I first heard about the BlogHer “Letter To My Body” Initiative over at Joy Unexpected. I’m following suit because I think it’s a brilliant cause, and one more women should embrace. It’s something my mother would be proud of.
You have had to live with a lot of expectations. From me, from men, from other women – everyone has their own demands on you.
I should warn you, that’s probably not going to change.
My children will still expect you to push beyond your limits because they need us, even when we’re tired. Men will continue to expect you to hold on to our youth and never show any signs of wear. And other women? Well, I hate to tell you, but it seems that is just getting worse. They want you to be taller. And slender. And strong. And if you can manage it? Bullet proof skin would be a plus.
Thank God we still have Jared. He’s loved you in every shape and form. Even when I couldn’t stand to look at you anymore.
I have expected more of you than anyone. And I have ignored you and given you little appreciation for your successes.
When you were young and vibrant, your muscles taut and your skin still smooth, I berated you for your lack of lankiness. When your hips rounded long before child birth, I chastised you for ignoring the waif trend that was so prominent among teenage girls. I tried desperately to disguise you, with push up bras and jeans meant to elongate your naturally short legs. I didn’t appreciate your energy and stamina until they started to fade.
And, let’s be honest, when you were at your most vulnerable… I used you.
Worse than that, I let other people use you. I yielded you as a weapon. I let your value be judged by people who had no business doing so. For years I ignored how precious you are and sent you out as the guinea pig to see how dangerous the rest of the world could be. I tried to deny that you were intricately a part of Me, so that I didn’t have to face what I was putting you through.
And somehow, you survived. And I continued to take you for granted.
When you carried my children, reinventing yourself almost over night in order to meet their needs, I cried when you began to show signs of strain. I labeled your swelling and stretch marks as scars of weakness, ignoring the strength you exhibited by nurturing those two beautiful people inside you.
When you made soft places for those babies to lay their heads, I grew angry with you for your insistence on adapting.
And then I took control of you. I changed our diet drastically and melted 40 lbs from your frame. For the first time, I was finally pleased with you… because you were finally living up to everyone else’s standards.
Ah, that honeymoon period was sweet.
Of course, you and I know that behind closed doors, you’ve once again fallen short. We know that underneath my size six jeans, I hide your butt – that would sooner swallow a quarter than bounce one. We know that inside the Victoria Secret Secret Embrace bra, your breasts have become deflated and empty.
We know that your skin is sagging. We know that you’ve suddenly seem to become obsessed with new ways to sprout hair faster than I can remove it. We know that the excuses of pregnancy and child birth can no longer justify the potato sack you’ve attached beneath your belly button.
But I want to tell you, for once, for the first time…
Really. Because those expectations that people have for you? They’re nothing more than a fantasy anyway. Other bodies don’t look like that either – not without surgery and airbrushing. Trust me. I have seen Cindy Crawford and Jennifer Love Hewitt (thank you Internet)… and you’re not doing too badly.
Are your boobs deflated? Sure they are. They’ve fed two children. But they also still spark at the touch and add to your uniquely feminine silhouette.
The extra width of your hips is what creates that beautifully melodic line when you lay on your side.
Your legs bear the signs of a woman who has learned to stand on them, on her own.
The new whispers of lines around your eyes are a reminder that you have lived more, laughed more, and cried more than a younger version of you. They remind your children that you have seen enough to offer them guidance.
Your hands have begun to look less like your daughter’s, and more like your mother’s… which is at it should be as you stop needing a caretaker and become one.
Are you aging and sagging and adding to your fat storage? Sure you are. You no longer need the defense of hard lines. Our life is now filled with people who need the comfort and warmth that your softening provides. The energy you exuded in your younger years is slowly being tempered by a calm, more quiet confidence that grows from experience.
You’re settling in, and you deserve that.
God knows, we both do.