I think body image is the most difficult subject to explain to young a woman. I know this to be true because I’ve started this letter to you a dozen to the power of ten. Whether you realized it or not, you’ve watched me struggle with the body image issue all the days of your adult life. First of three points I want to make is that it’s not a one-time lesson you’ll commit to memory, like learning to make a béchamel sauce; sadly, your obsession with your body is the single greatest personal, do-it-all-on-our-own issue that you’ll have to overcome. “Oh, Mom!” I can hear you now, baby girl, you will say to me, “You were always so together, dressed to the nines, trendy makeup, hip, and in the know. You hit the gym every morning at five, cooked real food, and never ate out of can or box. You cared, and you always pushed me to stand tall.” I’d reply if I were standing next to you, “I did work on being in my skin and not measuring the width of my ass. I worked so damn hard at normal it’s no surprise that you missed my struggle. We women are the masters of disguise.”
There were mornings I’d wake up with the devil of body darkness on my shoulder screaming in my ear. Once she told me that I’d was the reason for Hurricane Katrina. My butt was so big that year that when I jumped off the boat into the marble blue waters off the coast of Kauai the force was so great I disturbed Titan. So angry with me for offending his pristine wide screen of the deep blue sea, he took his revenge out on the shores of Louisiana. How could I have been so careless? Sure, that year my ass was bigger than the average island off the Bahamas. In my defense, I did wear one of those girdle type suck-the-life-out-of-you and crush-the-rib-cage bathing suits that cost an entire month’s food allowance. I remember it had a black bodice with leopard print cups and crisscross straps.
I could go on about the devil of darkness because I have decades of stories. Suffice it to say she toyed with me from the moment my first adolescent hormone hatched inside of my brain, when Mario, the svelte Latin boy who shot hoops in my front yard, told me he liked girls with DDs, no curves, and zero body fat. How could a Latin boy like a girl without curves? (Years later, I found out that he was gay—I starved myself for nothing.) The devil of darkness continued toying with me through college, my adult years, pregnancy, and after that too. Even now, she still calls me fatty. My second point: regardless of what you do to your body it’s going to fall short of somebody’s ideal, maybe your Mario, or whoever’s definition of perfection you are listening to. The point to remember, it’s their definition, and not one you need to wear. The trick is to love the skin you’re in. Love it and embrace it through all of your sizes (there will be several), lovers (there has to be more than one), and all seasons of your life (it’s more than four).
Finally, don’t look longingly at size 2 with eyes of blue walking down the street and covet her life or the jeans she has slipped over her almost thighs. Why?
Pay attention because this took me four decades to learn, and that is, no woman, whether she is a size 0 or a size 24, is truly, completely, 100 percent happy with the body she is putting in her jeans.
Love, and always a work in progress,
Your Mother, a woman of substantial depth (and bottom)