things that won’t matter

by humanmama on June 5, 2011

When I think of my current obsessions, the top of the list is something that has  lived at that spot (#1 thing that I am annoyed with and/or think about) since I was about eleven years old. My weight.

Both my maternal and paternal sides of the family are a little weight-obsessed and it stems from generations of body image issues. I’ve been weight-consious for so long I couldn’t imagine my life without thinking about my weight, either (rarely) praising myself for my weight or (usually) cursing myself for what the scale reads.

I hate writing that. And I hate even more that you’ll read it. But it’s true.

I’m thinner now than I ever was before children. In college I weighed (at my thinnest) about 10 pounds more than I do now. And I think I’ve gotten worse after having kids, even though the scale reads less, partially because after children your body is just so different. Things move. Things change. And I guess the worst thing about it for me was that I couldn’t control it. If I weighed a little more than I wanted before children, I could just say, okay, let’s buckle down and lose the weight. But now, no matter that I weigh, my body just could not look like I didn’t have kids.

Unless I get surgery. So DONATE NOW to the AJ’s New Stomach And Other Parts Fund!

Seriously, the weight is something I can control but the body shape and style (kind of my “font” if you put it into writing terms) is no longer curvy… well, actually, it is curvy–just, no longer in the right places. (For me, I mean. In my mind. Which I’m not saying is the most sane mind.)

And the one most terrible thing about having an unhealthy body image isn’t that you drive yourself crazy. It’s that you might pass it on to your kids. And I tell ya, if there’s anything you have doubts about in your life, “is this right or wrong,” just picture your kids knowing about it. Or doing it. That will tell you right there. And unhealthy obsession with my weight? It’s not something ever that I want my kids to have to bear.

I watched the both of them playing in the sprinkler, on this hot, hot day. Being totally aware of the water and the other kids. And also totally unaware of their bodies. Just totally at ease with themselves, and their perfect forms. Only needing to know that those bodies would carry them through the water safely. And I admired them. And I envied them. And I wished and prayed with all my heart that the feeling of just being without thinking about how they look to others will last as long as it possibly can.

I’m a very healthy person and my weight could only be described as “average,” not obese or skinny. So don’t think I’m anorexic or hideously unhealthy, if you don’t know me. I know that’s how others see me: as AJ. I know full well that thin or thick, people would only see “AJ.” But I’ve been known to complain about my weight to 400-pound people, totally oblivious to what they might be thinking of me (*or of themselves). See, I see everyone as basically “good” and “beautiful,” but it is a true struggle for me to see myself as basically “good” and “beautiful.” Call it my familial model, call it a media-message that went to my head, but it’s just hard for me to take myself and my body as “beautiful.” I once could, sort-of, or at least there was a time (college, probably) when I could block out the sound of myself saying “well, you’re not thin but you’re funny!” But now if I get a glimpse of myself in the mirror I usually think, woah–who is that?!

And I don’t want to think like that. I want to greet my body as an old friend. Someone who I love, maybe take her on strolls through the neighborhood to the coffee shop. I want her to be taken care of, feed her healthy meals, work her out, and to make sure she is strong and healthy enough to hold her kids when they need her, even when they’re taller than she is. Or her grandkids. So I know, deep down, that this weight issue is one of the many Things That Won’t Matter when I’m old. When I’m ninety, I will most certainly not be thinking “If only I had lost those last 10 pounds” when I look at photos of my 30-something-year-old self. I’ll probably be thinking “OH! For only ONE MORE DAY in that healthy and strong body.”

And you will too, think that, about your healthy and strong body of today.

So join with me, men and women that I love. Let’s remind ourselves daily that it’s not the body image, or amount of money, or exact right newborn sleep schedule, or “birthing plan,” that matter. Help me remember the Things That Do Matter. Like raising my two girls with no fear of being fat. With the mental image “I’m great just as I am.”

Help me, because I’m bound to forget.

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{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

leigh June 5, 2011 at 9:53 pm

You are beautiful just as you are. Don’t ever change. You aren’t alone. All girls feel like you even if they don’t get pregnant ;)

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kate paarlberg June 5, 2011 at 10:18 pm

this is a great entry, aj. millions of us are in solidarity with you.

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n June 6, 2011 at 3:32 am

Well said, AJ! Thanks for being so articulate about self-perception and, sometimes, self-deception.

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