I bought my first pair of skinny jeans today. Well, the first this century. I wore them in the 80s when everyone else did, of course. But I when I was taking my teenage daughter shopping for clothes for her, she mentioned (once again) the appalling fashion horror of my boot cut jeans, which she insists on calling "bell bottoms" which they're not.
So I tried on a pair while she was trying things on. They got her stamp of approval. "Except..." she began. "They make your butt look big. Not to be mean or anything," she added hastily. "I'm just being honest."
The really neat thing that struck me about that conversation is that it didn't make me feel fat or unattractive or old old or upset or offended, or even too self-conscious to buy the jeans. I just made a joke referencing a lyric about the female anatomy in one of the godawful pop songs she likes and bought them.
In a world where women feel so much shame about their bodies, I felt happy that I don't. Happy that I don't ask, "Does this dress make me look fat?" or "Do these jeans make my butt look big?" whenever I get dressed. It helps that the jeans are a size 4, of course. How big could it be, really?
But reality isn't enough to silence the chorus of shame so many women hear inside their heads. The thin girl who looks in the mirror, sees a fat girl and abuses herself with anorexia or bulimia isn't saved by having a slender body. Her shame overrides reality, and she starves herself until she looks like a concentration camp survivor or purges until her esophageal sphincter stops working.
I am not immune to shame. It's just that my self-abuse of choice is wallowing in Bad Mother Shame. No matter how caring and loving and patient I am with my kids, day to day, all I have to do is lose my cool and snap at them, and the chorus of Bad Mother, Mommy Dearest, Selfish Bitch, Worst Mother in the World... starts playing in my head. I know it's unreasonable to think I can be a perfect mother, know it's lunatic perfectionism, just plain batshit crazy, but I can't seem to talk the irrational, emotional part of me out of it.
The fact that I genuinely like my middle-aged body and am not self-conscious about it makes me really, really happy. If I could get to the same place about my imperfect parenting, that would be an even bigger achievement than being able to squeeze my middle-aged butt into size 4 skinny jeans.