This weekend we went to a wedding, and I’ll be honest, I felt like a middle-aged mom in a mall-bought dress. For good reason it turns out, as I am in fact a 36-year-old mom, and I was, in fact, wearing a dress purchased from the mall.
The whole way there I was fidgety and nervous, trying to explain why I felt the way I did to my husband, knowing it was silly to be worried about something so trivial and also wishing I had lost 10 pounds.
I’m not sure why I gravitate towards my weight when I’m feeling inadequate in a social situation, maybe because it’s so visible, so tangible. A concrete target.
I went through a litany of complaints about social pressures and expectations, only to have my husband look at me and say what he normally says in moments like these–I’ll paraphrase–you don’t have to buy into it; you know that right?
Yeah, yeah, yeah, I said.
But as the night went on I talked to two separate women–both of whom are athletic and accomplished and brimming with talent–and both confessed to feeling insecure.
For most of my life, most of the women I love have secretly (and not-so-secretly) wanted to lose weight. Most of them would trade all sorts of talent and substance and peace to be a bit thinner.
I know by listening to women older than me that Faustian fixation doesn’t automatically disapate with age. You don’t always outgrow it.
It has to be chipped at, kicked at, and fought, until it topples.
I also know that it isn’t always weight, that sometimes the illusive promise of value looks like a job or a degree or a creative project or a house or a family or a whatever that you can point to that says, “Lookit world, I’ve got something to offer.”
To just be, well, that is something terrifying, isn’t?
Just to embrace all the mundane and beautiful realities of being 36, or 46, or 76. To fully enjoy the gift of being exactly who I am in this moment with these gifts, these frailties, wearing this polyester-blend dress over this body; it’s downright subversive.
Ordinary is the new extraordinary.
So, I’ve made a vow: I’m not going to lose one pound this summer, not one stinking ounce from this frame. I’m switching my focus.
I am going to eat with gratitude the things that sound delicious, bread and tea and molasses cookies. Indian food and apples with almond butter. I am going to devour poetry and music and words that breathe life, licking my lips and thanking God that my brain and heart are alive enough to register their meaning. I’m going to drink in all the beauty of our backyard and the sounds of kids laughing at the neighborhood pool. I want my heart and soul to be stuffed, so full of what is good and true, it can’t help but spill out and nourish the people closest to me.
I’m a big believer in signs and wonders, and, as though on cue, as I sat typing this on my phone, an SUV pulled up in the parking spot next to mine. Out piled three little ones with their mom. The little girl, maybe 7 or 8, was wearing a cat skirt and bare feet. She climbed up on the hood of their car and howled, blissfully unaware of who might be watching or what they might be thinking. Her younger brothers laughed and she jumped down onto the grass, chasing them. If there is a more perfect metaphor for what I want to say, I’m not sure I’ll find it.
Happy summer, friends.
CLAIRE CAREY DEERING believes less is more, in writing and in life.