At this point in time, it’s safe to say she’s quite pregnant. No, she’s not eating everything in sight. In fact, she did not really at at all for the first three months. Most of the weight she has gained is truly baby weight.
But it’s funny. While she was sick for three months, she put me in charge of making meals. She just could not stand the sight or smell of cooking food. And so for three months, I made dinner every night. And even though she struggled to force down a meal, I never felt sick. I just kept putting the food away like I always have.
And then a couple of weeks ago, my sweetie, the woman I love, sat down next to me on the couch.
“Honey, I have to say something”
“You aren’t going to like this.”
“It’s just that…Are you putting on some sympathy weight?”
And just like that, my pregnant wife had called me out for being fat.
I Thought This Was a Woman’s Problem
Now I will admit that I have been playfully ribbing my dear wife about her bigness, and she has been a great sport about it. When we picnicked over the weekend, as she stood up, the picnic table we were sitting on moved like a seesaw, which got a big laugh from both of us. But there was no joking in her voice when she called out my weight. She was really telling me I was going soft.
Strangely, in my blog feeder last week, there were no fewer than three blogs from different writers about body image.
Including this one.
And this one.
And this one.
And if you actually clicked on the links, you’d see that all of those posts were written by women. Which is what I would have expected. My blog feed is not normally filled with guys lamenting the size and shape of their bodies.
And so I was torn. Guys aren’t supposed to be worried about their bodies are they? Having body image issues is a woman’s domain, isn’t it? At least, guys aren’t supposed to talk about how they feel about their bodies, right?
What Do You Mean I’m Too Fat?
The thing about my wife telling me I am getting fatter is that she did not tell me anything I did not already know. She was not pointing out anything that I already did not like about myself.
Let me tell you, for twenty-seven years, I milked the Appling genetic code for all its worth. High metabolism was my constant friend, so that through high school and college, I was always on the low end of the BMI charts. The doctor would ask me about my routine. I would tell him about how I delivered phone books during the mornings and ate pizza all afternoon, and he said, “Well, keep it up.” I thought the ride would last forever.
But it didn’t. For the last three years or so, my body has felt like a slow-moving train wreck as my skinny genes get all stretched out. I weighed myself for the first time in ages and was shocked by the number. It was the highest number I’ve ever seen on a scale. Still “skinny” by many standards, but definitely a strong vertical trend (or is it horizontal?) When there are treats in the house, I know that I don’t have self-control (I never had to learn it!) I know that kids are constantly bringing birthday treats to my room. When did kids start celebrating half-birthdays anyway?
So for my wife to tell me what she sees was no surprise to me. She wasn’t pointing out anything that I already did not like. I had been frowning at my slowly expanding self for a few years.
No One Likes What Their Momma Gave Them
Actually, this is nothing new, and it’s not about feeling my age all of a sudden. When I think back on it, I really have spent most of my life not liking what I see in the mirror.
I did not appreciate my skinniness when I was in school. All I wanted to do was bulk up a little bit. I saw a scrawny kid in those ridiculous gym shorts, picked last for every team. Since then, I’ve never felt really at home in a gym.
I saw a kid whose clothes never fit as well as they did on the mannequins. I saw a kid who desperately needed contact lenses instead of dorky glasses.
And now that I’m in my thirties, I’m still not really satisfied with what I see in the mirror, even though I ditched the eyewear (though it’s come back in style) and my clothes fit better.
But as guys, we are told we are not supposed to care. It’s unmasculine to care. It’s vain to care about what we see in the mirror. If we care, then we are just “metrosexual” or whatever.
Well that’s just great. Not only do I not like what I see, but I feel less manly for not liking what I see.
I am convinced that the vast majority of us do not really like what we see in ourselves. We are the artists who see the flaws in our own work, the musicians who hear the sour note that no one else is tuning into. We are our own toughest enemies and worst critics.
I’m not saying that we are powerless to change ourselves. I went back to the gym after a long hiatus.
I can accept that my big pregnant wife is okay with me and all my flaws. But I have to come to a place where I am okay with the guy I see in the mirror. And that’s a lot more than accepting the body I look at every day.
What about you? What makes you self-conscious?