Archive for the 'body' Category

I am sexier as a mom

Thanks to a reader named Vicky (from this comment section) for inspiring this post:

I figured that after I had a baby my body would be like a soldier after war, with the proud, annoying battle scars that have a good story but don’t dress up well. A few things went differently than expected:

1)   I had a real baby, which is sort of impossible to imagine beforehand and sort of trumps everything else

2)   I didn’t stop caring about the way I looked (this isn’t a story with a moral or something), but I was really busy caring a lot about other things

3)   I looked surprisingly great

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(me, looking great, of course)

No one ever talks about how you might feel sexy and beautiful after you have a baby. They talk a lot about how you might feel shitty and floppy and bad and you might have to work really hard to look good again and your belly might never ever be the same and the goal should be for everything to be the same as it was because that was so much better. It’s stressful, being pregnant and being yelled at by all of the headlines about your future “YOU NEED TO START THINKING NOW ABOUT HOW BAD YOU WILL LOOK THEN!”

I was prepared. I went in chin up, determined not to care. I was going to focus on my baby, damnit. I was going to have my priorities stacked correctly, color coded, baby blinking red on the top. “Attention! Attention! You have created a human life! Instead of checking out your ass in the mirror, you should make sure your child stays alive!”

You’ll have to read my book for the (whole) birth story (I promise, it’s dramatic), but afterward, there I was, somehow still myself, somehow epically changed, clutching the counter and staring into my own eyes in the bathroom mirror. I was a horrible mess. Puffy and ghost white and trembling, with limp, sweaty hair and a ferociousness rising off me like fire. The details of my appearance seemed irrelevant—it was the brute power and triumph shining through me that counted. I didn’t look beautiful, I looked awesome.

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Kate on November 22nd 2013 in beauty, body, motherhood

i wrote a book and it’s coming out (for preorder) today!

So I wrote a little book.

This is the story about it:

One night when I was four months pregnant I was lying in bed and feeling like a failure, as is my tendency. This time, I felt like a failure because I hadn’t yet published a book and I was going to have a baby and it was now too late to publish a book before having a baby. For a lot of my life, I told myself that I had to publish a book before having a baby because I was pretty sure that the rest of life ends when you have a baby. A baby is a lot like a cliff in the mist, I thought. One day you drive your car right over it, and you have to really believe that it’s just a short drop and then there’s an even better road right there to catch you. But, let’s be real, probably not.

I’m not sure why I’ve always thought that publishing a book was the most important, meaningful thing anyone could ever do. I think it has something to do with me being essentially uncreative. And reading a lot of books as a kid. And being self-centered. And sort of introverted. And snobby about literacy. But I’ve always been like this. All paths in my fantasy of my life lead to published books. For example, if I start a fantasy with “Let’s say I just won 100 million dollars,” the next thing is, “I could start my own publishing company and publish a book!” And then the thing after that is, “And I could hire really fancy publicists to advertise it. I could get a billboard!” And then the thing after that is, “And I could combat world hunger!” Shit. I’m a selfish prick.

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whipping out a boob

After I pushed an entire baby out of my poor, shocked vagina, I lay around feeling starving and relieved and stunned and abruptly motherly with Eden on my chest. She was attempting to wrench my nipple off with her tiny, adorable mouth.

I had this silly idea that breastfeeding was going to be really easy. It was the birth part that freaked me out. But the feeding part—here’s a boob, here’s a baby, so we’re basically already done.

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(see? look at that stuff in the breast! it’s really simple! those are the pink milk trees and you just hook them up to the baby’s mouth and WHOOSH, there you go. source)

“Good!” said the various helpful people who were there to make sure things went correctly. “She’s latching on!”

Eden never had a problem getting milk, so everyone said, “You should be thankful. Some babies have a problem getting enough milk.”

I tried diligently to be thankful for that. I was sitting there crying because it hurt so much, those first few weeks, and my nipples were bleeding, and my mother the La Leche League leader had switched from rapid-fire instructions and constant hands-on intervention to the mantra “it will get better. You’re doing fine.” Which was really the only thing that helped after a while.

“I WILL give this baby a bottle,” I threatened to Bear. “I swear! I will do it! One more week and I am giving this kid formula!”

I made sure my mom was out of earshot.

Why, I wondered, were my baby and I bad at the most basic thing in the world? The basis of survival. Was she not meant to survive? Was I not meant to be a mother? Yes, of course, I got too existential too soon.

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Kate on October 23rd 2013 in body, motherhood

i think i finally don’t care as much about the way i look

Absentmindedly, while watching TV, perpetually breastfeeding, I am playing with a roll of fat on my side. It is a new addition. My skin is looser now, around the middle, more pliable, softer. It feels nice to touch. It looks—well, whatever. I’m not thrilled about how it looks. My midwife said, “Yes, it will look tighter, after six months or so. No, it will never look the way it did.” Then she told me I was getting my period again, already. So that was a cheerful exchange.

The new moms I meet are always talking about their bodies. First we talk about our babies, then we talk about our bodies. We are a little uneasy about them, they seem unfamiliar, they have been changed and then changed again and what will they even do next? Who knows! The babies are cute, though.

“I have stretch marks on my boobs,” I was telling a friend. You know, just making conversation.

She said that her husband didn’t know what stretch marks were at first and he thought hers were pretty. And I remembered that the first time I saw them, on a guy, not a woman, I thought they were pretty, too. Silverly and iridescent. They have a magical sheen. It’s funny and random how we learn about ugliness—where to look for it. Where it’s supposedly hiding.

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(I googled “iridescent wings” and the jewelry that popped up is really nice!! source)

Bear said the other day, “You used to get really upset when you saw a bad photo of yourself.”

I remember—I would feel abruptly hopeless. It was like tripping into a deep hole- a hunter’s pit. Oh wait, I would think, I was wrong. I am not good. I was mistaken.

I didn’t even want to think about beauty. I just wanted to like myself. And somewhere along the way, I’d learned that looking a certain way meant you could like yourself more and not looking that way meant you should probably like yourself less. I got this feeling that I wouldn’t even have to think about my appearance if I only looked better. Stupid, stupid, I told myself, every time. Why can’t I just get over it? Why can’t I be smarter? It was so embarrassing to care.

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Kate on October 3rd 2013 in beauty, body, life, motherhood

bleeding time

I am still bleeding, by the way. It’s been almost eight weeks. I definitely didn’t think I had this much blood in there.

I know everyone was wondering, that’s why I’m mentioning it.

No, I’m mentioning it because I just read this really good piece about postpartum care, and how the U.S. is shitty about it. In attitude and in practice. Not a huge shock, really. When are these articles ever like, “U.S. fantastic in treatment of new mothers! Surpasses all other countries in respect for women and their vaginas!”

So the article was pointing out that in a lot of cultures, everyone expects women to take a couple months to heal. Other people, usually women, help out around the house a lot, and the new mother just focuses on breastfeeding and lounges around and eats and stuff. Maybe takes bubble baths. Possibly gets her nails done.

I’m using words like “just” and “lounges” because I am an American, and I’m deeply steeped in this keep-it-going culture, and I can’t apparently manage to describe recovering from birth and caring from a newborn in terms that make it sound like a big enough deal on its own to fill two whole months.

“Wait,” my descriptions imply, “So, like, she’s not also running a business? So, she must be working from home at least…Maybe developing some sort of app? Plotting her next novel? PLEASE tell me she’s at least cooking dinner and running errands and working out? ARE YOU FREAKING KIDDING ME? Well, what the hell is she even doing then??”

Because I kind of feel that way, secretly, even though I have basically done nothing in addition to caring for my baby for the last two months.

In the piece, one woman mentions that women are literally still bleeding, long after they’re expected to “bounce back” and reclaim their old lives and be totally self-sufficient. Our bodies haven’t finished healing, and we’re supposed to look and act as though nothing even happened here, it’s all good. It’s all just the same as it was.

Secretly, I’ve been the slightest bit ashamed of all the help I’ve needed.

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(source)

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Kate on September 11th 2013 in body, life, motherhood, new york

surprise

I tell myself and other people that I started writing about beauty and body image because I moved to NYC and stopped eating dessert and realized that I was trying to be thinner all the time, and because of my nose jobs, and because I looked around, and it seemed like every girl and woman I met had also stopped eating dessert. But I think it’s more than that. I think it’s because of surprise.

I remember sitting on my moss green carpet in my bedroom when I was just barely fourteen, and a couple friends were helping me read through my box of love letters. I have, by the way, always had a shoebox of love letters. A cool one—not Keds or anything. Later, I didn’t let anyone read the letters, but then, they were highly social. It didn’t feel like a violation of anyone’s privacy, it felt like, if you were a boy writing me a love letter, you should probably know what you were getting into.

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(me as a teenager, feeling pretty damn great)

“Ohmygod!” one of my friends was shrieking. “Look at this! He says, ‘You are the stars and the moon and I am always looking up at you’! It’s like, he’s really short, you know? Doesn’t that make it sound like he’s really short, and he’s like, peering up and trying to see way up there?” She acted this out, squinting exaggeratedly and craning her neck.

We rolled around on the floor, laughing hysterically.

“Fuckin’ A,” said Sarah, who was a little older, and always had the coolest expressions, “I can’t even believe this one. He goes…’You are the most ethereally beautiful girl I have ever seen’.” She looked at the rest of us, eyebrows quirked up, her face about to collapse in laughter. “Ethereally beautiful?! Seriously?”

We laughed at the strange, show-offy word.

But she had a big vocabulary. “I mean,” she went on, patting my shoulder, “Honey, you look fine, but no one would ever think you’re ethereally beautiful. Let’s be real.”

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(i LOVED this mysterious photo of myself, where i looked like i could be anyone)

Usually I liked it when she called me “honey,” because it pointed out how she was older and cooler but still liked me. But now I felt strangely hurt. I mean, this boy HAD thought that I was ethereally beautiful, whatever that meant. And maybe I would think I was too, after I looked it up.

But everyone was nodding agreement and moving on to a rhyming love poem called “The Wind In My Boats Sails.”

I felt like snatching the letters out of their hands. Why had I thought this would be a fun idea?

I thought about Sarah’s words for a long time after that. Her tone. The disbelief and skepticism, like a giant eyeroll. Please. Come ON. And I was surprised. I was surprised because I guess I’d just figured that I was any kind of beautiful a big word wanted to describe, before.

This was how I’d been growing up. Not particularly thinking about my beauty or lack of it, but just assuming in the back of my head that I was probably beautiful. Why? I don’t know, lots of good reasons. My curly hair, my square shoulders, my green eyes, my skill on the piano, the fierceness of my attitude, my parents’ love, the fact that boys liked me and girls liked me, the love letters, the basic reality of my me-ness, inhabiting this special, singular body, and why not? Why the hell wouldn’t I be beautiful, if I could only be this one person? It would be a waste and a disappointment not to.

It took a long time for that surprise to wear off. I kept being sideswiped, jolted a little off-balance, as my assumptions about my fundamental coolness, my birthright beauty, my essential worth, were interrupted.

I didn’t recognize myself in these moments. I had to frantically recalibrate, reposition. It didn’t come easy.

I was surprised, when I started hating my profile automatically. Underneath the hatred, was a sharp surprise. Wait—but–

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the weird pressure to feel good in order to look good

Being beautiful is all about having the right attitude! It’s not about how you look, it’s about how you feel. Smile! When you look happy, you look beautiful! Beauty is a state of mind.

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(source)

Statements about beauty as an attitude are so popular, a woman might get the impression that she can think herself onto a Victoria’s Secret runway, if only she focuses on being super, super positive. And puts her shoulders back.

A lot of this advice is well-meaning, I’ll give it that. It’s sort of sweet and hopeful on the surface, and I think that often the people who say these things mean “beauty is complicated. It’s not just about fitting into some restrictive standard, it’s about who you are, as a person.” I love that. I spend a lot of time, after all, encouraging girls and women to feel good about the way they look, right now, for their uniquenesses as well as the ways they fit into common definitions of attractiveness. Own it! Rock it! You are gorgeous just the way you are!

Yes. Definitely yes.

But it is also true that no amount of grinning is going to turn you into Adriana Lima, unless you are already Adriana Lima, and, beyond that, there is something that just keeps bothering me about the idea of feeling good=looking good.

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(she rarely seems to smile herself in the pictures of her… source)

My mind kept snagging on it. So I told myself that it’s entirely possible that I think about this stuff too much, and then I just put it aside and ate my dinner and read some pop science. But I think I’ve figured it out, finally: the problem with the “beauty is an attitude” logic is that it places all the blame and responsibility on women.

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Kate on July 1st 2013 in beauty, body, perfection