There’s a monster in my closet. Actually, there are about fifteen monsters. They look exactly like dresses to the naked eye. But trust me. They are monsters. They just hang there. And stare. And make me feel like a failure. They remind me that I have little self-control when it comes to food. And that I have so little energy, let alone time, when it comes to exercise. They make me feel unpretty. Unworthy of pretty things.
Most women will recognize a scene like this. Dresses laid out on a couch or bed. A big party marked on the calendar. You haven’t had to put on a “dressy dress” in a while. You have no idea what still fits. And you dread the process of finding out.
At forty-nine years old, I have acted out the following scene countless times. Before dates, before weddings, before bar mitzvahs and christenings, before fancy work events and reunions. Yet, I always find something that fits.
First dress: I get briefly angry at myself for gaining back the weight that I lost for the tenth time.
Second dress: Then I tell myself that I’ve never been thin (and never will be) and that’s just how it is.
Third dress: Then I put the image of lots of beautiful full-figured women in my head. Adele, Kelly Clarkson, Rebel Wilson, and the gorgeous models in my Lane Bryant catalog surround me with imaginary cheers of encouragement. I start to feel better about myself.
It’s a thought process that goes full circle. Or more like a triangle in this case. Or sometimes it’s pear-shaped like me. It’s the trapezoid days, that I have to work really hard at conquering.
This Saturday morning as I played out this clothing explosion scene again in preparation for a friend’s wedding next Sunday, there was something different.
This time, I had an audience.
My four and half-year old daughter, Miriam.
And as I tried on the “pink one’ and the “grey one” and “the black one” with shouts of encouragement, I chose my words very carefully. I uttered no phlegmy sounds of disgust. I made no sad faces in the mirror. There was simply joy. Joy with a capital “J” at Mommy’s fashion show.
“Do you like that one, Mommy?!”
“Try another one on, Mommy!”
“OOH!! That one is a pretty color!”
And the words I chose to describe the dresses as they were pulled over my head were very deliberate.
“This dress feels good on my body!”
“This dress makes me feel pretty!”
“I like this dress. It’s so comfortable and I love the color!”
As Miriam picked out clothes for school on Monday morning, I helped her put on the shirt she chose. It was a little snug under the arms. I expected some tears because she really liked this Peppa Pig shirt with lace tutu attached. But instead she calmly said, “Mommy, this doesn’t feel good on my body. I think it’s too tight. Let’s pick something else that fits better.”
She was listening to my carefully chosen words, as I’d hoped. And I hope these positive words will continue to dance off her tongue for a long time. Until maybe she has a daughter or grand daughter. Because these monsters will always be around. And they will need to be faced with nothing but thoughts of beauty.