Posted by: Hannah | 04/18/2013

how i see myself

Last night we took the boys shopping for some essentials. Socks. A new spring jacket for Ron. Yet another pair of pants for Harry because my goodness, he just keeps sprouting upwards.

We went to Old Navy, and no, this is not a sponsored post because no one ever wants to sponsor me. We go to Old Navy because it’s close by, inexpensive, has clothes that hold up reasonably well and that the boys love, and because Michael can usually find things he likes there, too.

I browsed a little bit through the women’s clothing, and suddenly there were Harry and Ron, sartorial experts, pointing out things they wanted me to try on.

“Look at this teal dress, Mom! It’s such a pretty colour!”

“Mommy, this rainbow necklace is beautiful, look at it!”

“Mom, look! They have that dress in orange! You would look so nice in orange!”

They skipped over the stuff I would normally look at. No black or beige for my boys. They went for bright colours, summery styles, flamboyant jewelry.

I realized something. When I shop, which isn’t often, I buy clothes with an eye to hiding. I look for jeans that will hide my three-babies-and-pizza bulge. I go for black shirts because they’re supposed to be slimming. I avoid stripes and patterns because oh noes I will look fat in this.

like bright colours and fun styles. I like skirts and dresses. I like jewelry. But I never buy any of it, because I’m trying to disappear.

The boys weren’t thinking about any of that. They don’t notice or care that I need to lose thirty pounds, that I have a short torso and big boobs, that I have thick ankles. They don’t worry about things that jiggle, or things that are six inches lower than they were fifteen years ago.

They think I’m beautiful, and they want me to dress the part.

It’s not that they don’t see what I look like. It’s that they do, and they don’t care. I’m their mom. They love me. Not “just as I am” or “in spite of the fat/grey hair/wrinkles”. They just love me, and think I’m pretty, no qualifiers needed.

I didn’t end up buying anything, although I did try on the teal dress and probably would have bought it except the zipper was not well-constructed (hey, you buy cheap, you get cheap). I may have been a little teary-eyed in the dressing room. Who am I hiding from? Most people don’t give me or any other moms-on-the-chubby-side a second look. My kids think I’m beautiful. My husband thinks I’m sexy.

I’m hiding from myself.

I’m making myself miserable trying to cover up the truth; that I’m not a skinny teenager any more. Nor am I a childless 20-something vegetarian with disordered eating habits. Should I lose some weight? Yes. My knees and feet tell me I’m carrying too much on my frame. But in the meantime, this is the size that I am. And pretending it’s not is making me miserable.

So when I go for my summer wardrobe this year, I will try to keep all of this in mind. I’ll buy things that I like, things that make me feel happy when I wear them. I’ll stop trying to worry about all that other shit that clutters up my mind and heart.

Maybe I’ll take the boys with me.

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Responses

  1. A great big “You Go Girl” to you. I loved this one.

    You are raising smart boys. Life is too short for drab clothes (unless that is what you really like of course).

    • Thanks. I learn more from my boys than they learn from me, I think.

  2. Tears, big, huge ones. The paragraph about what your boys don’t notice is where they started, because we all have this list. This easy to recite, flowing list of the shit we think of as our faults.

    Are we concerned that we’re going to get pulled over & the officer is going to ask us to walk the line while reciting our faults backwards & forwards?

    Why do we do that? Why does thinking of our attributes feel shameful & difficult?

    I’m glad you wrote this & I certainly think you should take your boys shopping with you. Maybe also your husband, so you don’t come home covered in head to toe rhinestones (I wish I had a picture of the sparkly shoes I talked my mom into buying herself once when I was 5), but honestly, that’s a risk I think you should be willing to take. 😉

    I adore you & I adore this post. Our kids love us. Help me figure out how to make that be enough, because it IS enough.

    • Thank you so much, honey. Hugs to you. I don’t know why we are all so quick to produce a laundry list of perceived faults, and yet we are. At least you got to have your cry in the comfort of your own home. Mine was in the change room at Old Navy. :p

      Sometimes I think we don’t stop to marvel at how lucky we are to have children who love us. We would all do well to remember that, every day.

  3. During uni I boarded with a family that I adored. The mother was short and solid, but dressed with drama and flair. She said that for years after she has her kids she hoped her extra weight would go away, and she bought the bare necessities but always dressed plainly because she was so embarrassed by her size. Then an older woman she admired told her to dress as well as she possibly could at any size. Because how you dress affects how you feel and how others perceive you. So, she started buying nice clothes and started making more of an effort with how she looked and she found exactly that – she felt better about herself and people treated her better. Certainly for me when I thought of her looks ‘stylish’ was always the first word that came to mind.

    So, yes, dress however it pleases you to dress. Wear outfits that reflect your personal style, regardless of what weight you’re at. I hope you do find brightly coloured clothes you love and buy them! 🙂

    • “she bought the bare necessities but always dressed plainly because she was so embarrassed by her size”. YES. Exactly this. I have two pairs of jeans, an assortment of t-shirts, one ‘nice’ black shirt, one very nice dress I’ve worn once to Michael’s office Christmas party… and that’s pretty much it.

      Your story made me smile. Thank you for sharing it.

  4. God, Hannah, I could have written this. I understand & am right there with you – completely, totally, absolutely, 100%.

    • Thank you. Hugs.

  5. Great post. I’m in the same mental space about my physical space.

    • I wonder if any of us actually think “man, I feel good about myself” most of the time?

  6. I so agree with everyone else that commented and they all said it better than I could – Eryn and Quadelle, especially. If you like bright colours – you should wear bright colours! Those boys are right, orange and teal might exactly be what you need. You don’t need to disappear. You should print this post and put it on your fridge and re-read it every day, because it is beautiful and so are you.

    • Aww, dammit, now *I’m* crying. (I’m also wearing a lime-green t-shirt today, for the record. AND I wore it to the playground, even.) xo

      • Perfect! A perfect start!

  7. Oh, Hannah. This both broke my heart and made me smile. I’m so glad you have those boys to remind you that you’re beautiful, because you are. It’s hard not to compare ourselves to our older selves or, worse, the models (blergh). My heart goes out to you, because I know what it’s like to cry in the change room (good and bad cries). I’m so glad that you have those boys to encourage you to embrace your beauty.

    I’ve always worn lots of colours, but I’ve always hidden behind shapeless sweaters and large scarves (even the in summer, which is why I never walked anywhere, because then I would get too hot and have to take off my scarf). Being over weight sucks and makes people want to hide, but I agree that wearing nice things make you feel better about yourself. I’m fat, but a few months ago I decided to treat myself to some nice clothes. Clothes that fit and are colours that make me happy, not loss shirts and things that are “good enough for work”. I was amazed at two things: how long it took me to have the courage to wear them (because, OMFG, what if people start to notice me) and how good they made me feel, even if no one commented on how nice my new outfit was. It can be hard shopping, because everything is made based on boring standard bodies, but it’s worth it when you find something you like.

    For me, it helps that I developed curves. I let myself balloon up to about 300 lbs OMG, it’s really hard to admit to that). At that weight, I was just a round blob. I still have a lot of weight to lose, but at least I have a waist, now. Also, I’m “small” enough (just) to shop at places like Old Navy. I haven’t the guts to go for skirts or dresses yet because … well … inner thigh chaffing is yucky.

    You’re a mom and a caregiver, so people expect you to wear “functional” clothes, but you deserve to have pretty things and, nowadays, it’s so easy to find nice things that are still appropriate for being a busy mom (different styles of t-shirts, etc.). So, yes, please do find yourself some nice things. You’re so worth it!

    Also, here’s a little tip, if you hate to shop as much as I do (or, you just don’t have time): once you have an idea of the sizes you wear at Old Navy, you can shop online. If you spend more than $50, shipping is free (if not, the shipping is still reasonable). Sending things back is free, too. I often buy a bunch of things and send many of them back if they aren’t good enough quality or don’t fit properly. Sign up for their emails because they often have 30% off sales. Also, you can buy from them, the more expensive Gap, and the wacky Banana Republic all at the same time (they have different websites, but they’re all connected so you can have one “shopping bag”).

    XOXO

    • Thank you for this, for your honesty AND the shopping tips. (I do hate shopping. The notion of being able to try things on in the comfort of my own home is very appealing.)

      I love skirts, especially in summer, but the icky thigh-chafing thing was a huge downside. Then someone on Twitter suggested using anti-perspirant. IT WORKS. And since shorts just do not work for the short-legged among us, I spent most of last summer wearing the same comfy skirt. 🙂

    • Gah. I am right there. I spend, shockingly, most of my time worried to a greater or lesser degree, about my weight and health and how I look. But it seems like such a huge thing (and it is) that one more piece of banana bread isn’t going to do a damn thing. And then I feel worse. I spend a decent amount of time on makeup and I have good hair. I always wonder if that “makes up for” the fatness, GEEZ.

      Old Navy is good even for us larger than life women, except the womens’ sizes are all wonky.

      When my boys tell me I am beautiful, I automatically think in my head that they are just clueless. GAH!

  8. Absolutely buy clothes that make you happy! Your happiness will be what most people notice. The women whose style I admire are the ones who clearly like what they’re wearing, even if I wouldn’t necessarily wear it myself. And for the record, I am “a childless 20-something vegetarian with disordered eating habits” and I also struggle with this. I think the issue is more being female, or perhaps just being human. We all need to be kinder to ourselves!

    • And when I *was* a childless 20-something I still thought I was fat, even though that was (deep breath) 40 pounds ago. AND when I was a teenager I hated wearing a swimsuit at the beach because I thought my thighs were fat.

      True self-acceptance is so hard.

  9. I posted on Twitter about this yesterday – I love shopping for clothes but hate trying them on. I end up shame spiralling about how I think I look too fat and ugly. I think it’s really, really hard in this society to love yourself. I write a lot about fat acceptance but I sometimes have a hard time practicing what I preach.

    • I hear that. I have lots of friends who are as big or bigger than I am. Some of them have really wonderful personal style; I envy how they dress and just think they project an air of confidence. I don’t ever think “jeez, why is she wearing that?” And yet I can’t extend that to myself.

      This will be a long road, I think. I keep picturing myself in that changing room again and feeling tense.

  10. I am an anonymous reader of your blog, and I have never felt compelled to write a comment until now. I find your writing is full of both wit and wisdom, and you are able to convey your thoughts in a poignant and precise manner. Your words, “I’m trying to disappear,” struck me.
    I, too, am a thirty something mother of young children. I do not want to make this post about me, but I also had that same script of negativity towards my image in the mirror.
    I started thinking about how I could spare my daughters this rotten reality. Because, it’s JUNK. I soon realized the best way is to model a positive attitude for my girls. I want them to see themselves as I see them, which is perfect, and right in this world.
    Am I still overweight? Yes. Am I striving to be a healthier person? Yes. Am I doing a better job each day seeing myself as my girls see me? Yes. Is my entire family happier for it? YES!
    Your children are wise. Listen to them. It is not only good for you, but good for them as well!

    • Thank you so much for your kind words. It really means a lot to me to know that you enjoy my writing. 🙂

      You are so right about modeling a positive attitude for the kids. Sad to admit this to myself but I think if I had daughters I would be more cautious about how I talk about myself when the kids are listening. I’ve started checking myself because I know that boys can develop all the same issues around body image that girls can.

  11. I am not sure my kids even notice what I’m wearing. Maybe there should be a version of that Dove ad where kids draw their moms and then we can see what we *really* look like. *snerk*

    Um, but more to your point..I know that disconnect well. I definitely have a uniform and I feel like I have to be feeling very self-confident to wear lime green. I mean, I *buy* the lime green in a moment of confidence and then put it on a couple of days later and go eeeeeek no, I must return to black!

    Definitely take the boys shopping with you, tell them to style you, and then BLOG ABOUT IT! Go Hannah Go!

    • That would be a hilarious Dove ad. Hey, Unilever! I’m throwing money at the computer right now! MAKE THIS SHIT HAPPEN.

      I have some more ‘out-there’ shirts that I bought before I got pregnant with G. Every once in a while I’ll put one on… and then, like you, I panic and switch it out for something black. Part of this whole process for me is going to involve designating one drawer for work clothes (because I am *not* wearing my pretty new things in the dayhome, at least not until the runny noses all stop, ewwww) and then getting rid of all the shapeless worn-out crap from the rest of my wardrobe. If I don’t have the box on hand to crawl back into, I’ll have no choice but to make myself wear the new, ‘scary’ stuff.

  12. I love this post. It made me grin and tear up. Beautiful. Beautiful writing, beautiful boys. Beautiful woman.

    • Thank you, my dear friend. [hugs]

  13. Your boys are awesome. 🙂

    And I second Old Navy online. I’ve nabbed a few things there now that I fit into reasonable sizes, and they’ve been totally out of my comfort zone. And under 20 bucks. And you know what? I’ve LOVED THEM. Because they make me happy, and I feel happy and sexy and all that jazz in them. Remember what makes you happy, not what makes your butt shrink. Buy something in that color, or cut. It’s so worth it. 🙂

    • I can see that Old Navy is going to get a lot of my money in the next little while…

  14. So puzzled because I REMEMBER writing a response to this but it’s not showing up. Anyway, very yes to this. PH went and read a bunch of fat acceptance blogs and now he gets VERY upset if I try to imply that I need to be thinner in order to be happy with myself. But I don’t see how to feel any other way.

    And this is what is so fake in that DOve commercial that’s going around on Facebook. It implies that the women are all thinner than they think, and therefore prettier than they think. So it continues to perpetuate the belief that we have to be thin to be seen as pretty. What about being happy with yourself, wide forehead and all? That’s what women need to learn, not just hope that other people see them as thinner. I’m the opposite. I see myself as thin, and then when I see photos of myself I’m like “Oh, is that what people see?” and then I am ashamed.

    • This comment showed up twice, but not a different one. Are we seeing the return of pregnancy brain? 😉

      “I see myself as thin, and then when I see photos of myself I’m like “Oh, is that what people see?” and then I am ashamed.”

      Yup, I’ve been there. I don’t see myself as thin – obviously – but in my head I’m thinner than I appear in pictures or change room mirrors. So every time I’m confronted with what I *actually* look like, I’m crushed and horrified all over again.

      I think the trick for me is going to be online shopping… and not looking at myself in a mirror. If the clothes are comfortable and I feel good in them, that’s going to be my bright line. I’m always more confident until I look at my reflection; maybe as a ‘retraining my brain’ exercise I’ll just skip the mirror step, and count on the boys & Michael to tell me if there’s something obviously wrong with the outfit (like, say, a kid wiped their nose on my leg and I didn’t notice).

  15. I think, so often, we see other people as wholes, not as parts; then, when we look at ourselves, we start breaking down the things we don’t like, until there’s nothing left but flaws.

    The reality is, people usually don’t see us as the “woman with the roll/the crooked chin/the big ears” etc. Especially the people who love us.

    They see us in our entirety. Just like your boys.

  16. I could have sworn I commented too. Must be my drinking problem. Did you submit this to BlogHer? You should – it’s beautiful. We should all carry it around and stick it on the inside of the change room when we’re trying on clothes.

    • Wow – do you think so? I’ve never submitted anything to BlogHer… I’m all tickled to just think that I *could*. Maybe I will!

      • Do it! They pay you 50 bucks, too. Mind you, it took me six months of nagging to actually recieve mine. But still.


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