When you struggle with body image, it’s hard to understand that other people don’t see you the same way that you see yourself. I look in the mirror and all I see is what I don’t like. I can go from the top of my head to the tip of my toes and come up with dozens of insecurities. It doesn’t take anything for me to find something wrong. And yet, my husband doesn’t see any of it. He sees a completely different person than I do.
I will often get dressed and ask him what he thinks. His answer is always, “You look great.” Most of the time when he says this, he doesn’t even look up from his phone. And it’s not because he is aloof; it’s because he honestly feels that way. He thinks that I always look great. I know that if I am wearing a dress and a little makeup, it’s got to be greater, but he truly doesn’t care. I could be dirty from cleaning the garage and he will find something about me that he likes. Even if it’s in jest, like complimenting my filthy clothes, he makes me feel good.
When we met almost 20 years ago, I had long hair, a tiny waist and a giant chest. I definitely had the kind of body that made heads turn. I can say that now, but I didn’t say it then. Even when I was at my best, I was unhappy. Now I look at pictures and think, “What the fuck was wrong with you?” Now, at 42, it’s a totally new world. I’ve aged. I’ve had four babies. I am a completely different person. And yet my husband acts as if nothing has changed. He truly doesn’t care.
I haven’t “let myself go,” per se — I’ve just transformed into a more mature version of myself. I am not a hot chick at a bar looking for free drinks anymore. I’m a mom running from dance class to soccer practice and home to make dinner. I live in yoga pants and tank tops. I recently added a giant knee brace to my wardrobe because I’m getting older and things are starting to break down. And yet through all of that, my husband still kisses me before he leaves the house and tells me he loves me.
It’s funny. He hasn’t changed much since our wedding day. He’s bald now and has more of the dad bod — I mean father figure — but that’s about it. His face has a few lines and his glasses prescription is a bit stronger, but his smile is the same. And yet, I find him more attractive now that he is older. I love that. And he feels the same way about me. It’s hard for me to understand, but it’s sweet.
But why do I have such a damn hard time accepting that he loves me just the way that I am? It’s like I don’t feel worthy of his attraction to me. That’s such bullshit. I need to be proud of the fact that we’ve made it through 15 years, six cars, four kids, two houses, and one dog together. After all of that, he still wants me to be the one he takes out to dinner. He took care of me after my knee surgery last year without hesitation. He’ll do my Target pickups for me … with minimal complaining. He has provided a life for me that has allowed me to be a stay-at-home mom, and now, to live out my dream of being a writer. And all of this is because he loves me. It’s not my body or my face or my hair. It’s just me.
I think about our life together and how lucky we have been. We have four great kids. We live in a nice, safe place. We have enough to provide for our family and even a little left over for a few fun extras. All of that has happened over time. And throughout that time, we have changed. If we are blessed enough to have a few more of life’s chapters that include things like our children’s marriages and hopefully grandchildren someday, we will be even more different then than we are now. But I will venture to say that even when I am slower and grayer and much older, his love for me won’t change.
I am the one that caught his eye in the office when he came to fix the computers. I am the one who he chased. I am the one who he dreamed would say yes. I am the one who he chose for the rest of his life. When he made the vows to 27-year-old me, he meant it. We’ve had for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health. It has all happened and he has loved me through it all. I am undeniably one of the lucky ones.
It’s not about finding the one who looks good on your arm. The one who is most attractive is the one who doesn’t mind sorting your dirty laundry and who is willing to drive you to the airport at 5am. You find beauty in a person who carries your giant babies for nine months and wakes up with them for months to nurse them. There is something that shines bright about your partner when they kiss you goodbye and wish you a happy trip, but you notice a tear in their eye because you know how much they will miss you. It is cliché, but it is true: beauty is skin deep. Attraction is not just about the physical. Love is attractive. Sacrifice and hard work is sexy. Teamwork is a dream come true. My husband and I have found all of those things in each other. That is beautiful.
No matter what time will change about my physical form, it will not change his love for me. Once at a restaurant, he looked me right in the eye and sang along to the prophetic words of Billy Joel, “I love you just the way you are.” I wouldn’t trade him for anything in the world. And I love him, just the way he is.