Why I Am Ditching Mom Shorts

by Laurie Ulster
Originally Published: 

I remember the first time I became aware that there could actually be something wrong with your knees. I was sitting with a friend, we were in our 30s, and she turned to me and said sadly, “I really hate my knees.” I hate my knees? I didn’t know there could be anything wrong with knees! But the seed was planted.

I was so relieved, a decade or so ago, when I saw that you could buy all kinds of shorts that went past the knees. I was getting self-conscious, and while I wanted my summer shorts so I could feel the breeze against my legs, I was horribly insecure about my body as I put on age weight, mother weight and food weight. I do yoga, and I walk a lot, so my legs are still pretty good, but I was comparing my late-30s legs to the ones of teens who strolled by in youthful perfection. So I started wearing Mom Shorts, the ones that go just past the knee or a little farther. I thought those were my destiny, and I was okay with it.

But now I’m looking around, and I’m seeing lots of women in their mid-40s wearing real shorts. I see short shorts in stores that I think look much too short for anybody, and then I see women wearing them and they look just fine. We all have internal monologues about passing strangers, sometimes kind, and often less so, but I have never looked at any woman in my entire life and thought, “Wow, she should really cover up those knees.”

We’re going on a family trip this summer, to Spain. My brothers and sisters, their kids, my dad, we’ll all be there. And the one thing I know about Europeans is that they don’t have the same excessive, paranoia-induced cover-ups that we have. I’m going to show up there in my long mom shorts and my oversized T-shirts and look like a walking bundle of American neuroses. And you know what? I don’t think that’s the look I really want to go for.

And seriously…why on earth am I still worrying about my knees? This isn’t about having a flat, trim stomach or smooth skin or shiny hair. These are knees. Am I going to start wearing three-quarter sleeves all the time because I’m insecure about my elbows?

So I bit the bullet. I went online, and I ordered a bunch of shorts that are actually shorts, that hit above the knee. Today I put on a pair for the first time.

“Is the world going to end if my knees are visible?” I asked my husband.

“Well if it does, so be it,” he said.

“That’s not the answer I’m looking for.”

“Oh. Yeah, no, I think it’ll be fine.”

Truth is, he didn’t even notice a difference. He sees me with the eyes of a man in love, and the shorts I wear have no bearing on that one way or the other.

So how do I see me? I’m about to find out, as I head out into a hot summer morning in my normal-person shorts. I’m not plunging in all the way; today I’ll spend some time in my new shorts, tomorrow I might go back to the comfort and security of my old ones.

But come Spain? Bring it on.

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