The Very Best I Can Do: Things They Can’t Say

DSC_1114 Stephanie Lormand lives in Raleigh with her husband and two children. Her oldest son, Zach, joined the family in November 2006, and his younger brother, Elliot, arrived in time for the party in November 2008.  

As a biostatistically-influenced sociologist, she is a breed of geek rarely found in the wilds of suburbia. Finding herself hunted by collectors, she assumed the identity of stay-at-home mom for her own safety.   

She blogs about having ADD and still having to find matching socks (and other random things) at scattermom.com; and about fiction and politics at stephanielormand.com

It’s the weekend after the shootings in Santa Barbara; I’m angry and sad.  I get stuck watching the twitter storm that is #YesAllWomen.

Long after my sons lay sleeping I start sharing some of the stories with my husband.  I’m worried about how we can make sure we raise men that reject misogyny.  I feel panicky at the thought that I might not influence them enough.  I start to explain this to my husband, a man with 2 brothers raised by a father with 4 brothers—so much testosterone.  “I want to be certain the boys understand how to value women as people and not just as objects of lust,” I say to him.  “For example, I love compliments, but when you say hey look, pretty mommy when I’m dressed up it implies that I’m ugly mommy otherwise.  You know, when I’m dressed as myself.”

“I’m just trying to encourage you when you look nice!” he replied.

“Thank you for that.  But I’m pretty all of the time, because, you know, beautiful on the inside.”

Silence.

“Right?  Sitting here in my yoga pants, t-shirt, and messy hair.  Aren’t I pretty right now?  Aren’t you physically attracted to me? Don’t you want me as much as you did 10 years, 40 pounds, and 2 children ago?”

“I love you” he replied.

Sidebar:  My husband is typically a pretty nice guy; so he’s not trying to be a jerky jerk-face.

“I’m just being honest” he said.  “You’re always insisting I should just be honest!”

And that’s true, I have insisted that he not lie. He’s sucks at it and I’m an internet quiz, micro-expression analyzing savant.

“No,” he said, his face flickering with irritation at my rising ire. “I’m not as physically attracted to you as I was when we got married, but I…”

HE WENT THERE.

In the pause between his silence and truthiness, I felt 20 years of self-acceptance try to slither away.

Am I still packing these 40 pounds of baby (ahem, almost 8 years later) weight? Yes.

Do I spend much time on my appearance?  No.

Have I accepted this current state as my permanent self?  NO.  But it’s not as if I can just unzip the fat suit, so…well maybe I was getting comfy in my fat suit pants.

These thoughts about the definition of beauty and how the meanings are gloriously reshaped by standards set by—whom?  People that believe women leap from bed with a glorious mane of styled hair, artfully applied make up, and a beach-body decorated in wispy dresses and stiletto sandals.

Through my moral outrage—this body, ruined by his children, one of whom demanded that I feed his fetal-self almost daily rations of Arby’s roast beef sandwiches; past my silent admittance that maybe *I* wouldn’t be all RAWR if the roles reversed, I reached for the fury.

Furious that my spouse, the man I met in college during a GENDER and EQUALITY class for our Sociology degree, didn’t understand the impact of his stance on beauty.

What if I finally have a power tool accident that leaves a permanent scar—on my FACE? What if I… shaved my head?  I certainly don’t keep this mane of too-thick-for- Southern-humidity hair because of convenience.  What about when we’re 70 and our bodies begin to do…that thing that happens to old bodies.  Here’s the one person I was confident would continue to find me as attractive as the younger version of myself—and he’s not that person?  What’s left?

I moped for a day (or 4), assessing cellulite and early-jowl-syndrome.   Until. Wait.

Me.  I’M what’s left—the person responsible for defining and creating my self-worth. This is the way I influence my sons—by demonstrating that the woman in their life doesn’t need the approval of the man in HER life for that life to be valuable and meaningful.

In a world where the full scope of hatred is no further than a click on google, that’s the very best I can do.

things they can't say

 

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Comments

  1. says

    Oh, Stephanie. This kind of made me cry a little. But I’m already at the point of sap this morning after doing some reading, and so on, so yeah. I feel it. 

    Except I’m never brave enough to even ASK. I just think all the things. 

    This was great. So perfectly described, and said. If that makes sense. 

    Shell, so glad you had Stephanie over here today! A great mix of two amazing people. :)
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  2. says

    My hubby was very diplomatic when I asked him if I was as desirable as when we met… His answer… “Been married to you tooo long to answer that one and since my hair is a little thinner and the butt sags a bit… I don’t want to know your answer either.” He is right. We don’t have to have the answer cause we care enough for each other.

    • says

      my husband would be so mad at me for asking because as he looks at it, it’s a trap. a no win situation. damned if you do and damned if you don’t.  so he’d ignore it. 

      it would be kind of weird to have the SAME physical attraction without some kind of change after many years together, i would imagine? i mean i love him and i’m attracted to him but not like i was when we were dating or anything.  
      brett recently posted..Healthy on the go snack idea #RealTastesGoodMy Profile

  3. teresa mccluskey says

    My husband and I have been together for 6 yrs. And I still find him desirable he is a tall, blonde hair, funny man. Me on the other hand have gained some weight after 2 kids and need to pamper myself so I am not sure of his answer :/

  4. says

    My hubby tells me a lot.But at the end of the day i do not need him to keep telling me as he is here with me that is enough for me.Also he taught my boys really good how to be with women and they are both so sweet they tell me i am pretty and they love me all the time thats all i need lol.My girls say the same things and sometimes tells their daddy he is handsome.
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  5. says

    The whole scenario was definitely more about the example we set for our sons on how to value women.  I don’t want to be valued *only* when I’m “pretty”, nor do I want my sons to equate make up and nice hair with as the definer of beauty (a girl can dream).  

    That he might not think I’m the same degree of pretty as the 23 year old version of myself is okay; SHE was a total bitch.  
    Stephanie Lormand recently posted..Guest Post: Things They Can’t SayMy Profile

  6. says

    Great post! First of all, with all those boys in your husband’s lineage, he would have made a great king. I, too, want my two boys to grow up respecting women and being unconcerned about beauty; however, I try not to worry about it too much. I feel like I have enough daily worry, but I also agree that the actions, comments they see/hear now will shape the men they become. Parenting can be complicated.

  7. says

    After my kids, I got down to 155! I was thrilled- and then I took adavntage of my new found figure and ate myself all the way back up to 200 in 2 years. It is hard to accept it- and maybe I shouldn’t. I need to know that my outside does not define me as less of a catch:)
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  8. says

    I’m tearing up! Ugh, right now I’m really struggling with my weight and body image and trying so hard not to let it show… I have two daughters, ages 2 and 3, and I know that if they ever come to me feeling the way that I do now, I wouldn’t hesitate to tell them, “You are beautiful from the inside out. You are unique. Love yourself for everything you are.”  Trying to reminding myself of this everyday until it finally clicks – I so want to love myself again and be a positive role model for my girls!
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  9. says

    Geez I know you wanted him to be honest but he did go there…and it wasnt nice. Wow that was a blow to my own heart. Wow did he ever clarify what he was trying to say or apologize for being so harsh??? I dont have kids yet but if I have a boy(s) I will stress the importance on how to treat a woman. I think we always leave the responsibility to the man, but what if the man kinda doesnt know himself. It take more mothers to train their sons how to treat other women (not just how to be nice to mommy).

  10. says

    Very honest thoughts here. My husband and I have been together almost 10 years (married almost 7) and he still compliments me – when I make an effort and when I don’t. I’m fairly certain he means the things he says to me (which is only one of the reasons I married him.) :)
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  11. says

    Amen! I think the most important this is how WE feel about ourselves. Sure I would LOVE to be 30 lbs thinner. I would love to look like I did when I met my husband, but do I really care? No. Not really. I rather be eating oreos (double stuf of course) and watching Survivor than running on a treadmill and I am a-ok with that!
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  12. Carly says

    Scary isn’t it? I went to UCSB, and was in the sorority he targeted.  It really hits close to home…..and makes me so sad.  As a mom of a little girl…..I worry about the world she lives in!

  13. says

    I am not married but my 6 year old son is very observant and has been for as long as I can remember.  He notices everything.  Ifi change my hair or wear a new outfit he will tell me how much he likes it or how pretty I am.  I have even seen him at work on others.  We were in walmart one day and he walked up to a woman and told her that she had pretty eye brows, it was so random.  He wasn’t taught any of that however in the back of my mind I sometimes thing he may be a smooth talker. 
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  14. says

    My husband and I have such completely different ways that we think about almost every single thing, that I worry sometimes. For the kids. So far, so good…they’re turning into (or in the case of the grown two, have turned into) wonderful wonderful wonderful people. Still two left to go though, one who is a girl (the only girl) and that is worrisome too. lol  I sound very worried…but I’m not consumed. Just careful/aware. :) It’s hard to know you’re doing everything right, especially when there are opposing views abounding. ;)
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  15. says

    Well I don’t have a husband, but I did and this may not be the more popular response. I think we as women (and men too) get into the cycle of where we stop trying. In the beginning we tried to present ourselves as best as we can to attract our spouses but over time we stop. Why? I know life happens and kids and running a household, but we gotta keep the sexiness going in a marriage and that does include taking care of our bodies. I know having kids wreak havoc on our bodies, but there is so much we can do to counteract some of the effects. I hate to say it, but we sometimes get lazy. I think your husbands truthfulness should be a strong message to bring SEXY back…..on his side as well. There’s his nothing like a marriage where both people not only love, but LIKE each other and are still really attracted to each other.
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  16. says

    It was interesting to read this post which started with a desire to raise children who are not misogynists and discussions about inner and outer beauty. At the end of the day we must find and appreciate our inner beauty.

  17. says

    Oh, gosh.  I’m trying to put myself in that conversation and to decide whether I’d want the truth (which I’ve always asked for), or if I’d want a nicer answer.  I can relate to your feelings of self-esteem slipping away with the comment, though; after college I was feeling decently confident in my appearance and fitness level.  I dated a guy who told me one night “you’re so pretty, but you’d be even hotter if you lost five pounds”.  I don’t even know how you’d notice FIVE pounds, but I still to this day can remember what a slap that felt like.

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