Mr. W and I decided to tackle our first building project together. We had been at Cost Plus World Market, my favorite candy store for home décor I covet, when we came across a shelving system that doubled as a full length mirror. It was gorgeous, made of dark wood, and swiveled so you could use the shelves on one side to store all your miscellaneous crap and then turn it around to hide it all while you checked out your appearance on the mirror side. For a clutter monger like me, this was a brilliant way to make my mess look chic. So we bought it and brought it home, and successfully tackled the project together without even bickering once (mostly).
I already have a full-length mirror in our bedroom. I bought it years ago for my own apartment, hanging it on my bedroom door. I used it all the time to check every side of my outfit. But since it’s a hanging mirror, it nearly fell down every single time I closed the door. So when I moved in with Mr. W I decided to just lean it against the wall rather than hang it for my daily outfit checks. And since it leaned at an upward angle, it had the magical feature of being incredibly slimming. Naturally, this became my very favorite mirror to check my outfit in. I lost about 10 pounds every single time I did the obligatory butt-check in front of it. But when we bought our new swivel mirror, I passed my cheap version of a full-length mirror on to my daughter and anxiously anticipated the completion of our beautiful dark wood mirror.
When our building project was done, we placed the mirror in the corner of the room right near the sink where we had 3 other mirrors on the wall. This was so I could see every single side of me at once while getting ready – a 4-way mirror if you will. And then we swiveled it towards the room and stood in front of it, Mr. W behind me. Except I couldn’t even see Mr. W. He was hidden behind my hips and thighs that seemed to have gained quite a bit of girth since switching mirrors.
Oh my jeez, where did those come from???
Over the weekend I had felt like the belle of the ball. On Saturday I had attended a 1950’s themed Anniversary Party wearing a dress my grandmother had made and worn in the 50’s. It was cinched at the waist and flared out like a bell at the hips. On Sunday was my sister’s bridal shower and I wore another slimming dress that was white with flowers, loosening at the exact place my pooch began to disguise my figure into something way thinner than reality. But in those two dresses, I felt like I was my teenage self again, pretending my butt was dainty and my body lithe. But here in front of the mirror wearing old sweat pants, a shapeless shirt, and nothing to hold up the droopiness of my mom bags, I was suddenly a very distinct pear. It was like I was seeing my body for the first time ever. And it was worse having my boyfriend totally lost behind the fullness of my hips.
Wanda Sykes went on tour sometime after she and her partner adopted a set of adorable twin babies (The “I’mma Be Me” tour). Becoming a parent, Wanda’s material has become that much funnier as she described the antics of her baby boy and girl, and the words we parents would love to say to our own children before they’re old enough to know what “Go the EFF to Sleep” means (sidenote: Have you seen this book? Totally brilliant. I think I might buy it for my teenage daughter who has forgotten sleep happens at night, even in the summertime). But I nearly died when she started describing her stomach pooch – giving it the identity of “Esther”. Esther loved bread and alcohol, The Cheesecake Factory, and hated Spanx.
Here’s a clip (caution: a tidbit of bad language):
And in her book Traveling Mercies, Anne Lamott described “Butt Mind”, when she goes on vacation and then obsesses about everyone’s butt in relation to hers. On good vacations she’d see a wide variety of butts where hers fit in somewhere in the middle. But on tropical vacations, there were generally a lot of younger and smaller butts, making her butt feel especially wide. And then there were her dimply, jiggly thighs. Thing is, Anne had grown accustomed to the ol’ gals, tenderly referring to them as “The Aunties”, regarding them like faithful friends. She squeezed the Aunties into her favorite swimsuit and made her way down to the beach without even a cover-up. And she felt beautiful and womanly…until she happened upon a group of slender teenage girls. Worse, they looked at her. Worse than that, they turned to each other and gave a look – the same amused look Anne confessed to giving her own friends once upon a time when they’d happen upon a middle-aged flabby woman in her swimsuit.
But then Anne saw something else – a secret. These young girls in their perfect bodies and sunkissed skin, with butts that were tiny and no thighs to speak of whatsoever – they didn’t view themselves as perfect. And in the look they gave each other as they regarded Anne and the Aunties, there was also an unsurety about their own appearance and what they felt they were lacking.
And Anne was suddenly ok in her body once again, and apologized over and over to the poor Aunties – the very same Aunties who had been regarded as beautiful before the teenagers appeared on the beach.
This morning I stood in front of my 4-way mirror as I got ready. While I put on my make-up, I watched how I looked from the side. When I brushed my teeth, I regarded how parts of me moved even after the toothbrush was placed back in its holder. When I secured my hair in a ponytail, I studied the shape of my arms against my sleeves. And while part of me made promises to firm up the parts of my body that were no longer firm, the other part of me remembered the acceptance I had gained over the years for my body. In my youth I had picked apart every single aspect of a figure that needed no changing. My skin was too pale. Fat existed in invisible pockets. My nose was too big. I had too many freckles. What I hadn’t realized was that I would wish for that body more than anything in my later years. What I gained now, however, was the comfort that still existed in my image even when I sometimes wished it were more perfect. I didn’t mind that my skin wasn’t tan. In fact, it was better that way to help prevent lines in my face, or even the somehow more real danger of skin cancer. My nose no longer feels too long. My face may have grown into it, but it’s more likely that I just got used to it. And the freckles I once hated are now one of my most favorite features of my face.
We all have insecurities. It doesn’t matter if you’re a size 2 or size 22, there are parts of ourselves we wish were different. And at the same time, there are parts of our bodies and features that are stunning. An even bigger truth – all of our parts together equal something totally unique and exotic – different from everyone else in this whole entire world. When we compare our bodies with those of other who are younger, fitter, lighter than we are, we are betraying ourselves. We are putting ourselves up against something we will never live up to. I will never be Heidi Klum, no matter how much I exercise or diet. I won’t even be my gorgeous sister or my fit and toned friend. They are not me. And I am not them. All I can be is me. And I am beautiful, as are YOU.
We owe it to ourselves to celebrate in that.
As for the thighs, butt, and mom pooch? I’m not going to lie, I’m still working on that. It’s not an overnight process. But I think I’ve found the answer. I just need to name them something cute and think of them like friends – dimply, flabby friends – but friends nonetheless.