These moms are proud of their soft curves. Of the changes pregnancy brought to their bodies. And of themselves, for being so confident and secure that what the rest of the world thinks new moms should be back in their pre-pregnancy jeans before the little one figures out how to crawl.

Their Goddess Gathering post went viral. And I love that it did. I needed to see that. Even with my One and Only just into her second week of kindergarten and no signs that my ovaries want to unscramble themselves long enough to bake another baby and my newly diagnosed food allergies leading to a a healthier me, I still needed to see that my post-baby body is okay.

And I thank the women of the CT Working Moms blog for that message.

With the launch of Girl Body Pride on the horizon, I was inspired to ask my team of writers if they were interested in doing our own spin of the Goddess Gathering on GBP. My idea had been to open the floor to all women, not just moms, to submit photos of themselves in a show of body love and acceptance. But (and this is why I’m lucky to have these women working with me) my idea was quickly turned into a very thoughtful discussion.

Elan “Schmutzie” Morgan had this to say:

I just think that this kind of thing confuses beauty with acceptance, which are two different things, and I think it’s dangerous to artificially marry the two, even by accident, because if a viewer doesn’t see the beauty in a particular photo, they might feel that this is a short-coming on their part rather than a visual preference, which is a bad message. We can dislike the visual appearance of things while still accepting them, but these kinds of campaigns often don’t allow for this kind of really important nuance in thinking.

Okay, I can see that. It took me five years, after all, to get to a place to this place of Almost Acceptance inside of my head. And GBP contributor Jodi Steadman Burrus thought it was a valid point, too. So she asked us all a very simple question:

 

Why does it have to be something we see in the mirror?

 

Why, indeed.

And that’s how Beauty Beyond the Mirror was born. Because when it comes right down it it, what is reflected back to us in the mirror and what we see when we look at photos of ourselves is more about how we perceive ourselves, mirror or no mirror, than anything society throws at us.

Girl Body Pride officially launches on August 1. That’s this Wednesday. To celebrate our launch and welcome you into the GBP community, I ask you to write a blog post linking to Girl Body Pride sharing your own thoughts on Beauty Beyond the Mirror. It’s a hard question to answer, I know. I’ve been mulling this one over for a few days and I keep falling to “well, I think my personality doesn’t suck” and “my eyes are pretty nice.” The first is a cop-out for me. The second, in my mind, doesn’t work because how would I know if my eyes are pretty without seeing them reflected back at me in some form.

That leaves me with the ADHD/Right-Brained/Creative type answer which is this: What is beautiful about me is the fact that I’m 34 and still struggle to determine what it is that is beautiful on some days and am in love with my eyes or my lips or have an extra swing in my hips when I am feeling particularly good. I am sarcastic. My sense of humor is not always PC and I like to use bad words. I love social media because it allows me to connect with so many but cannot stand being social when not on my own terms because face-to-face leaves little room for the opportunity to withdraw into myself as I feel the need without looking like a total bitch. I am introverted-extroverted-outgoing-life-of-the-party who is happiest inside of my own headI trip over my words when spoken but can express myself clearly when my thoughts are able to skip across a keyboard without feeling the need to self sensor what it is that I say. My beauty is in the complexity no mirror can capture as I learn to balance the need to share my words with the world and my fear that the words I share will turn those that know me away.

That is my truth.

What’s yours?

 

 

I’ve got a project in the works. You may have seen mentions on Facebook status updates or in my tweet stream. And maybe you’ve been wondering exactly where I was going to go with this Girl.Body.Pride thing I’ve been talking about.

So let me tell you.

Girl.Body.Pride will be a new website devoted to, well, the obvious. We are bombarded daily with messages telling us how we will be happy(er) and fulfilled once we’ve become thinner/gotten that nose job/had our boobs done/earned that next degree or gotten that next promotion. And while there might be some truth in that, we forget to focus on the fact that who we are right at this very moment is okay too. Even with our cellulite and Barbara Streisand noses and droopy pancake boobies and another day at a job we might not love anymore.

Our children are growing up in the same world that we did. The playground is still filled with cliques and bullies and feelings of inadequacy revolving around their off-brand sneakers because the cool kids are pointing and laughing and birthday party invitations that never show up and name calling and social hierarchy and who didn’t make the cheerleading team. And those experiences will follow them and shape who they will eventually become. Some will say it makes them stronger. Some will remember that the only reason they never tried out for high school softball is because they were afraid of drawing attention to their curves in the form-fitting uniforms.

I was talking Girl.Body.Pride with a friend. I want her to write for us and found myself being asked to make it worth her while in the respect that before she commits, I need to define what it is that makes GBP stand out from other sites that carry a very similar message of self-love and self-acceptance. It’s a valid point.

So I thought for a minute. And this is what I responded with:

It’s that we are broken still but funny. Not sure of ourselves but damned sure we want our daughters and friends and nieces and that kid at Target we saw crying for a Barbie to grow up whole. We are proud of our nose rings but still worried that our family will give us shit about an extra hole in our heads even though we’re 36 or 47 and have been married for 15 years so we tell them our husbands gave us permission and suddenly that makes our self-expression acceptable. We encourage our friends to love themselves because they are beautiful but make excuses and keep forgetting to buy a swimsuit of our own. We are here screaming words like pride and confidence and phrases like Inner Beauty and Happy Thoughts from the rooftops and thrilled to know our words make a difference for others, because we were really just trying to convince ourselves.¬† That’s what Girl.Body.Pride is: an exercise in contradictions.

We mean it when we tell our best friends that they are beautiful but we really need to work on believing them when the compliment is returned. We love our curves & accept our hips but won’t be caught dead in a bathing suit. We advocate self love while focusing on our own imperfections because things like that really only apply to others and if we continue to write and share and sing happy tunes that are mostly off-key, we may eventually convince ourselves we are worth it too. And if not, at least our kids will look back years from now and think we actually had our shit together.

Girl.Body.Pride will officially launch on Aug. 1. There will be sharing and supporting and forums to share and support some more. There will be stories mothers can relate to about raising their daughters and stories mothers will sit down to read with their daughters. Girl.Body.Pride will even feature a Teen Corner for our daughters with stories by a very talented young writer who is everything now that I am still hoping to become.

And then I remind myself. I am perfect in my imperfections. Just the way I am right now.

I look forward to taking this next stage of my journey with all of you.

Say it with me now: Just the way we are.

 

;

My mother wants to know why I cut my hair so damned short and what size dress I am wearing now.

An aunt clicked her tongue and shook her head as she lamented my daughter’s lack of Spanish-speaking skills.

My uncle’s sister — whom I have not seen since I was five — asked why I only had one child. Then she nodded approvingly at my sister and the four children running between her legs because working ovaries are obviously a sign of a good and proper Mexican woman.

Rapid fire Spanish from a relative who flew in for the wedding wondering how old said child is now as she hides her face from another pair of prying hands in the folds of my dress. Four of her five years and 2,500 miles between us and the Mexican Show Pony Craziness that comes with special occasions has turned my three-quarter-Mexican-child into a white girl who expects strangers to respect her personal space.

She looks so much like you.

You look so much like your mother.

Your sisters look so much like your father.

And I am instantly 13 again. Insecure. Out of place. Unsure of where I truly belong.

***

We flew in to Detroit from Tucson a few days ago for my cousin’s wedding. Buttercup is the flower girl. And we’ve spent the last 20 minutes outside of the church waiting for everyone else, including the bride, to show up late. No one from the church is looking for us yet. They are used to running on Mexican time.

Buttercup is playing in the courtyard with her four cousins. She is grateful they speak English, I think. Small talk keeps me and my sisters occupied because the divide between us is more complex than the miles we just crossed. Because we are in the same place, though, we will pretend to try. No one will be expecting weekly phone calls to stay in touch after we return home. And yet there are no hard feelings. It’s just understood.

Family begins to arrive. Hugs and kisses and You Look Great, Mijitas are exchanged. Sometimes because it is expected. Others because it is sincerely meant. We — The Husband, Buttercup, and myself — stand alone in the midst of the Spanglish craziness. I am acutely aware of the fact that I am thinking in English.

***

The rehearsal takes two hours. By the time we are ready to leave the church for the rehearsal dinner, Buttercup is crabby and asking to go home. We oblige, taking my mother and one sister with us, grateful to hide behind the excuse of a tired child. The bride and groom nod their understanding. More hugs and kisses are exchanged. And we are free.

Buttercup is full of smiles and laughter as soon as the car door closes and the engine starts. No longer overwhelmed by the noise and the outstretched hands, it’s apparent the child is more like me than I sometimes realize. In the middle of strangers who are bound by blood, she wants to hide and remain unnoticed. But with close friends who have become family, she is light and she is happiness.

It’s time to go to my mother-in-law’s house now. It’s where we are staying while we are in town. As we turn to leave, my mother hands me a small bear.

Don’t forget this, she says.

It’s my one-eyed bear from childhood. I smile and hug it close as my mother makes sure to remind me her dress size is smaller than my own. I’ve come home again.

 

My usual nighttime routine is to get Buttercup in bed with a book or ten before turning off the light. No matter how quickly she falls asleep, I always stay for a bit, tracing my finger over her cheek and marveling at the fact that Universe granted me this one wish.

Around 9, I make it back downstairs to the kitchen table, where my Mac is waiting patiently for me, and I get to work. First I procrastinate. There’s the internet to roam and email to check and pins to pin and George Takei Facebook posts to like. I get up for a bit, put together The Husband’s lunch for the next day, and place it all on the second shelf of the fridge in the exact same spot because it’s at eye level and easier for me to make sure I haven’t left anything out. I might let the dogs outside. I might even turn on some music. Either way, by 10 or so, I’m back at the kitchen table and writing something. Maybe it’s a blog post or an essay or another small piece of the novel in progress that won’t allow itself to be written any faster than a few sentences a month.

In any case, I write. And when my head is empty and my thoughts no longer racing, I sleep. And then I wake up to do it all over again.

But there are times when the routine is interrupted by noise. It might be while she is falling asleep at my side. Or while I wait for the dogs to scratch at the back door. This is when I blink to clear my head and realize an hour has passed while I focus on picking at an invisible imperfection until skin breaks. I tell myself to stop. Normal people don’t do this kind of thing, you know. And I’ll move on. Chin to that little bump between my eyebrows. From the eyebrows to the forearm. The forearm to the breast. Too much time passes. There’s no time for words.

Buttercup’s swim instructor asked me today if I had been in a car accident since she saw me last. I told her I was dealing with allergic reactions, which is partially true. I am. It’s what got me scratching to begin with, anyway, and I’ll share the laundry list of reasons why I am now officially The Dinner Guest from Hell later. The Husband has stopped yelling at me about this little OCD issue of mine and instead instructed me to make an appointment with my nurse practitioner about my ADHD meds not working for me anymore. I nodded, only slightly surprised to see how quickly we have both adapted to the reality that ADHD is more than just being forgetful, which came as a surprise when I noticed the need to scratch at my surface had instantly disappeared when I first was diagnosed and began a regular medication schedule. So I went in to see my nurse practitioner on Monday and started the new meds on Tuesday. It’s Wednesday now and I’m noticing the insomnia seems to be fading as my eyes get heavier just a bit earlier than the 4 am I have become accustomed to over the past few weeks. That’s a good sign.

I resume my usual nighttime routine. Buttercup falls asleep. I procrastinate. I empty my mind of the words.

 

It’s not often that life kicks my ass so hard I can’t make five minutes to at least repost old material with a brand new headline, but it does happen.

In the last few weeks alone, I’ve dealt with a lot. Some big, like being diagnosed with adult ADHD (and suddenly high school makes sense) and some not-so-big but totally drama worthy for an ADHD/OCD woman barely holding on to the keeping it all together. Not that I’m naming names but this woman mayu or may not have three dogs, one husband who just announced he is switching to swing shift right about the time a certain girl child starts kindergarten, effectively erasing all chances¬† to pee in peace for at least three months. She also learned how hard it is to apply red lipstick from an adult-sized tube onto the tiny red lips that would smile big enough on stage for me to see from where I sat. So she asked another mom to do it, which is probably why my child looked like a demure ballerina princess in the enchanted rose garden and not a toddler in a tiara.

Every missed opportunity to save a moment with my words for posterity is still stored in my head. But between the two weeks of digestive hell I’ve been dealing with and today’s craziness, I think it would be extremely responsible of me to be proactive for once in my adult life and sign up for a sponsor and the nearest AA group before getting all I Love You Guys drunk and sloppy.

Buttercup and I left the house at 10 a.m. this morning for the hike across town to see the first of three doctors, all scheduled for the same day because they all happen to be five minutes from each other whereas I live 45 minutes on the other side of the world. My super-powered nurse practitioner figures my fingers look like I ran them over with a lawn mower because I was in desperate need of an ADHD medication change, the ENT guy agrees with my crazy bloodshot eyes being caused by the mesquite currently burning in New Mexico that I should probably not only Stay Indoors At All Times but that if I leave my house it should only be to get the hell away from the Southern border, because of the Being Severely Allergic thing, and my naturopath walked me through my food allergy panel test results (hint: air and water are on the safe list. Except for the air currently filled with the pollen from the burning mesquite carrying over from New Mexico. That air is totally the opposite of being on the safe list. Also? The last time I looked like this, I was sitting in a college dorm room wondering why feet suddenly turned into ice and why she had a towel tucked under the door and that was accidentally way more fun.

I’m exhausted and want a new hobby that doesn’t involve insurance co-pays and waiting rooms. And a pony. I’d totally love one of those. But I’d settle for trashy daytime TV and time to pretend I’m a famous blogger. My head is spinning with thoughts like what I’m wearing to my cousin’s wedding in a few weeks, dealing with a cross-country flight and family members and Routines that Are Not My Own. I’m crazy with worry over finding the perfect shoes for BFF Heather’s wedding next March, how the hell I’m going to get any work done with The Husband home all morning and Buttercup all afternoon, and how behind I’ll be tomorrow with my to-do list if I don’t have time to finish it all tonight.

And that’s when I remind myself that blogging is on my list of things to do because it matters and keeps me sane(ish) and sane(ish) is a good place to be. So I force myself to sit back down, turn the Mac back on, and log back in.

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