My Body Rocks

“We have some nice swimsuits, too. What are you, a size 8?”

I’m shopping by myself, no kids, at a discount store I just learned about from my friend Heather. It’s a cross between Goodwill and Marshall’s, only they crammed two stores worth of crap into half the square footage. It’s Oleoptene’s worst nightmare and a place I could easily spend an entire day in. It’s department store dumpster diving at its best and it’s making my head spin.

“Um, my size is kind of fluctuating right now. The pants I’m wearing are a size 2, though” I reply tentatively, knowing full well this girl doesn’t give a damn what size my pants are. But I care. I discovered this very morning that I could fit into these pants again, my first size 2 since Elzy was born. Wearing these pants I have felt sexy and slim all day. I may have even strutted a bit on my way to pick up Georgia from school (can you strut while pushing a stroller and holding the hand of a two year old?) Anyway, why should I care if the adolescent checkout girl mistakes me for being three sizes bigger than I am? It’s not the first time and I’m sure it won’t be the last. But the internal chatter has already started up, telling me that I am just one of those people who looks frumpy or thick, even when I’m in a size 0.

Up until a couple of months ago I had this wonderful black mug that had “My Body Rocks” written on one side and “Birth” on the other. It was my favorite mug ever, until I dropped it in the sink and it broke. I loved this mug for its sentimental value as much as its message; Mara and I each bought one as a memento of our trip down to Austin to see the play Birth a few years ago. I was pregnant with Scout at the time, and pregnancy is a wonderful time to enjoy one’s body.

How can I even begin writing about how important this mug was to me?

“My body rocks.”

I want to reaffirm this fact as much as possible.

Even though I had been abstinent from an eating disorder for years when I got pregnant with Daryl back in 1997, that first pregnancy was when I learned to truly love and care for my own body. It was doing all this amazing work! And then to experience the labor and the birth? And breastfeeding? I truly felt like my body rocked. It didn’t hurt that I was able to bounce back pretty quickly after my first, second, and even my third pregnancies. I was one of those annoying people who was back in my pre-pregnancy clothes before the baby was eating solids (not that anyone was actually annoyed by this or even noticed because, remember, I’m one of those people who looks “thick” regardless.) But I knew, and for some reason that mattered.

Well, I’m not bouncing back as quickly after this last pregnancy. In part this is because my priorities have shifted. I’m not nearly as motivated as I once was to get to the gym, and believe it or not, that is a good thing. I haven’t felt like I was going to crawl out of my skin if I didn’t loose my pregnancy weight NOW, and I find so many other interesting things to fill my time with these days. Of course, my body has also now been through four pregnancies, and I’m rapidly approaching 40. Those things might also have something to do with the fact that I’m struggling with postpartum flab and skin that can’t be convinced to shrink back to non-elephantine proportions. I’m guessing that I will never look the same as I did a few years ago. But I seem to be straddling this middle ground where I don’t want to have to fit into a size 2 anymore (let’s face it, the pants I’m wearing today are a fluke) and yet I still kinda want to.

The winter issue of Brain, Child had an article titled The Mom Job that was all about this dilemma. We were driving to Sioux Falls when I read it. I read parts of the article aloud to Patrick, saving the more detailed sections for myself and finally skimming to the end to find out whether the author had the surgery or not. I related to the author so much – same size, same tummy issue, same obsession with removing the excess skin and flab from my abdomen (and I would add to that the fear that my breasts will all but disappear when Elzy is through with them). Now I know that Brain, Child isn’t a feminist publication and so I shouldn’t have been surprised that in the end the author got the tummy tuck, but damn it I was disappointed. I really really wanted her to come to terms with her body and be happy with it. I cried, I was so disappointed. It had brought up so many of my own fears and insecurities, so many of my hopes for myself as a woman and as a mother to girls and as a sexual partner to my husband because, let’s face it, there are things a woman just can’t do when she isn’t feeling sexy, and it’s incredibly difficult to feel sexy when your body doesn’t even remotely fit the mold of the ideal woman.

But there’s still a glimmer of that old spirit, that old “My Body Rocks” attitude. I never dared dream of such confidence in my early twenties, when my body actually did resemble that of the “ideal” woman, and yet that confidence saw me successfully through several pregnancies and most of my thirties. This is why I don’t believe that I have to live at the gym or get a “mommy job” in order to get it back. I really believe it’s an inside job. Which is what makes me so sad that my lovely mug is gone, because really can’t we all use a little affirmation in this department?

birthmug

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~ by jenzai on March 24, 2009.

4 Responses to “My Body Rocks”

  1. Just thinking you could use Oleoptene’s blogpost title as easily for this one: “My Excluded Middle.”

    NB by the way that 39 + no live births = weird midriff flubber that wants to hang out over the top of my jeans etc. And a gorgeous friend of mine (half-Ghanian East German fashion model turned Zen priest) tells me she suddenly has the same thing and no number of sit-ups or Pilates contortions touch it.

    It’s cool, because OUR BODIES ROCK. And I am having half-and-half in my peach tea this morning—in my mug that says DON’T MESS WITH TEXAS WOMEN.

  2. Zaftig, baby, that is my rocking size 10 body which I struggle to love. Wouldn’t I love to have a salesgirl guess 8, since that is the smallest size I have had as an adult, even during my “cigarettes instead of meals” unhealthy, not so attractive thinner stage. No wonder I hate clothes shopping. Getting fitted for the dress Raven bought me, I didn’t notice how they labelled their medium size, because the one I tried on skimmed a little too close, but the size L is labelled ‘luscious,’ which at first chafed as patronizing, but, you know? It fits.

  3. Excluded, perhaps, as in it refuses to remain constrained by the ubiquitous low-rise pant that is the (despised) fashion of the day?

  4. zaftig! Thank you. I had already forgotten my new favorite word. Alas, I will never be zaftig. I’m afraid the best I can hope for is athletic. I Love “luscious”.

    I hesitated to mention numbers, because seriously, who is going to be sympathetic to me now, but it’s always disheartening to be mistaken for three sizes bigger than you are, no matter what the actual number. Especially when it happens on a regular basis.

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