Vanity Fair ran an article last year about Marilyn Monroe in which she was quoted as saying:
“There isn’t anybody that looks like me without clothes on.”
I don’t know if she was being existential, ironic, or just plain silly, but I thought about this quote for months. I’ve adopted it as my new motto of empowerment on those days when I feel not-so-awesome.
I have obsessed about my weight since I was eleven. I’m not going to get into all of the years of disordered eating and self-loathing in this post, but when I look back on photos of myself, I can’t believe I thought there was anything wrong with me. I was a fox. I could shimmy into tons of really cute clothes, and heads would turn.
These days, you could describe me as “pillowy” rather than “willowy.”
I’m not one of those women who lost all their baby weight breastfeeding. My body feels the need to hold on to all its fat stores until after baby weans. Also, I was not one of those women whose breasts shrivel up to half their pre-baby size after nursing. Mine remained a DDD cup, which would have been awesome if my husband were a boob man, but he isn’t.
My pregnancy with my son passed with nary a stretch mark, but in my last trimester with my daughter, I looked in my mirror to see my belly button surrounded by a spiral of stretch marks. I found the pink whirls fascinating and hypnotic. Since having her, the marks have changed to a silvery shadow around my navel, a translucent tie-dye. I could slather vitamin oil onto them to try to make them fade into obscurity, but I actually contemplated having them tattooed. I’ve grown to love these delicate fingerprints of my final pregnancy.
It’s normal for women to grieve the loss of their pre-baby body. I went through all the stages of grief — denial, anger, depression, bargaining — before I got to self-acceptance.
While watching me button my jeans the other day, my son stated, “Mama, you have a big, big belly.” Then he wrapped his arms around me and nuzzled said big belly. At 17 months, my daughter is still passionately nursing, and worships my body as a shrine of sorts. I am a place where my children snuggle, snack, and climb. To them, I am warm and safe, a place of comfort and sweetness.
So, if my husband and children can accept and love my body, why can’t I?
I would like to have a bit more core strength so that my back didn’t feel quite so elderly, and I always want to make sure that my heart and body are in good health. But I really would rather go for a brisk walk with my daughter in her stroller than pound it out at the gym.
Marilyn Monroe died alone in a nearly unfurnished room. By most accounts, she was unhappy and lonely, despite being the most admired sex-symbol in the world. She fought a war within herself of depression and was reported to have wild weight fluctuations because of anti-psychotic medication. From these facts, I deduce that fame, fortune, and a 20 inch waist can’t buy you love or joy.
There isn’t anyone in the world who looks like me without their clothes on, and I have the stretch marks to prove it.