I am 37 years old as I write this. I know that might seem old to you when you read this and there was a time where I would have thought the same thing. Thirty-seven was where you went to die once your life stopped being fun. You encountered it as you approached the twilight years (your 40s) and Spanx became your best friend. Thirty-seven wasn’t a number I was particularly looking forward to, and it came upon me much quicker than I expected.
Do you know how many months are in 37 years, Shaila? 444 months. That’s a LOT of months. Do you know of those 444 months, how many I was actually satisfied or content with what I saw in the mirror?
How does that happen? You know, I don’t really know what to tell you, honey. I know that there was a brief period in the summer before fourth grade that I thought I was remotely passable, especially when your Nana and Nani got me that wicked denim jacket from Sears.
Other than that, I never really liked what I saw.
When I was younger, I always wished I had shiny, straight hair. I also wished I looked like my other friends, which basically meant being white.
When I got to high school, I accepted my curls. For two minutes. I spent the rest of the four years wishing I was taller and thinner. Prettier. Less meaty.
Less me, maybe?
In my twenties, my thighs were too big. My waist not small enough. My arms? Never quite right.
In my thirties, they were even more NOT right. Not only that. People were finding new things to “fix.” Some women even started talking about surgeries like vaginal rejuvenation to make their hoo-hoos prettier after childbirth. Your own Mommy looked down and said, “Oh great! another thing to add to the list!”
Yes, Shaila. People apparently have pretty ones and NOT so pretty ones. That is the society we live in, baby.
And for whatever reason, even knowing how messed up it all is, I have bought into all of it.
No, I didn’t blow your college fund on vaginal rejuvenation.
Not yet, anyway.
It’s just that, do you know that since I was 15 years old, there has not been ONE SINGLE DAY of my life where I have thought, “My weight is perfect. I look perfect”?
There has not been one day that I haven’t compared myself mentally in some way to another woman, in terms of my size, in terms of my appearance.
NOT. ONE. SINGLE. DAY.
Do you know what that makes me realize as I sit here today and I write this? At 37 years old. With a 5 1/2 year old daughter?
That I have wasted a whole lot of fucking time. So much fucking time wishing I was something other than what I was.
Excuse my language, dear.
But fuck, it makes me really, really sad.
I wish I could rewind things and go back and shake myself and say, “Love THIS. Enjoy THIS moment. It goes by too fast. You look fine. DAMN fine. But even if you didn’t? Who cares?!!!”
I wish I could, but you know what else? I need to shake myself now. Here. Now. Really hard. Because I still can’t seem to make that leap between unrealistic expectations that I will never, ever be able to fulfill and just accepting myself.
What the hell kind of message am I sending to you, my only daughter? I ask myself this as I have this realization. I tell you every day how perfect you are. How beautiful your heart and your mind and you soul are. So, why do I expect you to believe me when I never stopped, not one of those 13,510 days, to believe in myself just a little more?
Not ONE day, honey.
Not for 37 years.There are so many messages I send you every day. One of those messages has never been that Mommy feels comfortable in her own skin. The message has always been that Mommy needs to change some things. But don’t worry! She’s getting there!
But I never get there. Ever. It’s a race that just never ends.
I need to stop running it.
For your sake.
And for mine.