I Don’t Want To Fit Into My Kid’s Clothes

And even if I could, I won’t wear them.

:::Deep breath::::

Ok. I am writing this with complete cognizance and mindfulness. I am not a fan of mommy wars or shaming. My message is not that of judgement, but more of awareness. Read this as a cautionary tale, of sorts, from someone who has struggled with body image issues for many, many years. That is my disclaimer.

Something has been bothering me about modern day mother-daughter relationships and I am going to attempt to articulate this the best I can.

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I always viewed my mother as a beautiful human. Inside and out. Still do. I cannot remember exactly when I became aware of how beautiful she is but I remember hoping to look just like her when I grew up. I remember thinking how pretty her skin was, her hair, her nails, her jewelry. I took notice of how she took great care of herself and how she always looked so put together. Nothing extravagant or out of the ordinary, but she was gorgeous and I knew it. I’m pretty certain we all believe our moms are beautiful and we idolize them. Or many of us do, especially when we’re little. Nothing shocking about that.

But what I remember most, from a very young age, is being very aware of how thin she was. Not that she was abnormally skinny, but definitely thinner than other moms. It was an observation that stuck with me, for sure.

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When I was young, as in elementary school age, I was stick-skinny. I ate and ate and was just long and lean. People used to ask me if I even ate food at all.

Until I hit puberty.

Then I became long-ish and round-ish. I quickly became well-developed (read: size C boobs at age 12) and packed on an extra 20lbs or so above my “recommended” weight. (I use that term loosely since weight charts are complete bullshit.) Point is- I grew fast and furious, as humans do. My body did what it wanted while I continued to eat what I wanted, within reason, as I believe kids should.

I was acutely aware of how fast my body was growing in those terrible middle school aged years when all of this body image shit starts. I remember being one of the only girls with big boobs in 7th grade and the boys would say things like, “I bet you can’t touch your elbows together behind your back”. Being young and naive, I would try it, as all the boys would laugh and look at my new developments. Middle school was the most evilest of years for me. I digress.

By the time I was in 8th grade, my mom and I were able to share clothes. I continued to grow taller, a bit thinner again, and my mom, who remained consistently thin, was able to fit into my size. She was young and fun and progressive so I didn’t blame her for shopping in the same clothing department where I found mine. (Mind you, this was the late 80s so think high waisted Guess jeans and oversized shirts. Nothing like today’s style.) And, I didn’t see the harm in it, I didn’t find it odd, and didn’t think too deep into it most of my adult life.

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Approximately a year ago, when my daughter was 7, she and and I were in the shower together. She was staring at my belly, then would look at her own and poke at it. She said, “I’m chubby. I’m not skinny like you”.

I literally stopped in my tracks.

“CHUBBY?! NO YOU ARE NOT. STOP IT RIGHT NOW.”, almost yelling.

I wanted to immediately and completely erase those thoughts from her mind. And my mind spun with how this vocabulary even got into her brain since I was always cognizant of using words like “chubby”, “fat”, or any sort of negative connotation in relation to body image since I spent several years of my adult life being overly concerned with how much I weighed, at one point even being diagnosed with anorexia. If I’m being honest, I’m still far too preoccupied with weight. However, I am bound and determined not to bring these issues into her life.

It turned out that someone at school that day had called her chubby so, on that very day, she became aware that she has a body and that we have societal views of perfection. And it made me sad. And it made me angry. And it made me reflect on my own image of body awareness and perfection.

It made me realize, I always wanted to be skinny because my mom was skinny and skinny equaled beautiful. I fault society for telling us this everyday, and I also saw it at home. I wanted to always fit in her jeans because she fit into mine and that’s how I started to measure beauty. Because as women, our measurement of beauty has no other option but to start with our mothers. They’re our yardsticks for everything so body image and beauty are certainly no exception.

Listen. (Especially to you, mom. Listen.) Do not misunderstand. I do not blame my mom for all of my body issues because we shared a few pairs of jeans in 1989. She did nothing wrong.

It’s certainly more than fine that my mom was thin and healthy. It was wonderful to grow up with a mom who valued healthy eating and fitness. It was absolutely ok. And I do not begrudge moms for taking good care of themselves, being fit, looking younger than their ages, getting botox or whatever else women do to become their image of beautiful. I.do.not.judge. I exercise, I shop in the junior department, and I even dye my hair pink. I love pretending to be younger than I am.

However.

I believe what we need to be careful of is creating competition with our daughters.

The thing is, our daughters are their own people with their own bodies and their bodies shouldn’t look like our bodies, and vice versa, even if they do indeed look similar in size and shape. When we buy the same clothes as our daughters, share clothes with our daughters, it’s riding that fine line of wishing we were still their age, almost pretending we are still their age, and being more of a peer to them than their mom. We’re forcing them to draw comparisons to us when we share these intimate similarities with them. They can’t help but compare how their bodies look in the same article of clothing. It’s a natural response to compare. These can be dangerous messages no matter how much of a bond it feels like you’re creating by sharing things.

Multiply in the additional pressures of growing up today: the advances in technology that give us a voyeuristic view into how celebs look and dress. The make-up, the lip fillers, the shorter shorts, the diet fads. Christ, the Jenner girls alone have made girls feel like they all need to be supermodels and look all grown up by the age of 14.

So, we need to be there for them on a different level. Because we’re their moms, their safe place, their rock, their elder, their role model, but we also have a responsibility to show them that beauty looks so very different on everyone.

Does this mean we all have to wear mom jeans, Polo shirts, matronly dresses and ditch every stitch of sexiness to show the hierarchy of motherhood? Of course not, but there has to be a balance and because I lost my parenting manual, I don’t know that I have a formula for that balance, but what I do know that putting an emphasis on still fitting into a jean size that I was in high school isn’t something I need to impress upon my kid, even if it boosts my ego. I do not need to create the belief that this is of importance in life. Because it isn’t.

I obviously hope that she picks up on my healthy habits- exercising, making decent food choices, good hygiene, etc. All of the things we try to pass down to our kids to make them the healthiest version of themselves, but emotionally, I don’t need her to value a body shape or size over another. Therefore, my jeans will be different from her jeans, even if they happen to be the same size.

It’s a lesson to me, too, which is really the point here: self acceptance. When I learn to do that, so will my daughter. And also? To accept the aging process, to acknowledge that a woman in her 40’s really has no business shopping at Forever 21, even if they can. Because we aren’t 21 forever. And that is ok.

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Be My Friend So I Can Beg You To Stay My Friend

I’ve always had a problem with fitting in. Not exactly the proverbial “I hated high school because I was an outcast” type of not fitting in. My problem always has been wanting everyone to like me. And I mean everyone.

I moved to Florida from the suburbs of Chicago when I was 10. It was the perfect age of late elementary school, early hormonal issues, to be transplanted in a new environment. It was just enough of a wake-up call to realize that the world is much bigger than it had previously appeared.

I noticed from the first day in my new place that I didn’t fit in like I did back in Chicago. My friends had been my friends since toddlerhood back in my comfort zone but now? Now I had to make new friends with different personalities, being the dreaded “new kid”.

It wasn’t easy for me.

I’m an introvert by nature, which some have a hard time believing about me, but it’s true. I come off as standoffish in new environments, around new people, because I’m not very confident. I’ve always been this way. So, in fifth grade, in my new school, I was bullied for being a “bitch”, which was really just me being…a quiet and scared introvert.

I didn’t make friends easily and what that taught me back then was that I needed to try harder, only I didn’t know how to try the correct way by just being myself and attracting others most similar to me.

I ended up joining “team bully”, trying it on for size, throughout 6th and 7th grade so people would like me. It didn’t feel right, but I did it. It momentarily felt good to be a part of something, of a group, instead of the outsider. I tended to become the people I wanted to be around, even if those people weren’t good people. I wanted to be liked. I would chameleon myself to fit in, I would say and do things to fit in, I would gossip just to be the person “in the know”, to get attention.

By 8th grade, the bullies started to fade away, for the most part, and I found my people, I found my tribe, a healthy tribe. I was popular in high school, but only because it was way too high on the priority list for me. I tried too hard. I wasn’t always myself to achieve that popularity. I tended to be who others wanted me to be or expected me to be.

I wanted to be perfect for everyone.

Clearly, none of this is drastically uncommon for these teenage, school years.

Only, it didn’t really change in high school, or college, or beyond that for me. Well, some of it changed just by merely maturing and getting to know myself, but underneath the surface, I always really want people to like me.

There’s my confession:

Hi. I’m Vanessa, I’m 40, and I still really want people to like me.

Ridiculous, right? I know. But it’s who I am.

Many of you reading might say, “Oh, I stopped caring what others think a long time ago!”, and if that’s 100% true, good for you. I want to be you when I grow up, but if you think back, I’m guessing there have at least been a couple of interactions or situations in which you were maybe the smallest bit concerned with how you were perceived. Maybe you bit your tongue when the other soccer mom was yelling on the field, maybe you changed your shirt because you felt like you looked pregnant, maybe you lied about the reason you canceled plans… Dig deep.

So, that phrase we hear all.of.the.time. of, “Who cares what other people think of you? You shouldn’t care and just be yourself!”.

Yes. True. That’s very true. But it’s not so easy. I care too much how others perceive me.

Therefore, when I lose someone, a friend, a relationship, I have a really, really difficult time letting go. Or even when I argue with someone I care about, I need to fix it right.away. I need to work through it, over-talk it, over analyze it, until its the deadest of the dead horses.

I’ve been ghosted by quite a few friends within recent years and my marriage failed within those years, too. Literally, friends that I had for years that I’ve never heard from again without any kind of falling out. No response to texts, phone calls, etc. I think this is a bizarre way to end any kind of relationship but I’ve done a lot of work trying to figure out why it’s happened.

What did I do wrong?
How could I have done things differently?
What can I learn from these losses?

All healthy questions to ask myself, all normal responses to try to validate the loss, but where it becomes toxic for someone like myself is when I believe this is solely on me as an individual, that there is something inherently unlikable about me, or maybe many things, that must be changed. That if I change- I change my ideals, my beliefs, pieces of my personality, as much as I possibly can, I will then be loved. That maybe, if we don’t say what I want to say out loud, I keep our feelings to myself, I just blend into the wallpaper, that I will at least have the security of people liking me.

But here’s the thing: that’s not how it works. This thought pattern is unhealthy and exhausting. 

There’s a fine balance between introspection, (working on my flaws, acknowledging downfalls, realizing where work can be done), and flat out changing who I am for others. It’s a tight rope and it’s tricky.

We all know that begging people to be, or stay, in our lives doesn’t make sense. If you have to beg with incessant one-sided communication, it isn’t worth it. If you have the perception of being the one putting in all of the effort to a relationship, it isn’t worth it.

Neither is changing yourself for others’ comfort or attention.

Some things just aren’t worth trying to figure out or fix. But when you’re a fixer, when you’re a control freak, and when you truly care about someone, this is the toughest part: letting go.

Let it go. Let.it.go. LET.IT.GO.

So, I’ve come to realize that this might just be my biggest character flaw. This need for people to like me, even when it’s clear that I’m the one driving the relationship. I’ve realized this probably too late in life, but at least I’ve realized it.

I’m working on it. Working on liking who I am, always, and learning to turn the obsessiveness off when others don’t like who I am, what I say, and what I stand for. Working on realizing that not everything can be fixed or mended. Working on realizing that sometimes…it’s them, it’s not me.

And that’s ok for them not to change who they are, too. We can’t expect that from others just as we can’t expect that from ourselves. We all are who we are.

The quote “People come in your life for a reason, a season, or a lifetime” is one to live by.

Not everyone is meant to stay forever. We are ever evolving, always learning, always growing, so it cannot be possible that all people can stay in our lives forever. You can’t always stay on the same path, you can’t always grow together, and ultimately, dynamics shift and if your relationship stands that test, wonderful, cherish that with every ounce of your being, but it might not always be the same and it might even fall apart completely. And that’s ok.

Self accept. Self love. Be who you are and say what you need to say. It will work out how it’s supposed to.

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An Open Letter: To the Wife That Recently Found Out About Her Husband’s Double Life.

You’re in the thick of it. The pain is almost unbearable. You’re close to not functioning. You’re wondering if you’ll ever make sense out of anything, ever. Your life is unrecognizable. You’re not eating or sleeping. Your emotions go from anger to sadness to almost homicidal.

I get it. I was you. I still am you on some days.

I walked in on my husband with another woman. That was, and quite possibly could remain, the worst day in my life. There was the me before that date and there’s the me after that date. Two totally different versions of myself. Two totally different lives.

You’re in the trenches of this… This hell of figuring out who you married. This hell of wrapping your mind around sharing your husband with another woman, physically, emotionally. This hell of wondering what the fuck is wrong with you that he went down this road.

Was I too controlling?

Was I too fat?

Was I too ugly?

Did I not give him enough sex?

Was I boring?

How long did this go on?

Does he love her?

These questions, the wanting to know everything, every little detail, of the affair, the “why”, even the denial, it’s all there, sitting in you. Literally feeling your entire body breaking from the pain. It’s visceral. Floating through days in this thick fog. Not knowing if your words and conversations make sense. Trying to engage in life but the difficulty is unprecedented.

Then there’s the hatred for her. The need to even blame her. The other woman. The home wrecker. The slut. The husband stealer. The whore. Oh, the many names I had for her.

Perhaps you’re obsessed with her, if you’re at all like I was. You might social media stalk her, google her, maybe you even want to talk to her, scream at her, punch her in the face. Your thoughts might scare you, maybe. They did me. You might be comparing yourself to her. She’s most likely very different from you, physically and otherwise. Maybe you hate that. You hate that he was drawn to the opposite of you. The physical imagery is too much to process. The intimacy that was supposed to stay between you and him no longer exists.

I saw this with my own eyes. I lived the moment and didn’t have the luxury of just imagining it. I completely lost my shit that day. Completely and fully disassembled. I was violent towards him, punching him in the face, and I proceeded to destroy every painting in our home, the home we once shared, the paintings he painted that I once loved. I threw them in a pile in the middle of the floor, all the while in complete hysterics, near hyperventilation. Appropriate response? Absolutely. And I dare to have anyone tell me it wasn’t.

You are forming your own response right now and regardless of what that is, it’s the right response. You’re descending into your process. It’s just the beginning of your process of grief.

And lets not forget about you.

You are going to be ok. Actually, you are going to be better than ok. You are going to be better than you ever thought you could be.

I know you don’t want to hear that yet, I understand. The pain and confusion is too raw.

Live the pain, live the confusion, even embrace it, because it’s in the process of breaking you down so you can rebuild yourself into who you’re supposed to be. Read that sentence again because it is the absolute truth.

You don’t deserve to have to share, and I don’t mean your husband, I mean you. You don’t deserve to have to share yourself with someone who doesn’t respect your value. You were with someone who was cowardly enough to put the work into managing a double life because he thought he deserved all that he wanted. He wanted the family life over here and the fun life over there; the best of both worlds to him. But just remember how exhausted he is from all of this lying and managing. He’s tired. This always takes a toll. And my guess is he’s probably sick in some way. For my husband, it was substance abuse but perhaps its just old fashion narcissism… but this is not for you to figure out. Don’t be distracted by excuses.

This betrayal has nothing to do with you and everything to do with him. It isn’t about what you did or didn’t do, it isn’t about who is prettier or more fun. This is about his fucked up way of thinking. This is about him and him alone. Let go of every negative thought about yourself and your contribution to this. It isn’t there. Let it go.

There will not be traditional closure. Questions will pop into your mind months later. The same questions you had from day one might go unanswered. That’s ok. The sooner you acknowledge that these answers do not matter, the sooner you can start to heal. Knowing the answers to some questions might do more harm than good. Know what you know: your husband was living a lie. That’s enough. Let it be enough to move on.

Forgive him. You will need to eventually. You certainly will not forget but forgiveness is such an important component to this saga. Work hard on forgiveness. It’s a process and it won’t come easy, but work on it. Bitterness will rear it’s head but you’ll suppress it because it doesn’t make any sense to let it take over.

Don’t play the victim for long. You’re better than that. Be sad that it happened, grieve the loss, however that looks for you, but this is something that happened. Don’t let it define you.

You will move on and you will live. You will laugh and mean it soon. You will feel joy soon. You will get to know yourself in a different way. Make this time about your needs, your wants, and what makes your soul smile without a partner. When is the last time you’ve done that?

For now, you’re in pain, no doubt about that. Maybe more pain that you’ve ever experienced. But it’s fleeting.

Take many deep breaths everyday and soon enough you will be breathing new air. Air that isn’t full of lies, deceit, and pain. Air that is full of healing is around the corner. I promise.