears) and have been wearing stuff that causes Bella to ask, "Is that new?" and me to reply that no, it's pretty damn old but I just fit in it again, thanks.

And I really thought in my wildest dreams if I ever got my weight back down to something within the realm of sanity (I'm not an underwear model; I still have weight to lose, it's just much much less than what I had anticipated) that I'd be over the moon and my troubles would be over.

Turns out they're not.

I took Muffin Man in the powder room the other day to check out his studly self in the mirror, and checked out myself while I was at it.

People, I am old. I don't have crow's feet. I have aviary feet. The tell-tale footprints of crows, cardinals, jays, finches, pigeons, robins, and a woodpecker, like they all stood in a circle and lunched on my eyeballs. The streaks in my hair that usually turn blonde in the summer are considerably less blonde than I remember.

I was always one of those gals that got carded far beyond legal, and looked late 20s for quite some time. Until Maddy. I think I've aged a decade in the last three years. My neck skin is doing this weird thing making me hope turtlenecks and scarves are in for fall, and I'm pretty sure a 41-year-old body should not have this particular set of hormones running through it. I'm hot all the time despite my central air, my bones creak when I bend down to pick up a certain somebody despite the fact that I'm running.

What is particularly ironic is that the wrinkles and turkey clucker are especially apparent when I smile. Which I guess I'm doing more of these days than staring somberly into the mirror and wondering how on earth I got this many decades into my life. I guess to look better I'll just cut it with the happy. And wear a fetching wrap around my neck.

I'm not a particularly vain person, and I'm not going to be running out to shoot botulism in my eye creases. But looking at this person holding a baby is reminding me of just how long this process took, and how long I waited, and what I went through (those lines there? the NICU. And those? Family treating us like shit. And those? the months I couldn't stop crying). And, well, how thankful I am.

Because I am.

I'm just not sure about getting photographed with the baby.


Speaking of photographing and baby:

What is it with subsequent kids that we can't seem to drag out the good camera? Where is the good camera, anyway? Is it charged? Eh, moment over. While Bella has umpteen-zillion magazine-worthy photos of her by four months of age, this guy has shit like this, taken on my phone, with his carseat as background. Nice, huh. Put that in a frame on the family wall. And really I took it because he's cute and he was just so happy to be shopping at TJ's! (Don't know why; here they discontinued my bar, after discontinuing Bella's about six months ago. Apparently we are not to snack, or in my case, eat lunch.)

I digress: Here's Muffin wearing green in honor of Ale-Jet:

And that my friends, is the clue to his name. And a load of probable nicknames to use here, like Ale-Cute and Ale-Poop. (And if you're pronouncing Ale like the drink, you're wrong. But I like the way you think.) PLEASE don't go blabbing the full name in the comments and save my anonymity from my family. We use either side of the name as a nickname, in case you were wondering.


Jeanette said...

This 41 year old woman understands exactly what you are seeing in the mirror, cos she's seeing it too!

Ya Chun said...

Aw, he is super cute!

Super skinny is no good. Poor girls these days. And regular might refer to length (coming from the girl that always has to buy L for long)

And when we were growing up, there was none of this low rise sh*t.

And this 34 year old is seeing all that stuff in the mirror. Turtleneck is starting to sound like a good idea... and the other day I got a compliment on my 'highlights' and I was like 'what highlights?' Then I went home in looked int he mirror...

Anonymous said...

whoa there. super skinny is the leg fit of the jean. it means, generally, that the leg openings are snug against the line of the leg.

CLC said...

I must be stupid because I can't figure out the name. I was thinking beer. But probably because I would love to have one. He is a beauty though. I would love to be hugging him every day!

And the jeans thing is just wrong. No wonder girls have a complex by the time they are 12. I see what you are seeing, not what Anonymous above me is seeing.
I think it's even harder here on the East Coast. Maybe I am naive, but my nieces in MN seem a lot less advanced then the ones here, and they are a couple of years older. Good luck with those talks. I think you are doing a great job so far.

Louise said...

Add old lady knees to that 41 year old body - the kind that won't let you run anymore, won't let you even think about running. I have taken to moisturizing very regularly. I was a slow starter on the whole beauty regime thing. The occasional forehead massage as I'm moisturizing to try and iron out the grief wrinkles embedded in my forehead.

As for super skinny. My nine year old doesn't do stick insect either. We are approaching curvy and finding excuses to keep her out of skinny jeans is getting harder and harder. I hear you.

Searching said...

Wow. I don't think it matters if it means the legs or the waist or what- little girls will equate "super skinny" as something they hopefully are NOT, which makes them "different" or "less" than what the jean companies say they should be. Which makes them feel bad about themselves. I think you are doing a tremendous job w/that.

My little neice was just 3yo when the other toddlers started to tell her she was ugly and didn't look like Barbie bc of her severe eczema that makes her skin crack and bleed. She is truly scarred for life and I hate the change it made in her. Breaks my heart, mostly for her, but also for those little kids who have somehow had it ground into their minds that something not perfect is unworthy and ugly and bad. I was so glad when she didn't have to cry anymore. Even not knowing this story my photograph of her beautiful self won first prize out of a couple hundred entries. I cried. I called her immediately and made her a big print of it and gave her the 1st prize ribbon. There is something really wrong in the world these days. :(

CLC- I don't know what the name is either!!!

Muffin is seriously adorable. I can't get over how freaking cute his fat little arm is!!!

Tash said...

Anon: I'm not sure I really care what it stands for. For starts, do six year olds (or the seven year olds for which these were intended) need skin-tight jeans? And why can't we call it something else, like "loose fitting" or "comfort fit" or "tight fit"? Because, you see, six year olds are still pretty literal. And if the "Super Skinny" size jeans don't fit, they will then assume that they are not "Super Skinny." And if they're not "Super Skinny," they are therefore in their juxtapositional brains, "a bit fatty." And I have a feeling six year olds are not the only ones feeling a bit meh after trying on a pair of these thanks largely to the word choice of fit/style.

loribeth said...

I can't figure the name out either. But whatever his name is, he is adorable. : )

I can't figure out where the bags under my eyes came from either. :p

Reba said...

the jeans are sickening and infuriating!

i look and feel ancient, and i'm 32. i won't list all the body parts here. it's kind of all of them.

i can't figure out your lil guy's name but he is really a cutie pie.

Anonymous said...

what an adorable little baby!!

but those straps are way to high on his shoulders. not safe. at or below his shoulders

Mary Beth said...

"Super Skinny" jeans. For kids. Oy vey. I get the concept--my nieces are truly tremendously thin and require such leg wear, but we need not call these jeans "skinny." I like your idea of the "fit" descriptors.

I feel aged, and look aged, as well. Who knows if I'll ever get my old running self back . . . but I wonder, now, do I care? Now my face, that's another story. Oh, that and the expanded rib cage. I could use both of those to snap back into place.


Mary Beth said...

P.S.--That is one cute dude you've got there!

Tash said...

Anon @ 3:27: Given the way he's slouched to the side, the considerable amount of slack in the belt, and the fact that the buckle is around his stomach and not his chest, it's fairly safe to say (although my memory is extremely hazy these days) that this was taken in my kitchen while I unloaded groceries and I loosened everything so he could squirm a moment, and he scooched down in the seat as he often does. But I will check today per your instructions. Thank you for the drive-by.

Lila said...

He is spectacular. Look at those chunky wrists and that grin! What a sweetie.

I've definitely had the "I am old and dried up!" freakout this year. But crows' feet be damned, I always think that people look so much prettier when they smile.

And I am impressed with how adeptly you handled the jeans conversation.

Betty M said...

He is lovely. I'm pretty sure I have the name as it's my little one's second name too.

My six year old said to me this afternoon did I know what the f word was. I asked her why thinking that I had as usual been too loose with my language. She told me that at school the boys use the f word when they are being mean to the girls. What is f for I asked. She said fat. I'm trying not to make a big deal of it but really where do they get it from at 6 and what on earth will it be like at 12 when it will be much more obvious who is going to be a skinny jinny and who isn't. It just emphasises to me that it isn't only our girls who need the education about size by put the boys too.

erica said...

What a great smile!

I worry constantly now about my self image affecting Dot's, and she's only 8 months old. By the time she's six I expect to have pulled out all my hair from worry, which should lead to some *fabulous* conversations.

Sophie said...

Nope. Can't figure out the name. I'm stumped. :( Poo!!!! And oh my gawd, he is adorable! I don't know what it is with the camera thing either... so many beautiful moments and yet I never get the damned thing out!!!!

Super skinny jeans is ridiculous... I can't imagine anything more uncomfortable. I can't even get my kid into regular jeans... he likes his loosey goosey tracky dacks...

Leslie said...

He's gorgeous Tash- enjoy every inch of him.

Hope's Mama said...

Horrified at those jeans.
And another one who can't figure out the name. Has me stumped!
He's a beauty though.

PFM said...

I have 2 nieces. I have been thinking a lot about body image and girls. I think that labeling jeans as skinny at that young age is going to send another generation of girls into self hatred. I had a really rough time with body image.

janis said...

I hate jeans shopping, so demoralizing! Val has been asking, "Am I fat?! how does my butt look?" Where does she get this?-- because I am so self-assured and comfortable in my body with the hanging belly, hyper-pigmentation on the face, flabby arms, and all, I never fretted. ha. Thing is, she is wearing bigger sizes than she "should" but what the heck, I told her it's coz she's doing martial arts and have MUSCLES.

Oh, and I also have the neck thing going on, and I have not hit the big 4 YET.

Ale-cute is indeed cute. He looks very good to nibble on, if you'd excuse me being honest. And I just love toothless smiles, so darn killing adorable!!

Anonymous said...

My 5 year old boy called my 1.75 year old boy fat tonight. Made me think of this post... I ended up saying something like "fat is not a friendly word" and "2 year olds are meant to look exactly like this... JoC

Anonymous said...

You are fabnulous just the way you are and don't need to change a thing --

I, however, was not fabulous at age 41. (I'm now 45.) I had Restylane for the crow's feet (the skin around your eyes becomes lax as the upper part of your face thins out with age), and now I look younger than I did 5 years ago. (I only had to have it done once.)

It's pricey ($500) but so, so worth it. If, ahem, you're shallow like me and care about such things.


Anonymous said...

My guess is that "regular" refers to the length - vs. "short" or "long," that is.

Body image stuff is just hard no matter how you slice it. I have a pretty small bone structure, and when I was a kid I was very thin -- and was among the last to develop around puberty. It was awful.

It seems no matter what a girl's body type is, it's possible and even probable that she'll have body image issues at some point. I so wish it weren't that way.


Hennifer said...

You are missed!!!