He doesn’t even know that we, as human beings, don’t do a lot of naked walks. And I wonder: When do we become conscious of our bodies? When will E realize that he’s NAKED and can’t let anyone but his family see him this way?
Yesterday, I’m at the pool with my sister, Aunt K. She offhandedly comments: I’m sucking it in. And I respond: You and everyone else at the pool.
And I wonder: When will E and N start sucking it in? When will they cross from conscious to self-conscious? And why do I have to watch them cross this line?
The idea breaks my heart.
I remember, as a sixth grader, overhearing two girls discuss unibrows. And it wasn’t a WISH I HAD A UNIBROW conversation. I reached up to the hair above my nose bridge and thought: Oh. This hair is bad. And I’ve waxed ever since.
I don’t blame those girls. Everyone would be making fun of me if I had one eyebrow. I don’t WANT one eyebrow. But I don’t want my children to feel like they need to change themselves for anyone or anything. Even though I change myself all the time. I pluck and shave and support and hold. Even though I can’t be the example of someone who doesn’t care at all. I care. Not as much as some. I leave the house without make-up. I find showering to be VERY overrated.
I spent my junior year of high school NOT shaving my legs. Even as a summer camp counselor — IN SHORTS. And I felt so liberated. I HATE SHAVING. But I also had an older male counselor say: You would be more attractive if you shaved your legs. I responded: Good thing I’m not trying to attract you. But inside? I couldn’t even understand why he cared. And I couldn’t understand why I cared. But he and everyone else did. There were rumors that I was a SUPER DUPER SWIMMER preparing for a BIG MEET. When in reality, I went out for swim team my freshman year of high school and lasted ONE WEEK. And I eventually shaved my legs for a big cross-country race my senior year.
And today I shave. When I must. But must is skirts and shorts and capri pants (well not usually in capri pants. who looks at my ankles?) Does it make me a bad role model? How important are social norms to success in life? To confidence?
My husband is not a fan of make-up. For our first year of together, he gave me a hard time EVERY TIME I wore make-up. (Even the sparkly silver eyeshadow that RULED.) And I explained that I wear makeup for me. I like how it looks. And he dropped it (eventually). Today, I feel like I wear makeup because I look better with eyeliner, but seven years ago that wasn’t the case. I just liked it when I liked it.
I am all over the place with acceptable and not acceptable. With feeling good about growing old and with missing my youthful figure. I wish that I knew how lovely I was as a teenager. But I know that I will think the same thing in fifteen years when I lay eyes on pictures of my thirty-one year old body.
So is it better than when I dyed my stomach hair blonde one summer? Yes. I don’t find my Italian side so offensive anymore. But I still care.
Maybe that’s what happens. We cross the line into self-conscious and we cringe and beg to be exactly like the models of the magazines or at least like everyone else or how about just NOT LIKE ME. But then we come back to not caring so much. We throw on our sweatpants and get down in the mud. And not to make our skin beautiful. To make our lives more than our appearance, naked or made up.
Perhaps I won’t be the most consistent example when it comes to cultural norms and beauty standards. But I promise to be as excited when my daughter starts to shave her legs as when she stops. And to help shave my son’s head one season and braid his shoulder-length locks the next. And maybe that’s what we all need. Someone to say: You look wonderful today, sweetie.