When I criticize my body or the way I look, please tell me to stop. I'm trying really hard to start telling myself, but it's hard sometimes.
Any day now, our child is due to be born. I was thinking about the lessons I want to pass on, and one of the big ones is that making positive or negative judgments based solely on a person's physical appearance is an unhealthy way to go through life.
We are so much more than our outsides. There's nothing wrong with spending time caring for and decorating our bodies in ways that make us feel good, but passing judgment on someone based on how they look rather than who they are (whether it's a positive or negative judgment) is always a bad idea.
I can teach my child that, but if I then turn around and look at myself in the mirror, or in a photo, and say "Ugh, I look so [insert term here]" I will be transmitting a totally different message.
Jason took a great picture of a friend and me yesterday. We're both pregnant, standing belly-to-belly and smiling at the camera. We'd just spent a fun afternoon stocking up on baby stuff and catching up and generally having a kick-ass time.
When he showed it to me later, my first thought was "Well I look awful. Those pants make me look fat. My hair looks weird. That can't go on Facebook. I'd better have him delete it so no one ever sees that I went out in public looking like that."
Then I thought about how fucking sad that is. He had just taken a couple of quick pictures, to capture this moment where my friend and I are both pregnant and happy and excited and sharing that with each other. It wasn't a photo shoot; there wasn't another picture to choose that would both capture the moment and make me look "better."
When I looked at the photo again, I saw the important part. We weren't just smiling, we were beaming at the camera. It's the kind of photo I can see us both showing to our kids someday. "Hey, you know your friend X? That's a picture of me and their mom when I was pregnant with you and she was pregnant with X!"
Are my pants kind of frumpy? Yup. Is my hair messy? Oh yeah. But the reason why is more important that the pants or hair themselves. I could have put on a more polished outfit, one that makes me look "better" by society's standards (and, to be fair, pants that don't double as pajama bottoms in a pinch). I could have done something with my hair other than pulling it back in a half-assed bun.
But then I would have had to wait half an hour for those other pants to come out of the dryer, or spent less time snuggling with my husband and more time doing laundry the night before. I would have had to stand in front of the mirror fussing with my hair. I have nothing against spending time picking out clothes I think are beautiful, or making my hair look fancy, but in this particular instance, spending time with the people I care about was more important.
And I want my child to know that anyone (myself included) who looks at that photo and focuses on criticizing my hair or my pants (or anything else about my appearance save the fact that I am clearly having a good time) is missing the point of the photo. The only important part of my appearance is that I appear happy. I asked Jason to take it not because I want to look at it in twenty years and reminisce about my pants or my hair on that particular day, but because I want to look back and think "Oh yeah! That was the day we went to Costco with Amy and bought ALL THE THINGS because we were expecting to welcome our baby any day and she was due not long after and then we ate giant, messy sandwiches and got various sauces all over ourselves and laughed a lot. That was a fun day."