I’ll never forget the first time it happened.
My husband and I had loaded up with film for our camera, and taken our young family to the park for some pictures. This was an expensive undertaking for us at the time, and one that we didn’t budget for very often. I was hoping that somewhere in all of those photographs, I would find a few perfect pictures that captured the cuteness of our little kids.
But when I got my pictures back from the drug store, I was stunned to see something unusual in a few of the pictures. There was a stocky woman in shorts, with varicose veins and a bulging stomach who appeared randomly in the photos, usually trying to prop the infant up, or arranging one of the other little boys. I was incensed! Who was the woman? Why hadn’t I noticed her at the park? And how dare she touch my children?
That’s when it occurred to me that the woman in these pictures was me.
It was an epiphany moment. The body image I had of myself was nothing like what was showing up in these snap shots. Sure, I had just had a baby, but to my mind, my abdomen had definition and my form was still balletic. But these photographs said otherwise, and if I cared to verify it, the mirror would probably back them up!
I was denying the truth before me. My body had changed significantly after birthing four big babies over ten years time. The body I remembered from my wedding day was now 20 years older and many pounds heavier. It was so hard for me to accept that that girl, with that body, was gone and that I was stuck living with this new version.
Oh, I didn’t give up!! I exercised regularly and counted calories. Every summer I would look at the bathing suits and think maybe if I could just lose a few more pounds, or a couple of inches, the girl with the body I remembered would show up. When that day arrived, I would happily buy a bathing suit and wear it to the beach to play with my kids. But the years went by and I never bought one, because that girl never showed up.
I was DIS-content to sit on the sidelines, reading and frying. I never got in the water and my youngest child thinks I’m afraid of the water!
I sidelined myself in other ways too. Dressed in my black baggy pants, and oversized shirts, I hid myself away under layers of clothing, excusing myself as too busy, too tired or too uninterested to do anything different with my clothing. The real issue was I didn’t want to try clothes on and come to terms with the body I would see in the glaring three-way mirrors of a department-store dressing room.
But life has a way of bringing us a day of reckoning. Mine came recently as I was preparing to buy a dress for my first son’s wedding. I just wanted to get it over and avoid really taking stock of my figure (even after a 40-pound weight loss) if at all possible! So I ordered something I thought would fit and look nice over the internet. When it came, not surprisingly, it didn’t fit well at all. The bustline was too high, the waistline too thin, and the overall length too long. In retrospect, it was more of a bag with a few sparkles than a fun frock to wear to my son’s summer wedding.
With the wedding a mere month away, I was desperate. I finally sought and found the old-fashioned torture device I had been avoiding for years – the measuring tape. After finding a web site to describe how to accurately record measurements, I dutifully took mine and then wrote it all down – every agonizing detail of it. With the actual numbers in front of me, I started looking around for something that would fit and feel comfortable for the wedding. I had to face some facts – I am not a size 8. I am no longer an hourglass shape. This body has had babies, and has lived a life, and even after a 40-pound weight loss, I am an apple and still a plus size – I have to shop accordingly.
I did eventually find a dress that I think will be fun and appropriate to wear to the wedding. I did go into some actual stores and tried on some dresses, but the dress I bought came from the J.C. Penney website. It fit like a dream because I told myself the truth. It’s true that the truth will set you free! Because now I will attend this joyous event in comfort and style, but even more importantly, I won’t be sidelined. And when I see the photos from the wedding – I’ll know the woman in the photos standing with my kids, without question!
Copyright 2015 Elena LaVictoire
All photos courtesy of the author. All rights reserved.