As I shimmied into my new jeans—new because I had worn holes into the thighs of my old ones, not because I had dropped a size—I glanced in the bathroom mirror and caught sight of my belly and took pause. I try not to judge myself, though it is incredibly difficult these days, but shame and disgust overwhelmed me, I just couldn’t help it.
I grabbed my belly fat and tried to make light of my ever-increasing waistline by squinching up my belly button and making it “talk.” “Hello, my name is Chubby. My mom’s chubby. My dad’s chubby. I’m chubby, too…” (Some of you may remember this little ditty from grade school.) My heart about stopped when over my shoulder I heard, “Mom? What are you doing?”
It was my Jolie Bean, and she had totally busted me degrading myself in the mirror. I stammered and tried to come up with an excuse for the scene she had just witnessed, but nothing sounded right.
And then she sidled up beside me, turned to look at herself in the mirror and said, “You know the part about me that I hate? This…,” pointing to the beautiful curve that extends from her lower back onto her butt. The part that is going to have the boys flocking to her as a teen and me having to shoo them away. The part that her future husband will hold his hand against as they sway on the dance floor to their first dance as lifelong partners… It absolutely killed me that at the tender age of nine, she is already inspecting her body with disdain and picking out the parts that are imperfect in her eye.
Positive self-image is something that I’ve been extremely cognizant of instilling in her, perhaps because I never had much of my own growing up, despite my parents’ reassurances. I see self-image as a wholeness thing—encompassing not only one’s perceptions of beauty, but also of intelligence, popularity, and social graces. I was 1 for 4 on this scale (I knew I was plenty smart, but the rest were foreign concepts to me). Jolie thus far has been batting a thousand. However, as she grows older she’s going to be influenced more by her peers and by those impossible standards of beauty perpetuated by the media. She already has come to me asking if I ever had friends who started out one way at the beginning of the school year and then changed their personalities entirely in order to make a different set of friends. I can only hope that she remains strong, but part of that is my job to serve as a role model for her. To treat myself well, even when I’m looking at my squishy tummy.
I do want to get back in shape—and soon. It’s not healthy to be carrying an extra 40 pounds brought on by changes and tweaks in my medical regimen. With age and these damn medicines, it’s just freaking hard. I wish I could just chalk my extra poundage to baby weight, but I got firm and fit like never before in 2008/2009 after I had Paisley. And I have to admit, my self-image was at an all-time high then. However, pinning my self-image to a number on the scale, whether up or down, is just as dangerous as basing my self-worth on whether a man calls me beautiful. It’s hollow, meaningless, and potentially destructive.
I’m not really sure what the answer is to this dilemma as I learn to balance healthy eating and fitness (while not losing a pound or an inch…grrr). I do know that I need to be kind to myself and give myself some leniency…and to believe Jolie when she hugs me and says that I am soft in all the right places. I think by doing these few things, however difficult they may be at times, will at least give Jolie some sort of positive role model. And that is my most important job—skinny jeans be damned.
I love you all, some more than others.