You’re both still little girls, reallly, at five- and eight-years-old. I’d love to think I don’t even need to worry about this, that it’s something so far off, I can rest on my laurels ’til the teen years. But I know I can’t.
I’m trying so hard to not screw you up.
Here I am, this thirty-eight year-old woman, struggling daily to deal with the body I’m in. This is nothing new, really. I’ve battled this since the tender age of twelve, sometimes hiding it better than others. But it’s there, always, hovering in the background or straight up in my face– the body struggles never really go away.
The size, weight, and shape of my body is something I’ve been aware of for as long as I can remember, really. The younger of two daughters, I remember my mother and sister comparing their KNEES, of all things, one Sunday after church and, though not even a teen yet myself, looking down cautiously at my own, wondering if they were chubby, knobby, lumpy, or wrong in any sort of way.
I remember receiving a beautiful teal chemise nightgown for Christmas one year and weeping because it was a medium and the ivory one my sister got was a small. My mom tried to tell me that she had asked the clerk and that’s what she recommended because I was fuller-busted, but I didn’t want to hear that. All I heard was that I was bigger and, by that time, I had a firm understanding that thin women were better, that dieting was worthwhile, and that there was pride to be had in wearing a single digit.
I’d love to tell you that I’ve outgrown this. That I’ve learned that weighing a couple pounds over a hundred is not a good plan for a woman who’s five foot seven. I’d like to be able to say that I no longer care what a tag says and that I am proud of this healthy, strong body.
But last year I received a red Lands’ End cardigan for Christmas and it was a size medium. I’d received a hunter green Lands’ End cardigan the year before and it had been a small.
I spent far too much time over-analyzing what that meant. Was I fatter? Did I look pudgy in that green sweater? Had I put on weight I hadn’t even noticed? Did I look like a stuffed sausage when I wore the small? Why did I need a bigger size???
In the end, it doesn’t really matter. The fact is– I can wear either sweater and look just fine. One is baggier, the other trimmer– but it really doesn’t matter.
So why did it cause me such angst? And why must I always think about these things?
The size 10 (!!!!!) jeans I put on yesterday felt kind of snug when I was sitting and my heart almost broke.
Today, I have on some yoga pants that are a “Small Long” and they feel fine, so, somehow, I feel better about myself.
THAT IS STUPID.
I want you to know, sweet daughters of mine, that your mama is being stupid.
I work so hard– SO HARD– to not criticize my body in front of you. I make a valiant effort to just say “thank you” when you tell me how pretty I look in a top that makes me feel “thick.” I know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that it’s vitally important that you don’t grow up attaching value to a small number on a tag or tape measure. I KNOW THIS.
But I’m such a hot mess myself, I don’t know how I’m going to possibly get this right. I don’t know how I’m going to manage to convince you that your beauty and worth are not, in any way, linked to your weight or size when I fight that internal battle every waking moment of the day.
People don’t know that about me, you know. There’s something about being a totally “average” sort of size that seems to make people assume you don’t have any weight-related issues. I certainly don’t “look” like I have any kind of eating disorder. Sure, maybe back in college when I was rail-thin for a semester, but now? Nah. I don’t even know that I would call myself thin or slim. But I’m also not overweight. Even though I shudder at myself at times, I know that people aren’t really looking at me and thinking I need to drop some pounds. To be blunt– no one out there is thinking I’m skinny and no one is thinking I’m fat. I’m just there.
But inside, I’m a mess. I view myself as hideously lumpy, bumpy, and soft. I worry that, in adding a size, I’ve somehow become less.
My dear daughters…
I know already that you will both have totally different builds from one another. I can see the beauty and wonder of both of you. Truly, your bodies and limbs and movements just enchant me.
I can only hope that I don’t totally mess this up. I can only hope that you don’t get this warped view from me.
And I hope you never, ever see me cry over the size of a sweater.
Your Mama Who’s Really, Really Trying