I had a few ideas brewing in my mind today for a blog post. I was going to blog about a little twiggy teenage girl rear-ending my car yesterday, and how my first impulse—so new and foreign to me—was to put an arm around her and mother her down into a calm state. (“It’s okay,” I told her. “No damage done, except you made me say shit in front of my little girl, but we’re fine.”) Then I was going to write instead about the completely poopy translation Hollywood made of Hermione Granger in the Harry Potter films, because I’m a decade behind the times like that. (But come on, she’s a totally genius save-the-day anti-twit in the books and is depicted like a histrionic girl-tied-to-the-tracks in the films).
And then I saw my ass.
And my belly.
And my arms.
Because my husband took this video today of me and my son:
My 4-year-old looks adorable, no? He has been completely enamored of this new Jillian Michaels exercise video I got last week. “Can I edger-size with you, Mama?” he asks. And then he tries so hard to do it. Really, really hard, and he loves the part with the weights, so I even went out and bought him some little hand-weights of his own today.
I really wanted a video of my son edger-sizing with me like this, because it captures his zesty little personality so well. He is honestly the sweetest little boy I have ever known—full of hugs, I love yous, forgiveness, innocence, and really pure happiness and curiosity. And he’s just really funny, even when he’s not trying to be, like when he looks at the girls in the Jillian Michaels video and says, “They’re cute, Mama. They seem happy, and I can see their belly buttons.”
But truth be known, all I can see when I watch that video is my butt, gut, and flabby arms, and how much I hate the way I look. Ridiculous or not, I feel icky when I see myself. Whose body IS that? I may be relatively okay for a 40-year-old mom of two, but it’s still uncomfortable to me. After I had my first baby, my body basically bounced right back to its old self in about six weeks. Turns out, that’s what happens only when you have one of those little pregnancies where you gain 25 pounds and have the baby early. Then along came my second child, and I ate so many Saltines and drank so much root beer to keep the barfing at bay—it plagued me through the entirety of both pregnancies, but I was able to keep more down with the second one. I gained 50 pounds. And the stretch marks showed up about five days before my son was born. You cannot undo stretch marks, which are basically like cinched elastic on your gut that is more than happy to expand easily for even the slightest addition to your belly. We’re talking something as small as a fart.
My son is four years old. Not four MONTHS but four YEARS. In other words, it’s safe to say my body is not just going to “bounce back.” It’s not all the fault of a pregnancy. It’s the process of getting older. It takes harder work and less food as your body gets older. This is not news to anyone—but I think I somehow thought I might be one of the lucky ones who doesn’t really have to worry about it. Wishful thinking and kind of arrogant. Also? Total denial that keeps kicking me in the ass. I jammed a 1/4 sleeve of Pringles in my face the other night because I couldn’t bear one more egg-white omelet, one more raw sweet pepper, one more slice of 35-calorie sandwich bread the size of a Chihuahua testicle and better suited to wiping my nose than accommodating a decent sandwich.
You know what might be the hardest part? It’s not seeing myself in a video and getting a reality-slap of what the scale-number looks like in Spandex exercise pants. It’s not baby carrots when I’d rather be eating chips. It’s the pretending that I accept my body, which I do for my 9-year-old daughter. This is the answer I make myself give her when she asks why I’m exercising: “Because I want to be stronger and healthier!” Why? Well, it’s not appropriate to say, “Because my butt is getting flatter and wider and grosser, and I hate my body.” I want her to care little about how her body looks.
I know it’s not a hopeless cause and that I really don’t have far to go to feel better in my skin. But the reality is, age happens, and unless I plan on undertaking a career as a personal trainer, I’ll never get back my 25-year-old bod. Frankly, I know few 70-year-old women who look fan-freaking-tastic in a swimsuit. And I think the answer to my conundrum lies in that answer I keep giving my daughter when she asks why I’m exercising. I need to stop bullshitting her—not by changing my answer but by sincerely meaning the one I keep giving. At my age? As a mom? I don’t need to feel hot in a bikini as much as I need to be smart about the self-respect and body-image issues I hand down to my daughter. My conclusion so far? It’s a lot harder to change my thinking than it is to change my butt.
P.S. No scolding allowed, my dears. I KNOW I’m being a freak.