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.
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.”
“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.