My mom hated her body. I knew it at a very young age. I didn’t understand it.
I loved my mom’s body. Not just for all of the reasons that so many of us write about e.g. the enveloping arms, and squishy soft pillows of comfort offered for snuggles and consoling. I loved my mom’s body because I saw it as constant, immortal, forever there and always accessible. Her size and shape had nothing to do with my love for her body. My love was about attachment. My love was about unconditional availability. My love was without eyes or judgment.
So when I heard my mom complaining about her butt and thighs I was bothered.
When I heard my mom crying in the bathroom and I’d peek in and see her looking in the mirror I was bewildered.
When I saw her picking out the combination of blue and red capsules from the little white boxes that Dr. Newman and Dr. Wortman used to give her, I was…
(Ooh, this is being to sound like a Rogers and Hart Song…Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered was I!)
Actually, I was scared. I didn’t understand the pills, the tears, the self-directed hatred. It was incongruent with my experience of loving her so much. Like a puzzle missing a piece.
My mom wore army boots. Literally…she wore army boots. She wore overalls, army boots, and she was years before her time. She sent my sister and me to school with backpacks way before they were popular. We hated her for it. We wanted pretty little book bags, we got army surplus back packs. We were the coolest, later on, in the sixties, but by then we were used to feeling just a tad ashamed of Mom’s eccentricities.
My mom died when I was 13. She had Leukemia. She got sick in October, 1969 and died two months later. By then I had adopted her body hate as my own. I had incorporated her habits of crying over the bathroom scale, wearing big cover up clothing and being embarrassed about my body. I too was taking pills, albeit, they were illegally obtained and had little crosses on them. I had inherited some wonderful qualities from my mother but they were totally eclipsed by the negative genetic legacy she passed on to me.
I hated my Mom’s body by the age of 15 because it became my body. I inherited her shortness, her roundness and sturdiness. I had not been given any examples of how to love my body. I grew up surrounded by the message that this was a body to despise. I was TAUGHT to hate my body and my mom’s body. But what I came to realize years later is that what I really hated was the abandonment of that precious body when she died. The betrayal, and the reality that this wonderful Mommy Body was gone forever…well, it was easier to hate my thighs and butt than to really grieve the loss.
My mom died when she was 52. When I turned 52, I opened up a box of MOMOIRS…trinkets, cards and clothing that I had saved from my mom…Mom-ories. In the box were the overalls that she used to wear. They had embroidered flowers on the bib, and white lace stitched on to the legs. They were kind of girly-girl in a way. They were, I realized for the first time, a size 12. My mom suffered a life time of self-loathing as a size twelve. I put them on, they fit just right.
I looked in the mirror and grinned, I looked adorable! Like a 52 year old Pippi Longstocking! I stood there and cry-ulled, (you know that crying and smiling at the same time thing that we do when both emotions are equally as powerful and you have to call it a tie?)
I allowed myself to love my mom’s and my body, for the two of us, as fervently as I could. I wore those overalls most of the day until I went out for my birthday dinner. (My mom would have worn them into Chez Panisse, or French Laundry, but I wasn’t that brave!) Still I carried my mom to dinner with me that night, in my thighs, my butt, my belly and my heart.
It’s Mother’s Day. It’s my first Mother’s Day without my child at home. He is a college freshman 3,000 miles away yet dutifully “CAWLED HIS MUTHUH.” Our conversation meandered effortlessly from topic to topic, giggles, tears, politics, and school. We are very close, very chatty and unashamed to acknowledge how much we love each other.
I inherited that quality from my mom. My son knows that I am constant, forever there, and always accessible. My size and shape have nothing to do with our relationship. He loves me without eyes or judgment.
Mom and Son
And more importantly, I feel the same way about him. I will light a Mom-orial candle today and hope that we can all embrace ourselves with love and acceptance.
Happy Mama’s Day and here is a delicious video clip from Dances With Fat to celebrate with a smile!
(Fat Bottom is Austin’s Premier Plus-Sized Cabaret. This is from the recording session for our application to the New Orleans Burlesque Fest. Fat Bottom dancers include Annalacia, Tyreena, Nikki and Ragen. Fat Bottom is directed by Nikki McCullough and choreographed by Ragen Chastain. Video by Brian Hamburg, sound by Melvin Maas.)