Should anyone be actually keeping up with this thing, you may have noticed that all day long yesterday, you were waiting on bated breath for a Day 13 only to be let down. Well, Day 13 went about as well as superstition would have you believe it would. For whatever nefarious reason cooked up in the minds of Google, I was signed out of all my Google things. And THEN forced to keep changing my password, and THEN not being allowed in anyway, all the while, Google keeps sending frantic alerts to my cell phone that someone was trying to change my Google password. This went on for several hours. So that was annoying. Also annoying, I have a Chromebook. Everything was stopped. And this just cemented my decision not to switch to an Android phone. I can’t have Google deciding my level of internet activity on every device I own like some troll on a bridge. Anyway, I’m back in and back to business. Day 14 of my Camp Nano Question of the Day project actually is going to come from that Myspace quiz thing that I did the other day, but I think I didn’t answer this question then because it is generally vapid and so I deleted it. But I have been thinking a lot about this question since then and it’s a lot more valid then I gave it credit for.
What’s your favorite physical feature?
When I read this question the other day, I started to answer it but ultimately thought better of it because it sounds like a ridiculous question and I had to weed a lot of the MySpace questions out for length.
Originally I answered “My nose?” because in reality, I was lucky enough in my dna chain to be born with a standard, straight, short, thin, white girl nose that the magazines have decided is “a good nose shape”. I only became aware of it because it was the one thing I was consistently complimented on. My sister was “not so lucky”, someone (our mom) would say. And it gave her a complex. And while I had “the nose”, Julie had “the hair”. That’s the thing I “wasn’t so lucky” on. Julie’s hair was thick and straight and she could put it in this amazing ponytail that I envied. My hair was very thin and started to get curly in about 2nd grade. But it only went curly (actually, frizzy) in the top back. Everything else was straight. And I would get hit with the comb for not “combing [my] hair! It looks like a rat’s nest! Aren’t you embarrassed?!” Well, I am now, mom. And I have been for 38 years or whatever the math is. So thanks?
Look, I don’t believe any of it was intentionally said to cause long lasting traumas, and I don’t even think it was said in malice, however, once I had kids of my own, I started to remember the things that I carry because of my parents (my mom). And I try to parent the way that I wanted that parent to be when I was 12. It didn’t all come at once, but it is gradually evolving and I’ll never be good at parenting, but I have to be better.
I was shaving my legs in the shower recently and I consciously recognized the memory that plays in my head everytime I shave the back of my thighs. We were at the Del Mar Fair in San Diego when I was 10 and my mom was making fun of a woman with hair on the back of her thighs. “What does she think, hair doesn’t grow back there?”. And here’s the thing, she probably will never remember that this happened. But I do. 33 years later and it’s the reason I shave the back of my thighs even though I NEVER wear anything showing my thighs. Because “cellulite is gross” and “How do you have stretch marks? you’re 16!” and once at my swimming lessons when I was 14, “That girl is going to have saddlebag thighs, look at that! Do you see how her thighs bulge out like that?”. And this haunted thoughts affect me and my fashion choices every single day. And knowing that I hear my own mom’s voice when looking at myself and others are the reasons that I, as a mom, stopped verbally talking about other people’s flaws. And my own flaws. I have boys so they likely won’t have to worry if they have hair on the backs of their thighs and stretch marks and cellulite to keep them from wearing shorts, BUT I don’t want them to hear me, the main woman in their lives, say that about myself or other women because I don’t want them to think that about any woman. Ever. I don’t want them to EXPECT that from any other woman.
And a side effect that I didn’t even see coming, is that when I stopped trying to look for flaws in other people, I started accepting my own body a bit more. I’m not 100% there yet, but when I stopped seeing people, women as the “flaw”, I started loving them and in turn, started seeing myself in them. If I could love their cellulite, then I could love my own. If I could love their curly hair, I could love my own.
The actual turning point for me from being potentially able to accept myself to being proud of myself came from my own child. My littlest one always grabs my upper arm to go to sleep. And it’s annoying and uncomfortable. One day a few years ago he said “Mom, I like your squishy arms!” and I was DEVASTATED because of the whole arm flaps that all the ladies I know worry about. “Oh my GOD! I have squishy arms and arm flaps.”
But the other night, he was falling asleep and I was telling him that eventually he has to be able to fall asleep without me because how would he ever be able to spend the night at a friend’s house or go to Outdoor Lab and he said he would build a robot mom that was exactly like me with my squishy arms “but maybe nicer” and that would help him fall asleep if I wasn’t there.
The idea that something that I have been so self-conscious about is the thing my child would purposefully build into a better version of me if he needed to has drastically changed my opinion of myself. I’m not a monster that needs to adapt to a better physical form, I’m perfect (except maybe could be a little nicer) to one of the only people’s opinions that even matter.
And this whole thing probably doesn’t make a whole lot of sense but I’ve had a revelation and it feels very important.
Sorry this whole project that was supposed to be helping me with my novel has becoming an oversharing, online, unsolicited therapy session, but, here we are.