The only time I really feel pretty is when I am looking in the small bathroom mirror from the shoulders up. There I can focus on just my top half, and I am pleased with what I see: a cute woman with still youthful features, a wide smile, warm brown eyes, and a nice décolletage. Get me in front of a full-length mirror, staring back at the big picture, and I lose all perspective. My hips are too wide, my legs are too short, and my big breasts hang too damn low. My face doesn’t fit with my body, my hair is the wrong length, and everything looks mismatched. The gestalt of me is askew.
I try not to blame my body image issues on my mom. Afterall, I am an adult. It’s about time I take responsibility for these things, but I blame her anyway.
From the age of 10, my weight was my mother’s obsession. I was the cute, slightly chubby girl who got cottage cheese and an apple for lunch while the other kids got peanut butter and fluff and a bag of Fritos. Before I knew it, I morphed into the slightly chubby and extremely self-conscious teenager who always flew under the radar. No longer able to really control my school lunch, my mother intervened in other ways.
“You would be so beautiful if you lost weight,” She said to me in the Loehmann’s communal dressing room as I tried on dresses for my brother’s Bar Mitzvah.
“Mom, stop!” I whispered.
“Sometimes it helps to wear a little something to hold you in. I always do.” She said, as she tried to pull the dress down in the back, so that it would fit over my hips and rear end.
“You mean a girdle?! Mom, I am 14. I’m not wearing a girdle.” I cried.
I became a yo-yo dieter and went to sleep dreaming of bikinis and how my life would change if a thinner me appeared on the beach each summer. Sadly, that moment only happened once when I was 16. It was a summer replete with a blue bikini, Coppertone, The Steve Miller Band, and long makeout sessions with different boys, but it was short lived. My body changed like the generations of women who came before me and grew into what would be its destiny: a little zaftig.
I hated that I couldn’t control it. Nor could my mother.
It was only recently that my mother, perhaps for the very first time, told me how special I was and didn’t mention my weight. I was feeling rejected by a man I had been dating and she called to bolster my spirits.
“He’ll be back. You’ll see,” She said knowingly.
“How the hell do you know that?” I asked.
“Because there is only one of you.” She replied, as if I already knew this.
“Do you really think I’m all that, Mom?” I asked.
“Of course I do. You know that,” She replied, already losing her patience with me.
No, I really don’t. I thought.
I now have a chance for a do-over, and I am taking it. I’ve made a pact with myself to spend whatever time I have left on planet earth celebrating my “zaftig-ness” and everything else I’ve grown up to be. I still hate the full-length mirror, but I am beginning to like my body just a little bit more. My skin is soft and it’s curvy in all the right places, and it doesn’t hurt that the men I’ve met seem to enjoy it as well. Maybe I’ll buy a high waisted two-piece bathing suit that some would call a bikini. Forty-five years later. It’s about fucking time.