Sunday, March 29, 2009

A Perfect Figure

We were wandering through the Blanton museum as a respite from the humidity of July in Austin. Some of our party were enthralled by the post-modern art (a piece involving a sea of pennies, hanging cow bones, and a tower of communion wafers was causing quite a stir), but Deborah and I quietly found the floor exhibiting plaster castes of Rennaisance-era statuary. They were beautiful, nudes of women lounging lazily, curls framing their temples, hands discretely covering where their legs were lightly crossed. They made me feel as relaxed as they were. Deborah said she wonders when they stopped being the ideal of womanly beauty. I stop and stare again, this time comparing them to the women who are idolized today. The statue women have full hips and thighs, dimples just above their buttocks, a slight roundness below their navals. Their arms are full, their breasts are full, even their faces are full. They are fifty to one hundred pounds heavier than the ideal American beauty today. Her descriptive words are so different from the soft, round words my mind had been conjuring for the statue. The American beauty favors words like "flat," "tight," and "thin." Strange how unfulfilling it sounds when you strip it down to just the words.

Yesterday, as I stood in front of the bathroom mirror, tugging a pair of Spanx on over my substantial figure, I thought back to that day at the museum. At the Blanton, I was a thin woman admiring a statue of a rounder woman. I was flat, tight. She was full, soft. Now I am a more, well, maternally shaped woman. Can I admire my figure as I admired hers? Will I fall into the trap, the obsession with "getting back" to my former shape? Or will I move forward, into the beauty of a body that can nurture with its curves and its softness?

Please understand: I am not talking about "letting it go." I want to give my son the gift of a mama who is healthy, who will live long and share his life's joys and sorrows. I want to be able to look at myself in the mirror and feel confident and secure in my own beauty. What I'm hoping to achieve is a balance between the stick figure woman and the curvy Rennaissance woman. D'Linn once said, "Stop lamenting that you don't look like a sixteen-year-old anymore. You are not sixteen. And it's okay to have the body of a woman instead of the body of a child." The body of a woman...what a beautiful thing. It can grow and nurture life. I have fuller thighs and hips than I used to (and, yes, stretchmarks to boot!), much fuller breasts than I ever imagined possible, and a little bit of fluff around my once toned midsection. When my baby boy searches for a comfortable place to lay his downy head, I know he can find it in my body. When he is hungry, I can feed him from that same body. In short, I have a perfect figure.

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