When I was first introduced to St. John Paul II’s Theology of the Body in my late teen years, everything clicked so perfectly. Our bodies are images of Christ. Love it! We get to cooperate in the creative work of God. Great! I ate up all the material on the subject I could find, and I’m continuing that moderate obsession even now.
After a few kids, I encountered a fairly severe stumbling block in my comprehension of JPII’s great teaching. Instead of my teenage flat tummy, I have some mommy-pooch, and a couple of extra pounds in a few other places too.
The styles I had worn for years (my signature look was always bootcut jeans and a fitted tee) now just looked a little gross on me. My momma-muffin-top spilled over my low-rise jeans, and even my favorite loose mud-volleyball and band tees from college were absurdly tight around my chest. As I got dressed every day, I’d pass by my mirror, and convince myself that it looked kinda okay.
Last summer, I stopped the denial and bought a few oversized tees to put with athletic shorts or leggings. At least they fit, right? But they just looked frumpy, and that still left the problem of Sunday clothes. All my skirts, dresses, and slacks had the same problem as my jeans and tees.
I couldn’t imagine anyone looking at me and seeing an image of God. Every time I looked at myself all I saw was an exhausted and rumpled young mom.
One day, in another move of denial, I picked up a pair of mid rise-jeans, and I said to myself, “Well, you’re a mom now; you might as well dress like one.” As soon as I put them on, I just about cried. They didn’t look like “mom-jeans” — they actually suited me really well! No muffin top and I could actually move! That encouraged me to try pencil skirts, which I found really flattered my hips (one happy by-product of childbearing!) and when I tucked in a collared shirt, hid my tummy too! Well, hello there, professional and polished-looking Hilary!
Society holds up the skinny teenager as the standard of beauty, but we all know that it’s impossible to reach. Seeing a fifty-year-old woman in a graphic tee and hip huggers would be ridiculous, no matter how great the shape she is in! There is a dignity and authenticity in dressing your age that I’m beginning to embrace and really enjoy.
After my first baby, my mother-in-law told me a story. She was a young mom who just had her third baby, and was complaining to her dad that her body was wrecked and ugly. “No,” he told her, “You are still very beautiful. You aren’t beautiful like a teenager anymore, but you are beautiful like a woman.”
He has made everything beautiful in its time (Ecclesiastes 3:10).
Mommas, we don’t have our teenage bodies anymore. I do hope we all work our best to take care of ourselves, but there are some changes we’ll have to accept. Be assured, your “mom-bod” is still an image of God! Don’t be afraid to try something new, or ask for advice on how to dress your new frame.
We are called to glorify God in our bodies, and how we dress ourselves is part of that. I still have frumpy days, and I still have a few pairs of too-snug jeans I haven’t gotten around to tossing out yet. Nowadays though, when my husband says, “You look nice today,” I can actually believe him. I can walk into church without feeling self-conscious and mildly ashamed of my frumpy style.
Yes, I do have a mom-bod, but I am going to do my best to honor the creative work God has done with my body and proclaim that to the world with joy, dignity, and authenticity.
Is there a style that a younger version of you wouldn’t wear, but you now find really flattering?
Copyright 2018 Hilary Thompson