I forgot all about the body image conversations, largely (no pun intended) because I didn't think they'd come up until she was
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."
"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.