It was the weekend, life was good, the city was muddy and cheerful and the cold felt like the right complement to hot chocolate and wool. I glanced up, waiting to cross the street, and there, covering the side of a building, was a butt.
Because breastfeeding is not political for me. It’s not a statement. It’s not a battle that I’m fighting in the mythic mommy wars. I don’t even have to tell myself it will cure cancer and make my baby brilliant. I just do it because Eden needs to eat and I need to feed her. It’s a basic thing. Like in the wild.
It’s been ages since a stranger looked at me in a sexual way. It’s freeing, somehow. I am just waddling along, carefree, wearing whatever will stretch over my belly. I may just throw this red silk scarf on over my scrappy maternity outfit. In your face, world! It doesn’t really matter how I look at all right now.
Feeling better about the way we look depends not only on the positive opinion of strangers, but on our being able to own our own beauty, in all its complexity. Including aging. Including moles. Including everything that we already are.
This is a part of girlhood. You, alone with your body, performing for the crowd. You’ve memorized the poses, the smiles, the little feminine twirls and the teasing hand on the hip. Even if you don’t do them, you know all about them. And this performance of femininity, it’s a little dangerous.
You are not vain. Worrying about the way you look doesn’t mean you live in your own little, insulated world where you don’t understand that there is also war and massive human rights violations and global warming and animal cruelty. Worrying about the way you look is a form of awareness and sensitivity to the world around you. You are influenced by your environment because
I think I’ve learned to close myself off. Not from being friendly or having lunch or having long talks or lounging on the couch with a woman I care about. Not from having friends—But from believing innately in them.
You look good enough to get a man, said the last man who wrote to me. So what's the problem?
The problem is that it is not all about men. That would be a huge oversimplification. It's presumptuous to imagine that all I need is some male approval and a healthy dose of rationality.
This is what people say about marriage: It’s hard. It’s harder than you expect. You go in all innocent and rosy-cheeked and skipping and a year later, there you are, worn down on the front stoop, your hair unwashed, eating Doritos by the handful as you stare blankly into space.
Earnestness is the opposite of cool. For a lot of my life, it’s struck me as sort of lame. Earnest people are the ones who aren’t funny enough to not be earnest. Earnest people are suckers. They’re the ones who don’t “get it.” Their shoes are serious, and you can tell.