It was a warm, early September evening. Muggy, the kind that lends itself to my natural curls and also to frizz. It was one of the many times that I wore my skin awkwardly. One would think that, at almost 40, I would be past that awkward-feeling stage but, on this this night, I felt sweaty and dull and not lovely.
But we were going out- my own little family along with the large extended one I inherited when I married my husband- to celebrate the 70th birthday of my father-in-law. There were many children in tow, PJ included, so our chosen destination was hardly the Ritz. Still, it was nice enough that I had to skip my typical uniform of jean, flip-flops, and a tank top.
|My little Prince.|
Age and motherhood both have left me with a body that I am still not used to. Extra weight sits on my small bones in a manner that is not kind. I remember having to struggle to stay above one hundred pounds. Now, I am nearly forty pounds overweight. I forget sometimes that I am not the lithe creature of my 20’s. Generally, that moment comes when I need to get dressed. Clothes didn’t matter to me, even as a young person with a great figure. Now that I am in a body that is difficult to dress, it matters a little bit more.
I tell myself that there are more important things on my plate. I am the mother of a child with Autism. It takes so much energy sometimes just to stay afloat, even though raising him is a joy, an honor, my life work. The idea that I might hold some beauty seems silly. Who is even looking?
I opened my closet to get dressed and found a dress I had not worn before. It is something that happens to me often- I purchase something only to get it home and lose faith. I have a penchant for maxi dresses despite my short stature, but this one was a bit dressier, a bit more structured. It hung softly on its hanger, a coral glow among the other brightly colored rejects that joined it. I slipped it over my head and adjusted. The long skirt floated to the tops of my feet and the halter tied in a ribbon about my neck. I stood in front of the mirror, all coral and floated skirt, and gave myself the stink eye. The dress didn’t cling too conspicuously, and it wasn’t filled out to its breaking point. There was nothing outwardly wrong and yet I could plainly see that it did not look good. It was not flattering.
I sighed and walked into the living room, where PJ was sitting on the couch watching a movie. He glanced up at me as I walked in. I can’t always hold his attention very long, so his short glance was not out of the ordinary.
“Mommy’s a princess!” he declared brightly.
PJ had never made such a statement. His observations tend to run toward the more concrete (“Mommy is wearing a shirt!”). I felt my heart stop as I sat down next to him. “A princess, eh?” I asked, but his attention was already turned back to Wreck It, Ralph. I snuggled next to him and fingered the hem of the dress. My rational self knew it didn’t look good, but my son had told me, for the first time ever and in his own way, that he thought it was pretty.
I got him dressed and intended to change after, but I just couldn’t. I couldn’t bring myself to take off that wretched garment and flee to the safety of my jeans and a nice tank top. Instead, I slipped on a pair of silver sandals. I walked into the restaurant with my sons hand in mine. I let myself enjoy the feel of the soft skirt against my legs and carry the glow of the coral fabric. I basked in motherly pride at how well-behaved my son was and wore it like makeup. I kept my stomach pulled in, my shoulders relaxed, and my back straight. My usual insecurities didn’t matter that night. I didn’t let them weigh me down but, rather, bore the sparkle of my sons words like a tiara, just like any princess would.