I’m a big fan of the homemade Halloween costume; I’ve never been sure whether that’s because my mom always made my brothers’ and my costumes when we were kids, or out of some twisted drive to be The Craftiest Mom On The Block — or out of refusal to pay $30 for the privilege of dressing my child as the same licensed character as all the other trick-or-treaters. All three, I guess. At any rate, this year once I finished the boys’ costumes (Pac-Man, Inky, and Blinky) I decided to actually make one of my own, inspired by an adorable (and completely age-inappropriate) costume picture I found on pinterest.
Sometime last night after I’d finally finished tying all the tulle strips onto my skirt (which isn’t a skirt at all, really, but “tutu” sounds somehow frivolous, as if that makes any difference at all) I realized just how very much tulle is required to cover an ass this ample. And somehow I had envisioned the tulle strips drifting softly down, like on the little girl in the picture; I hadn’t thought about how much more dimension my own well-curved shape would add to the tutu (yes, okay, tutu).
For a moment, I worried that it would make my butt look big.
Then I spun around like a ballerina, and HECK YES. My butt didn’t look any bigger; it was big to begin with. What happened instead was, my butt made the tutu look big. I was wrapped in a poof-cloud of tulle that swooshed and floofed around me with my every movement. I felt like a giant floaty gravity-defying ball of fluff. I was a human tulle-nado. Tutus, I decided, are pretty much perfect for fat ladies. And fat ladies are perfect for tutus.
And then, I wore it out in public. In daylight. To my kids’ elementary school Halloween parade. Fortunately, they’re not yet old enough to feel embarrassment that their mother exists, much less goes around swathed in tulle-fluff, and to them it was awesome, not mortifying, that I was the only parent in costume.
Actually, the students marching by in the parade gave me quite a few sincere high-fives and compliments, which was pretty fabulous. And I have a little bit of hope that I helped normalize, and maybe awesome-ize, body diversity for them. (Because appearing in public as a fat lady in a tutu just isn’t ever not activism. My body size, and my enjoyment of same, was definitely noticeable.)
So here you go, a fat lady in a tutu:
And here are my boys in their homemade costumes:
Yep. Happy Halloween.
By the way, you’ve probably noticed that it’s been approximately six million years since I’ve written much here. This has turned out to be a really difficult, time-consuming semester for me. My brain is stuffed full of all kinds of blog content that I just haven’t been able to publish. I’m really hoping that in a few months I’ll be able to get back to a more regular writing schedule. Thanks for sticking around in the meantime.
This post doesn’t completely fit in with the health-at-every-size, fat-acceptance topics I usually write about here, but I felt it was important to share anyway. My uncle forwarded this short story, which he found among my 86-year-old grandmother’s things, out to my family this week. The story is simple and poetic, lovely for all of the love and pride that flow from every word. And it’s poignant for its picture of a little girl who didn’t know her own power, and a woman who never let herself discover her own potential, but poured all of her wishes into her children. Like The Giving Tree,it’s a story that’s open to interpretation; for me, it’s a reminder not to hold myself back from pursuing the things I love* – that nurturing my children’s dreams doesn’t have to mean losing my own. I know that one of the best gifts I can give my children is a mom who is fulfilled, and whose fulfillment doesn’t depend on them.
(*Here’s the part where I tie this into body-acceptance: For me, one of the biggest things I let hold me back is my own lack of self-confidence, and my own self-imposed limitations, because of my size. I tell myself I’m not going to take my family camping, not going to learn tai chi, not even going to hike or swim or dance like a maniac in the living room – not going to enjoy any of the activities I do in this body “until I’m thin”; and so I deny myself experiences that could make my life fuller just because my body isn’t meeting my expectations. [Sidenote to a sidenote: I wrote a post over here about my nascent Life List.] As I make peace with my body, I’m working on changing this.)
“The Old Woman”
by Helen Slaughter Jordan
Once upon a time there was an old woman. One day she began to think of all the things she treasured. She thought about how much she loved her bluebird plates, and about how much time she had spent trying to find them. She thought about when she was a little girl, and how she dreamed of being an actress, or a dancer, or of playing the piano all alone in a big auditorium. She thought how it was that she could have done all this – but when she was a little girl she didn’t know that all these possibilities were inside her, and she didn’t know that confidence could unlock the door and let them out to be nurtured and developed.
But, she remembered, one day the little girl discovered books, and she was happy. For a while she could be the beautiful people she dreamed of being.
Then she grew up and loved someone and was loved, and after a while she found something better than being an actress or a dancer or someone great – she had beautiful children who loved her. And she watched all the gifts she had wished for herself unfolding in her children.
She listened as her son played beautiful music, and thought how much more happiness it gave her to hear the applause for him than if it had been her own.
She saw her daughter, beautiful in her wedding gown, and riding off with her knight in shining armor, and thought how much better it was that her daughter would miss some of the cares that she had had.
Another son brought his friends home, and they became her friends. And she thought how much better it was to have young friends when you are old than young friends when you are young. And this son would sometimes tell her his dreams and they were always good and she thought how happy she would be if his dreams came true.
One son never told her he loved her, but he brought her a little pitcher with roses on it. And once he gave her a Mothers Day card that said he loved her, and she believed it. She knew it was not easy for some people to say I love you.
But then one day all her children grew up, and they were busy with their own things, and she was proud of them. And she gloried in their successes, and would have borne their failures if she could, but she couldn’t.
Now she doesn’t want anything – the children have everything they need. And the old woman wonders what she can leave to mark her place here. She wonders if the bluebird plates and the crystal glasses were too important to her. She wonders if she could have met more needs if she had been looking. And she hopes that her beautiful children will use all their wonderful gifts wisely, and that they will leave a better mark than she ever dreamed.
[Scans of the original story in my grandmother's handwriting are after the jump.]
One of the things I still haven’t figured out is how to teach this concept of intuitive eating to my children (especially since I only have a tenuous grasp on it myself). Already my kids are bombarded — from school, from PBS Kids, all over the place — with this dichotomy of “good food” and “bad food.” This seems wrong to me, for them to be taught to make moral judgments about food in their preschool classrooms; but on the other hand, their teachers are right, that candy bar isn’t good for their teeth.
But putting intuitive eating into kid-terms for children who are already programmed to think of food as either good or bad is eluding me. For that matter, I’m still trying to defeat my own knee-jerk reaction to classify food as such: broccoli good, pasta bad. But my goal for my kids is for food to be just not that big a deal, and that’s going to mean a rejection, to an extent, of the things they’re being taught about food outside the home — and in the home, a more intense focus on modeling healthy attitudes toward food.
This post on the blog Spilt Milk provides a good framework for shifting my kids’ beliefs about food, although her daughter hasn’t already been taught the conflicting messages about food that my kids have learned. I’m having trouble finding much about this topic of shaping kids’ attitudes about food from a HAES perspective, though.
What do you think? What do you teach your kids (or what would you teach your kids, if you had them) about food? Or, have you found others writing about this topic that I’ve missed?
Lately my five-year-old has been experimenting with the word “stupid.” This morning he called the cat stupid, his oatmeal stupid, and was dancing on the edge of calling his little brother stupid before I swooped in and told him to stop using that word.
In our home we’ve talked to our kids about using “sword words” – that the Bible says words can pierce like a sword, and we have a ground rule in our home that we don’t use words to cut down and hurt others.
Later my seven-year-old told me, conversationally, that he knew he wasn’t supposed to call other people stupid, so he would just call himself stupid, instead. I think he was just trying to find a way around our house rules, so he was surprised by how strongly I responded to him. I was a little surprised, too.
“Don’t you ever call yourself stupid,” I said, a little sharply. “It’s not okay to call someone else stupid, and it’s not okay to call yourself stupid, either.”
David looked a little startled. “Okay, but…why?”
“Because God made you,” I said. I felt like I was hearing the words myself as I was saying them. “God made you, and he didn’t create anything that isn’t special. So don’t call God’s creations stupid, even yourself, but treat His creations with honor and respect.”
My therapist has talked before about how I can be re-parenting myself as I parent my kids, sort of saying things to my own kids and to kid-me all at the same time. This was one of those times. I wish I could erase all my years of negative self-talk, of thinking I’m worthless because of my body. I hear myself saying things like this to my kids now, and I think, Holy crap, that’s right. God *doesn’t* make worthless things.
I think sometimes I substitute self-deprecation for humility, but that’s a mistake. True, God-honoring humility comes in recognizing our unique, innate worth — not because of anything we do, but because of how we’re created. If one of greatest commandments is, “Love your neighbor as yourself,” doesn’t it follow that we’re supposed to love — and honor — ourselves?