Shopping in your forties is the exact opposite of shopping in your twenties. In 1990, I found all sorts of awesome clothes (read: peg legged Hammer pants, acrylic jacquard sweaters, little black dresses) that fit my rockin’ pre-baby, pre-Martha-Stewart-Living, pre-peri-menopausal body; I could afford to buy exactly none of them. Now, I have the means to purchase awesome clothes (read: skinny jeans; cashmere sweaters, little black dresses) but nothing fits like it used to.
I was in a department store dressing room recently, glaring at my image in the mirror, thinking, “I hate looking at myself in the mirror,” when I heard the voice of a child in the dressing room next to me say those exact words.
“I hate looking at myself in the mirror.” The words were barely audible, but they screamed at me. She said them matter-of-factly, but to me, they were wrought with sadness.
She was with her grandmother, who just brushed off the words and told her to hurry up, they had other places to go. I saw her leave. She was about 10ish, athletically built, and empty-handed.
As I watched her go, I became outraged at what society has done to our little girls. How is this child supposed to grow up to be a strong, successful, independent badass of a woman if at her age, she hates looking at herself in the mirror? “YOUR BODY IS PERFECT, HONEY!” I wanted to scream out to her, but because there were other people around, people who probably would have called the police and/or child protective services, I refrained.
We must stop making these girls believe that they have to be a body style instead of a person. Author Naomi Wolf’s “The Beauty Myth: How Images of Beauty Are Used Against Women” should be required reading in middle school health classes. It’s a wonderful book, written in 1990, long after my self-esteem entered the proverbial toilet. I unfortunately didn’t read it until my post-divorce rebirth in my 30s, maybe too late to reverse all the negative effects of the millions of assholes who contributed to my esteem’s demise. There must be a way to reach out to these young women, to wake them up, to assure them that whatever you look like, whoever you are, you are FINE. Of course, we need to teach them the tools to stay healthy and strong, but healthy and strong is different for each of us, and we need to be able to determine what that is for ourselves. Ultimately, we need to love what we see in the mirror every day.
But did I? Hadn’t I just thought her awful words before she said them? I saw someone who wasn’t 20, nor a size 2. And I didn’t love her.
I was about to hang my clothes on the reject rack, but Naomi Wolf stopped me. I went back to the dressing room instead. I again tried on my favorite, a plaid mini-dress that looked great on the millennial mannequin, but not as great on my GenX body. I saw lumps. I saw rolls. I saw side boob. The dress was cute, but I was not. I saw the woman who thought, “I hate looking at myself in the mirror.” So to that bitch, I whispered, “Your body is perfect, honey.” I bought the dress.
I may never again be a size 2. (Editor’s Note: I originally typed “will” instead of “may”. The optimist in me revised.) And I certainly will never be 20 again. And that’s fine. This body has been through a lot in the past 27 years, and I have earned the lumps, the rolls, and the boobs. And who wants to be 20 again, anyway? I had a fantastic body, but I also had a shitty boyfriend, no job, and drove a brown Hyundai. I was a Republican, for Christ’s sake. There’s no going back to that, thank you very much. But I liked the dress, and with some shapewear, dark leggings, and an expensive leather purse, I may not rock it like a 20 year old, but I rock it like a damn fine 47 year old. And I love her. I love her shape, and I love her life.
Screw the mirror.