Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Skinny or fat, don’t talk about my body

If left to nature, my normal body type is a stick figure with an apple in the middle, topped with two floppy breasts. 

When I work out, my body changes slightly. My otherwise bird-like limbs have little bulges of muscles on them. Every time I’m sick or injured, someone notices that I look like I’ve lost weight.

Somehow, losing that little bit of muscle through disuse seems to read as “skinny.” Skinny is supposed to be positive, right? It’s meant as a compliment.

I don’t work out for how my body looks. No offense to anyone who does, but I work out because I have battled with depression for the past 18 years, and the endorphin boost that I get helps top off my anti-depressant— enough so that my mood is significantly less volatile when I work out.

The thing is, being told you’re skinny isn’t really a compliment. It may be meant as one, but it isn’t one. It’s the flip side of the same coin— people looking at, and judging, your body. 

Think about it. Is it OK to tell someone, “you look like you’ve put on weight”? Or, “it sure is taking you a while to look like you did before you had the baby,” or, “when are you going to start working out?” No, no, and no.

Whether people are silently judging your appearance or not, compliments on appearance reinforce a dangerous, sexist standard: worrying about your body or feeling inadequate because of the way it looks. 

It’s the same reason that we’re supposed to be conscious of not praising girls’ appearances more than we notice their intellect or creativity. Hopefully we’re doing a better job of that than we were back when I was a kid. But what about us? The women who grew up with moms who dieted constantly, drank Tab and ate rice cakes, and who weighed themselves every morning? 

Well, we’re still struggling with body acceptance. And even when we think we are being politically correct about how we treat others’ bodies, we still have blind spots, we still slip up, or unwittingly reinforce those same body standards but using new language. 

For every person who feels empowered by MLM fitness and diet schemes flooding Instagram, there’s another woman who can’t do that, or who struggles with health issues or is a single mom or dammit, just doesn’t want to spend her time obsessing about what she puts into or does with her body and how that is going to change her value in the eyes of others. 

Gossip mag headlines still cry out, “X celebrity flaunts her post-baby body in Hawaii!” No. She has a body. She had a baby. Her body is in Hawaii. 

And well-meaning friends who haven’t seen us in a while and maybe don’t know that we’re recovering from a recent flare of IBS or coming back from a leg injury may compliment us on looking skinny. All the while, our kids are watching and listening. 

In my daughter’s after-school art club the other day, I overheard a little girl bragging to another little girl, as she patted her stomach, “look how little my tummy is.” I watched as my daughter looked on, silently taking in the conversation. I did a pushy mom thing. I walked up, stuck out my tummy, and said, “it doesn’t matter what size your tummy is. The important thing is that it works. Can you imagine what would happen if it didn’t? You’d have everything you ate just sitting in there! You’d have to poop out pieces of food!” The girls dissolved into giggles, and started talking about what it would be like to sit on the toilet and poop out a salad and pizza.

There is no wrong way to have a body. By calling out body shape, even if it’s meant to be nice, reinforces a judgment. So please, don’t ever call me skinny. I’m trying to be healthy, happy, and ultimately not give a shit about what my body looks like to anyone other than me. I hope to raise my daughter (and all our daughters) to do the same.

Saturday, January 07, 2017


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Friday, January 06, 2017

A Hairy Situation

The agony and the ecstasy of being a long-haired mom

There are lots of advantages to having long hair as a mom— throw your mop into a messy bun and GO is the name of the game.

In fact, when I became a mom, I grew my hair out for that purpose— ease of everyday styling. However, I’ve lived long enough with this flowing mane and my two kids to let you know about some of the more humorous sides of having long hair as a mom.

How can something so cute cause so. much. pain.

The first and most obvious challenge of being a mom with long hair is the fact that babies are notorious hair-grabbers. Doesn’t matter if you even have your hair up in said messy bun— babies don’t care. They’ll use their amazingly small but powerful grabby paws and yank a fistful of hair with abandon. Cro-Magnon infant tyrants.

Oh, look, isn’t that a cute baby? Eeeeek! 

You know those cute footie fleece pajamas that are a staple of the under one set? Well, along with the cute little patterns of duckies, they also offer a floofy warmth to envelop your small love child and keep it warm. But there is something about that micro fleece that acts like a magnet for hair. Not just any hair. Not just one hair. I’m talking tumbleweed gobs of tangled hair that the fabric gloms onto and holds onto for dear life. There’s nothing quite so sweet as a clean, sweet, cuddly baby in a comfy fabric that just happens to attract hairy moles. 

[Choke gag gggrhhrhhh]

Before my kiddos had any attention span whatsoever, I started reading to them. Whether in my lap, or laying down next to them on the floor, I quickly learned how to immediately identify the sounds of a child who is gagging on a piece or two of my hair. Oh, and don’t think that this is over when the kids are bigger. I still read to my kids at night. While we don’t have the daily-frequency gagging anymore, we do have the occasional throaty churr in attempt to dislodge the offending strand, usually followed by protruding tongue and some variation of “Bleh!” and a demand for water. You know, not as terrifying as having a gagging baby, but still enough to think DAMN HAIR.

Fear and loathing when you get the infamous “note from school” 

Listen, I am just as frightened as the next parent when I receive the “Your child has been exposed to lice” note from school or camp or wherever. I had lice when I was eight years old, and after all the voodoo my mom did to my hair (I think there were vinegar cures and olive oil drenches— wait, was she just making me a salad?) and the sleeping in do rags, she finally decided it would be easier to tackle if I had less hair. FAR LESS HAIR. So, I when the tiny beasts were finally vanquished, I returned to school with a home-styled pixie cut. 

It sounds horrible to say, but I can deal with my kids getting lice. (Any lice reading this should not take this comment as an invitation). But my own hair is the problem. It’s long. There’s a lot of it. It’s thick. Shoot, I can’t even manage to color it myself because there’s too damn much of it and I’m done with missing spots and wrecking my bathroom with dye stains. If I get lice, nuclear war will have to be waged. Good bye, long locks. (Excuse me while I take a short break to itch my entire body).

Fun for girls and boys! 

My kids are old enough now to shower mostly by themselves, with most interventions being me yelling, “Get OUT of the shower! You’ve been in there for twenty five minutes and your feet are now webbed!” Often, especially in summer when they get home from summer camp, they both want to shower at the same time to get all the chlorine, sunscreen, bug screen, and dirt off ASAP. So, I usually let one of them shower in my bathroom. Now, being a mom-on-the-go with a full time job, as well as being ridiculously (but happily) overcommitted to a bunch of causes, I’m always in a hurry to shower. Always. Like, I don’t even know what a leisurely shower is any more. I haven’t known one since before I had kids. 

So most of the time I do remember to clean the drain thingie of whatever hair collects there (which always looks like a LOT OF HAIR. How in the world can I lose that much hair daily and still have hair on my head? It’s a mystery). But often, I don’t remember. One of those times, my boy child came out of the shower yelling, “Mom! Look at this!” I rush in (because who knows what carnage a kid is going to show you when they say those words) and see him with a towel carelessly tossed around his middle and a floofy nest of black hair perched atop his outstretched finger. “It’s a wig. For gnomes!” 

There must be a market for those, right?


I often get compliments on my hair —probably because it’s so… obvious— long, curly, raven black). I love having it long after having nothing longer than chin length for the first 30 years of my life. I love being able to wear it up or down. I love only having to get it cut once or twice a year. 

I just really wish that my hair would… stay on my head. Not gag people. Not collect in places it shouldn’t. But, that’s just the name of the game. It’s hair today, hopefully not lice tomorrow.