I figured that after I had a baby my body would be like a soldier after war, with the proud, annoying battle scars that have a good story but don’t dress up well. A few things went differently than expected:
- I had a real baby, which is sort of impossible to imagine beforehand and sort of trumps everything else.
- I didn’t stop caring about the way I looked (this isn’t a story with a moral or something), but I was really busy caring a lot about other things.
- I looked surprisingly great.
No one ever talks about how you might feel sexy and beautiful after you have a baby. They talk a lot about how you might feel shitty and floppy and bad and you might have to work really hard to look good again and your belly might never ever be the same and the goal should be for everything to be the same as it was because that was so much better. It’s stressful, being pregnant and being yelled at by all of the headlines about pregnancy “YOU NEED TO START THINKING ABOUT HOW BAD YOU WILL LOOK AFTER YOU GIVE BIRTH!” Keep reading »
I am trying to be a little more organized, since I’m going to have a baby in about five minutes, and in honor of this effort, I sat down to weed through the old photos on my computer. Apparently, I used to take a lot of selfies (before they were known as selfies). You know, back in college, when I had more time on my hands. And before college, when I would just sit around in my room in front of the long mirror some evenings, wearing a thrift-store gown or the new shirt I thought was the coolest thing ever, or occasionally nothing at all, and snap about, say, two million photos.
And then I guess I grew up and didn’t have so much time and most of the pictures of me began to be taken by other people. So there are a lot less of them. And also, I discovered: they are a lot less flattering. Keep reading »
My husband’s grandmother looked like a movie star when she was young. You should see the pictures! There’s one of her perched on a rock in her bathing suit, and it looks like she was posed there by a famous photographer. Everyone always comments on it. “Wow!” we say, “You were such a beauty!” And she sort of chuckles and looks away.
The story goes—she got selected as the prettiest girl at the local fair. I always imagine a dour panel of older male judges, shuffling through the cotton-candy eating crowd, hands behind their backs, in gray linen suits, sizing up the young women, looking for the prettiest one. They must have known immediately, when they saw her. Maybe she was laughing with her head thrown back, her hair lustrous in the sun.
“She was so beautiful!” we exclaim, looking over the old photos. Now she’s 95—a pert, tiny, stooped woman with a ready grin who thought Obama was cool long before the rest of us knew his name. She laughs a lot, reads a lot, and grows a wild garden in her backyard. Keep reading »
I eat my secret cookies in the middle of the night. There is something clandestine, furtive about my stealthy trip to the kitchen, long after the world has gone to sleep. I am mostly asleep myself, I reason. This is hardly even happening. I can’t help it, it’s not my fault, I don’t even know what I am doing. These cookies don’t even count!
There is evidence in the morning — a cookie or two missing. We won’t speak of it. Who can remember what happened during the dead stretch between the dregs of the night and the pale creep of dawn? I can’t!
But wait a second.
What is really wrong with eating a cookie or two? What makes it an act of quiet self-deception? What about it requires sneaking?
I’ll be blunt. I mean, that’s why I’m writing this — to be blunt and confessional for a moment because I think that’s really the only way to address this sort of thing.
In my head, there is this eternal, infernal, absolutely obnoxious connection between food and failure. And you may find this next statement ridiculous, but: I think I’m actually pretty healthy about food. Keep reading »
I was so sure I was having a boy. I’d even given my baby a boy name, and I talked to my belly and told him he was a great son. A strong, noble, excellent son. People said, “A mother knows…” and nodded along with me.
Not this mother. Apparently, this mother doesn’t know shit.
“Can you tell if he’s a boy or a girl?” I asked the sonographer at the 20 week ultrasound, just to be sure.
She bit her lip and tried not to smile. “Oh yes. I can tell.”
He was a girl. She had always been a girl. I burst into overwhelmed tears. And then something shameful happened. Instead of being fully happy, the way every new mother is supposed to, I was worried. I was worried that she would look like me. Keep reading »
It seems like one Harvard professor or another in exceedingly blue, alarmingly stiff jeans is always coming out with a pop psych book about happiness and how misunderstood it is.
Apparently, people make a lot of the same mistakes about happiness over and over. We keep thinking that we have to work really hard to get to it, and do certain tricky things to capture it, sort of like that scene in “Avatar,” where they have to bond with the giant flying dinosaur things, and they’re just as likely to get killed, because you have to really earn that bond—not just any Na’vi can fly! But man, when you stick your hair tentacle into your bird dinosaur’s tendril thing and make that platonic, yet soulmate-y connection—there is NOTHING else like that shit. So worth it.
My point is, we expect happiness to be hard. But it isn’t really. And instead of fighting and waiting for it, we should probably just work on recognizing where it’s already sneaking around in the shadows of our current lives, like a little smiley cat burglar. It’s there, seriously, I promise.
I think it’s like that with beauty and self-acceptance, too. Keep reading »
A little over a month ago, I stopped using shampoo. And, speaking as someone who has clearly never been in serious bodily danger, it felt like I was being very brave. Just a couple days, I told myself reassuringly. And then, when you look like a horrifying ball of dripping grease, you can do the rational thing and return to the sweet comfort of purifying chemicals and delectable fragrances. Because that is totally how I think of shampoo, when pondering its many virtues alone in the shower.
Honestly, I’m not sure what motivated me to attempt this reckless experiment. An article about the mountaineers who have scaled Everest’s ferocious flanks? That documentary on Netflix about the dude who illegally, triumphantly walked the high wire between the former World Trade Center buildings? Maybe just a quiet, deep-rooted sense of “now or never.”
But seriously, it was weird, considering my history with my hair. Which I am going to tell you. And as I tell you, please know that I am intensely aware of the fact that my last piece for this column was a critique of the phrase “first world problems.” This whole piece might fit into that phrase very neatly. But I am writing it anyway, because you have to hear the truth. Because I have to tell it. Keep reading »
“My drive from work is too short for me to decide what to listen to on Spotify #firstworldproblems” was a recent tweet from the Twitter account First World Problems. The tweet reached over 50,000 people, and it was only one in a long list of mildly amusing little complaints about an easy, well-fed, upper-middle class life.
The idea of first world problems has recently become a meme, with inspired tweeters hashtagging the phrase on the back of every observation that doesn’t seem world-changing or ring out like a strangled scream from the depths of oppression. It’s kind of a fun trend. Maybe it serves to remind us all of what we already have. It offers a little dose of perspective. And when it first appeared, I was totally on board. But then I started seeing the hashtag cropping up a lot more when women were talking about all those things that get labeled “women’s issues.” Keep reading »
Don’t get me wrong, I am a sucker for the message “seriously, though, you’re beautiful.” And I agree with the viral clip, so many of us get distracted by all of our perceived flaws. We get caught up in criticizing our appearances and miss out on our own beauty. We are often more generous toward strangers than we are toward ourselves.
I like that the Dove Real Beauty Sketches campaign is pointing all of this out. I hope it starts a bunch of conversations. And I hope that my reaction is interpreted as a continuation of the conversation, rather than nitpicking criticism. Because I really don’t want to nitpick, I just want to point out some things I noticed as I was watching.
In the clip, some lovely, thin, mostly white women who are all pretty young describe their appearances to a forensic artist, who sketches them without looking at them. And then other people describe these women, and the artist starts all over again, based on the new description. At the end, the women are shown the two portraits of themselves, and they can see how differently the sketched faces turned out, based on the descriptions. They realize that they’ve been unnecessarily critical of their appearances. Keep reading »
Well, of course, someone had to take some photos of me at a party, wearing my favorite dress (should I just stop wearing the clothes I love to events where there might photos taken?), bulky, lopsided, unfortunately proportioned, and my pregnant beauty bubble, so to awkwardly speak, was popped.
No matter how many times I tell myself patiently, firmly, “NO. Don’t pay attention, the photo is lying!” there’s that part of my mind that goes “But this is the truth! THE TERRIBLE TRUTH IN A RANDOM, IMPERSONAL UNIVERSE WITHOUT A GOD.” My new tactic is better, I think. I tell myself, “So what? So what if I’m ugly?” And that is always more helpful. But at that particular moment there had been much talk of beautiful women, much instant evaluation around me of women as either pretty or dismissible, and it seemed as though it did matter, at least enough. Because even if it’s out of sheer laziness or habit or nothing important or just in passing, people seem to talk about the way women look first, and constantly, and always. Keep reading »