I stepped out of the shower, dropped my towel, and caught a glimpse of my body in the mirror. Not a spring chicken anymore but not quite an old bird either. Somewhere in the middle, I guess. The body I saw did have a lot of middle to look at and too many imperfections to count. I’ll try anyway.
I never had acne in high school. I had 99 social problems, but a zit wasn’t one. My face now has hints of rosacea (thanks, Mom), too much hair, dry patches, and a spray of little, red bumps all over. There’s also too much of it. These cheeks look like they are storing treats away for the winter! These eyes that still have a hint of my younger mystery and twinkle, now would be completely unrecognizable without the dark circles and bags that are forever underneath.
My hair has long since lost its shine and is so dry, frizzy, and riddled with split ends that I look like the “before” picture in a Pantene ad. My once slender neck now looks like I’m hiding a sausage necklace from Lia Sophia’s glamorous new meaty collection underneath my skin. Skin tags fill in the extra spaces, and if you connect the brown dots, I’m sure you would end up with a picture of a younger lady who is no more.
My arms are flabby from an extreme lack of exercise and covered with the ghost of a rash from one, two, three pregnancies (welcome to the progesterone allergy graveyard). I wish my arms were less hairy and my tired hands were softer and smoother. I can’t even remember what real nails look like because mine have long been bitten down, and healthy cuticles come to me to wither away.
Oh and the dreaded entire middle of my body…what a sight! Once firm, flawless, and fantastic, it is now none of the above. My beautiful bosom is no more. Inflated and deflated three times over in three years with the milk of life has proven too much for my originally perky chest. The girls have graduated and left the nest, and they aren’t moving back. It’s the saddest change my body has undergone! I miss my boobies.
I think my stomach misses them too…that’s the only explanation I can come up with for why it always looks like it’s frowning. The chub literally curves into a sad expression that I mimic every time I see it. My muffin top is more like an entire pan of brownies. The stretch marks! The worn tattoos! The surgery scars! The discoloration! It’s like a pamphlet for everything that keeps a dermatologist in business.
And as my eyes slowly move downward, the harsh commentary continues again and again and again. My abundant thighs, my aching knees, those man feet, and so on. Too much of this, not enough of that. Gross, gross, gross. That’s what I see when I look at this naked lady in front of me.
And you know what, I have never cared before. I’m not into makeup. I hate exercise. My closet has little to envy, and my drawer of beauty products is smaller than most glove compartments. So what changed? Why does the cruel voice of self-loathing echo so loudly now?
Because I had three babies in three years, and the change in me was drastic. I looked in the mirror before and liked it. Did a little shimmy shake and moved on with my day. Then I went off and, after a tricky start, quickly had three babes. Now I am looking at myself again, but the lady looking back at me is a stranger.
Only she’s not really. Under that new outer layer is the same me who doesn’t care about any of this visual crap. Someone who always believed that beauty was inside and personality was far more attractive than anything a person could wear.
I want to get back to that kind of thinking.
Because, honestly, I’m never going to enjoy hitting the gym, eating kale, or doing yoga. I’ll keep active and eat right…just enough to stay healthy. No more, no less. I’m not going to see a plastic surgeon, and I’m not going to indulge at the MAC counter at Macy’s. I won’t fill my closest with the latest trends or spend hours trying to find the right accessories. I don’t know how to do all that stuff, and I don’t want to learn. It’s not me. I don’t want it to be.
I do like wearing clothes that fit well and last, so I don’t have to do more shopping. I do like a hair product that tames the mane enough that I don’t look like I’ve been electrocuted. I’ll use a lotion that’s not too heavy, a deodorant that keeps me dry and fresh, and a chapstick with some tint to keep the kisses sweet. Maybe I could do more, but ain’t nobody got time for that!
And as for the naked lady? Maybe I need another look at her…
Those wrinkles come from laughing to the point of tears…with the Man, my babies, my girls. That skin is discolored because I got out and ran around the pool, the forest, the playground, and the park. Those dark circles aren’t going anywhere anytime soon, but neither are my memories of cradling the baby to my chest as I filled him up, as close as we could possibly be, or my memories of holding the boy tight and singing lullabies to ease him back to sleep when he woke up with a nose too stuffed up to breathe or my memories of cuddling under the girl’s covers with her as I whispered reassuring words that the thunder wouldn’t hurt her because Momma would always keep her safe.
I wouldn’t trade a single baby to have rash-free arms. Maybe the boy. No, okay, not even the boy. Those are my battle scars from surviving the first trimester three times. And those arms have lifted three babies again and again and again. Into and out of cribs, pack and plays, high chairs, timeout corners, car seats, and every damned child contraption on the market.
I still miss my boobies. I will always miss my boobies. But being able to nurse my tiny loves is one of the most remarkable accomplishments of my life. Even when it was hard (and sometimes it really was!), it was always worth it for me. And besides, there are too many women who are forced into losing their breasts, so I’ll be grateful that my saggy sacs are still hanging around…literally.
That stomach carried my four little ones. It was the only home my never-born first ever had. It’s been filled up with date night dinners with the Man, homemade cookies with the girl, difficult lunch times with the boy, cracker upon cracker with the baby, champagne toasts to big announcements , margarita nights with my best friend, bowls of ice cream to make it all better, and family meals at holidays, birthdays, and so many special occasions. I don’t want to burn those calories.
My never-empty hands were on those thighs when the babies were made and when they were born. My knees worked when I jumped for joy, held me up in hard times, and collapsed under me when I answered with a resounding yes to the biggest question ever asked of me! Of course they ache now.
These feet have been everywhere I have been. They have stepped to the edge of desperation, depression, and destruction. They have stepped back from those edges too. They’ve paced. They’ve kicked. They’ve danced so many, many dances.
This body has been USED. How beautiful is that? I didn’t sit back. I went out. I did. I failed, and I accomplished. I have something to show for it. A lot to show for it…including this naked lady before me.
And what’s more is that I’m hopefully not even halfway through using it. My eyes still need to cry over graduations. My feet still need to dance with the grown up boy and the grown up baby in their tuxedos as their new brides watch (knowing they’ll never be as loved by these men as I am, obviously). My hands still need to hold the grown up girl’s as she pushes out my grandchild (because I’m going to be in the delivery room, obviously). My stomach still needs to be filled up on fresh baguettes in France. My arms still need to try to wrap around a California redwood. My knees still need to get weak at falling more in love with the Man as we grow old together. My fingers still need to type my New York Times’ best seller…again and again and again.
Maybe it’s not so bad to be floppy and wrinkled. Maybe I won’t be so harsh. Maybe I’ll embrace the joy that living brings to my soul instead of focusing on the results living leaves on my flesh. Will you?
I’ll probably keep missing my boobies though.