Tag Archives: body image

Wearing White Jeans Again Part III

Just catching up? Here are Part I and Part II

I remember the moment so vividly. It was just a fleeting glance, but it captured my manic body image frenzy as a new mom as perfectly as a photograph in my mind. There I was, a brand new mom of a beautiful baby girl, walking up the block of a café-and-office lined street towards the park on a sunny weekday.

I was with a group of other new moms with whom I’d started to form friendships, and we were taking our babies to the park because it seemed like a normal ‘mom thing’ to do. Forget that we were exhausted from lack of sleep. Forget that none of us had probably showered that day (okay week), and had telltale mom buns, no makeup, and nursing tops with milk stains all over them. None of that mattered to us. How could it, when we could barely form sentences at that point? We were all basically winging it, as all new moms do.

Anyway, I remember that as I was walking up the street in the middle of my mom-pack, I happened to glance over at my reflection in the glass of a dimly lit store, and saw myself staring back…only it didn’t seem like me at all. I didn’t even recognize the person in the glass. That person looked tired, worn down, disheveled, bewildered, and paunchy. I looked down at my belly in disgust, and tried to suck it in, like I had learned to do in dance classes. I looked in the glass again and saw that what had once worked to give me a slender profile through the stomach region, now offered very little change in bulk.

And I remember looking up at the new moms in front of me, wondering why and how in the heck their bellies appeared to be flatter than mine. Or were they? I didn’t really know for sure, but they were at the very least recognizable as the same people I had seen before and after giving birth. It didn’t seem fair to me.

Even more confusingly, I couldn’t really grasp why I was feeling that way. I knew as well as anyone that it takes awhile for your belly to go down postpartum. Never mind that I was at my pre-pregnancy weight less than a week postpartum. I was proud of that fact, don’t get me wrong, but it was my overall shape that took me by surprise. I looked…well…different. I didn’t feel normal.  And I didn’t feel like I fit in with my peers.

It harkened back to the feelings I had the fateful Day of the White Jeans. I wasn’t good enough the way I was. I should have been able to pull it together the way all the other new moms seemed to do. I should have been exercising more, and taking showers, and putting on some makeup at least. I should have at least done that much if I was going to have a belly like that, resting atop hips that had also seemed to have gathered some excess baggage along the way.

I remember longing in that moment for the days before my baby’s birth, when I could sleep when I wanted, exercise when I wanted, and shower when I wanted. I felt a fleeting sense of resentment, followed by guilt for having those feelings, because I loved my baby girl so much! I vowed that I would at least try to exercise more, if only for my baby to have a healthy mama.

And I would also take a shower, for goodness sake.

Stay tuned for Part IV!

Wearing White Jeans Again, Part II

Just catching up? Read Part I here.

Yellow splotchy white jeans. Yellow splotchy white jeans. Interestingly (or not) enough, it was the perfect metaphor for my life. The white jeans were how I should have seen myself, washed clean of imperfections, forgiven, loved, with my whole life ahead of me. But all I saw were yellow splotches of imperfection, failure, and evidence that I was not enough.

With the tears still stinging my eyes, I tried in vain to scrub the stains off of my jeans. The splotches wouldn’t go away no matter what I tried. I took the yellow splotches as a sign that white jeans were for somebody slimmer, more popular, more wealthy, and for someone who could achieve it all without getting dirty. I threw them away in the garbage, and went on with my life, telling myself they just weren’t my “thing” and I still had plenty of other denim options. White jeans would be forbidden.

My body insecurities followed me well past my teens. I was a walking cliché of every young female with body image issues. Convinced my bottom and legs were simply too big, I fell into fad diets and exercise, protein bars and energy drinks, and “energy pills” to keep me going through full-time jobs and full-time junior college. I lied to myself, saying I was simply trying to get healthy.

Even after I got married, and my husband truly absolutely loved me and loved my body proportions, I still struggled under the guise of trying to “get healthy.” Fortunately for me, I never actually hit a rock bottom. In fact, each new thing taught me more and more of what NOT to do to achieve health. I could see the patterns emerging. I began to research in terms of health and nutrition as opposed to losing weight. I pushed myself through vigorous workouts, and dance classes, but really it was because I enjoyed them more than it was because I wanted to lose weight…losing weight would just have been a bonus.

Then, I got pregnant with my first daughter, and my view of my body began to permanently change. As I saw my body begin to change, grow, and literally expand before my eyes in such a new way, I began to feel as though the design for my body was completely out of my control, and out of my hands.

Pregnancy was new to me, and there was just so much information out there. Lists of do’s and don’ts and worries and frets of pregnant women all over the place. And there I was, wanting salted caramel ice cream one minute, and Granny Smith apples the next. The once chocolate and garlic lover couldn’t stand the smell or thought of it, and she even now liked mushrooms…MUSHROOMS!

I felt completely out of control and away from everything familiar when it came to my body. I was an emotional mess (well, okay, arguably that wasn’t new haha) and I felt like, based on stories I’d heard, I would never get my body back again. And there was a person growing inside me every day. Bigger and bigger, taking over control of my sleep, my movement, and my appetite.

I looked fine on the outside, buying up maternity jeans and tops, reading up on pregnancy health and nutrition, and listening to any podcast I could find about birth stories and the like. I even kinda liked my belly bump look. It was nice and firm and gave me an excuse not to exercise as much, eat what I wanted “for the baby” and dress in yoga pants and a loose top for work. But on the inside, I was starting to freak out about how I would look after the baby was born.

Stay tuned for Part III!

Wearing White Jeans Again Part I

I remember quite vividly a day back in high school when I had purchased a pair of white jeans from a thrift store, with my afterschool job earnings. I remember checking my backside in the mirror, trying to determine if they were flattering, or if they made me look fat.

For any high school girl, body image can be a tricky subject to navigate. Constant comparison to others is a given, and I was no exception. But when I coupled that with also being a ballet dancer, forget about it. My 5’2” and 115lb frame appeared to me to be all wrong in every possible way. I saw myself in a distorted way. My hips, thighs, and bottom seemed to me to be enormous as I compared myself to others in my dance classes. Why oh why can’t I just have a normal thigh gap? I would lament to my reflection in the mirror.

I knew even then that my distorted view of myself was because I spent so much time critiquing it in front of a mirror in nothing but tights and a leotard. It was inevitable that every possible flaw was illuminated before my critical eyes. But I just couldn’t help myself. I wanted to be perfect. I wanted to fit in. I wanted to be the version of normal that only exists in the eyes of a teen girl who has no clue what normal actually means.

So as I stood that day in front of the mirror, I almost chickened out and changed my outfit. But I decided to brave it instead if only to prove to myself there was nothing wrong with my body. I wanted so badly to believe the truth that I was loved unconditionally and that the size of my backside didn’t really matter. So I held my head high, anticipating that I would receive compliments on my new fashion find.

That, unfortunately, was not the case. In Spanish class, I remember walking up to the whiteboard as requested by my teacher, and I remember hearing someone comment about a “fat @ss.” In retrospect, I am pretty sure the comment was about my poor teacher, who did indeed have a rather large bottom half and was regrettably a constant target of ridicule. But that day, as I struggled to find my self-worth in a pair of jeans that I was sure made me look fat, I was positive the comment was about me.

When lunchtime came, as I stood in the quad with my circle of friends, I remember asking if my jeans looked ok, explaining that they were new and I wasn’t sure if white jeans were my thing. My bestie assured me they were fine. But what happened next, to this day, I have never truly understood.

There was another girl in our group, one who also danced ballet at my same studio, who was standing across from me at lunch. Now, this girl was kind of a frenemy, meaning, she was kind of mean to me. She would tease me regularly about how I was short, or insignificant in some way. I would play along and joke back to her about myself, because it made her laugh, and covered up any hurt I felt and tried to ignore. I wanted to fit in, and I didn’t really know how to confront her about it.

So anyway, there I was, standing in my new white jeans feeling a little self-conscious. My bestie was just getting done telling me the jeans looked fine and I shouldn’t worry. Then out of nowhere, my frenemy stepped, nay stomped on a mustard packet on the ground in the middle of our circle, spraying yellow mustard all over my new white jeans. I remember looking down, horrified and embarrassed. My frenemy laughed a little nervously, exclaiming at the same time how sorry she was.

I don’t actually remember what I said, or what anyone else in our group said either in the face of such a high school horror scene. I just remember I rushed to the bathroom, trying to get as much of the mustard off as I could with paper towels and water, but it was no use. The mortifying yellow blotches all over my jeans were there to stay.

And I had to wear them for the entire second half of the day, covered in yellow globs of mustard. I played it off like it was no big deal. But on the inside, I vowed never to wear white jeans again. They had become a symbol of ridicule and unacceptance. They were an elusive privilege that I felt would never be mine.

I felt weakened, insecure, and insignificant. I felt the very things I had tried so hard NOT to have to feel while wearing those white jeans. In my head, I had pictured all my insecurities as a high school teen vanishing because of those jeans. I had unknowingly pinned my hopes and self-worth on a pair of pants. And now my dignity laid in blotchy yellow ruin on my bedroom floor.

Stay tuned for Part II!