Mediocre Moms Don’t Age Gracefully
This week I turned forty. That’s right; I have graced the earth with my presence for four decades. In all seriousness, part of me does not comprehend the gravity of that number. When I was younger, of course, forty seemed interminably old. But now, I think of “old” as eighty and beyond.
Before I dive into this post, let me be clear that when I refer to “gracefully”, I do not mean anything to do with appearance or looks. In fact, my best friend posted a picture of me at seventeen on Facebook in honor of my birthday, and I feel very comfortable saying that I look way hotter now. If anything, I feel like I have grown into my looks. I feel a certain comfort with my body that did not exist twenty years ago. In particular, I have always had a “hate-hate” relationship with my breasts. (That is not a typo.) They have always been needlessly large. It started back in fourth grade, and then they just kept growing. (Fun fact: it is actually no fun to have breasts in elementary and middle school. You get called wonderful things like “Dolly Parton” and “Improper Fraction”). In any case, they were bad enough in my formative years. In addition, they make shopping completely stressful. When the rest of you is a decent size but your breasts can have their own zip code, it makes finding something as simple as a shirt nearly impossible. And forget bathing suits and lingerie: I haven’t been able to walk into a store like Target and buy a bathing suit on the fly ever. With regard to Victoria’s Secret, the secret is that big busted women are not wanted since they rarely sale anything beyond a size D. As I got older, I hoped that the worst was over, but after the birth of each subsequent kid they grew even more. With this last pregnancy, I struggled to find even a maternity bra, which are purposely made bigger and looser, in my size.
Of course, I always had plans to lop them off. I still may go that route someday. But now, at forty, I have kind of made a tentative peace with them, just as I have with the rest of the imperfections of my body. As I celebrated this past week in Hawaii, I did something I have never done before, even when I was a teenager: I wore a bathing suit without a cover-up. There were women at the pool who looked better than I did, to be sure, but there were also women who looked similar to me. After a while, I stopped noticing. And caring. This is my body, shameless and with forty years of experience. It is what it is and I like it just fine.
So trying back in to the “gracefully” theme, I am more comfortable in my own skin, so to speak, but I think the greater take away is that I am more confident in my attitude. It is by this which I mean I have not aged gracefully. Instead, I have aged abrasively, and with thick skin. One of the primary definitions of “graceful” is “polite and kind”. I suppose I am not trying to imply that those things are bad, because most people, myself included, strive to be those things. But in refusing to age gracefully, I am refusing to be bogged down by those constraints. It is one thing to be kind, and completely another to be a doormat. I will be kind initially, to be sure, but I don’t tolerate other people’s bullshit anymore. If you give me snark, it will come back at you ten-fold. If you have stupid opinions, I will blithely tell you. If I don’t want to do something, I am not going to do it. If you don’t like what I am doing-I don’t care. At forty, I am no longer a people-pleaser. I am solely focused on pleasing myself (husband and kids excluded).
Thus, at forty, I have the ability to do what I could never have done at twenty: tell people to eff off. If you had known me then, and certainly as a child, you would be amazed by this transition. I was so shy, so awkward, and so unsure. I was embarrassed of my strengths, like my intelligence and creativity, because I thought they made me stand out. Now, however, with the benefit of hindsight, I can see them for the wonderful qualities that they are.
Perhaps the biggest challenge that lies ahead is watching my daughter, so smart, so creative, and so quirky herself, have to go through the same isolation and angst that befell me throughout my elementary years. Part of me will have to let her discover her strengths for herself. But part of me has imparted my own hardened and embattled wisdom to her. A few years ago, a girl in her class was treating her meanly. I can’t remember what she said, but I gave my daughter a witty and not-so-nice retort. Incredulously she said “I can’t say that, then the teacher will get mad”. I said “tell the teacher that your mother said that you don’t have to put up with anyone else’s crap and have her call me”. She giggled, but I know she knows I meant it. I am on her side. It is one thing to be a bully, which I completely discourage and do not condone. But as someone who had to put up with hurtful comments and actions for years upon years of my childhood and well into early adulthood, and now at age forty could care less about other people’s opinions, I absolutely stand by my advice to my daughter: you don’t have to put up with other people’s crap.
I am mediocre mom!
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