My sisters and I noticed early on as youngsters that every woman/mother over 35 in our family had a perm that had slowly morphed into a helmet shape that hugged her skull. You know, the kind you don't wash that much but just sort of pouf out with a pick and get redone every few weeks? We called it the helmet head, and we vowed immediately to warn each other in an instant the moment we saw impending signs of helmet-headed doom.
To us, this was a sign of having given up, having crossed over to the dark side. And though I couldn't have articulated it then, it was basically what we thought "looking like a mom" looked like. Frumpy, boring, asexual — like a woman with no regard for her own identity outside of motherhood. Like she'd used up her vag for its one true purpose and now she could get down to some dusting.
If a friend's mother didn't "look like a mom," for instance, that was undoubtedly a compliment — shorthand for saying she looked young and pretty, and had accomplished the holy grail of beating back the hip-accommodating wardrobe, sensible accessories and mature haircut that signals the end. But it was more than that: It was as if being a mother was so single-minded and all-consuming, not to mention proper and pure, that a woman must immediately eradicate any signs of desirability or inhabiting a body once capable of actual sex.
But I was just a teenager then, and now that I'm a mom and a woman in her thirties, I have to say, I am LOVING the relaxed fit jeans and the comfortable shoes that come with — just kidding, I totally dress the same as before, albeit a bigger, just-had-a-baby-and-of-course-I'm-not-in-my-20s version. And yet, I still have the same idea of what a mom looks like, and especially, how in spite of looking like I've had a baby, that I don't necessarily look like a mom. Really, though, who am I kidding, and more importantly, why do I even care?
Because basically, being a mom used to be synonymous with unfuckable. Sure, there were always attractive women having babies and staying hot, but overall, the concept, historically and otherwise, is one of noble self-sacrifice and not one of bangin' hotness. I'm tempted to say we should all go thank a MILF for changing that perception, but those chicks really just put more pressure on women having babies to not look like they had any babies. It's all fucked up, just like your body after giving birth.
Don't get me wrong, I'm not a revisionist: I don't want to erase proof that I've given birth, even if I literally have a mini skirt of stretch marks. I actually find the new imperfections kind of cool in the battle scars sense, but there are things I am not so crazy about, and yet, still I refuse to devote the majority of my day to bending.
What I want is simple: a level of comfort with my new body — whatever that is going to be, and I'm still not sure nearly three years later — that still feels like I am a sexual and autonomous person, but without all the intense presh to go whole hog. Whole hot hog, of course.
But therein lies the illusion: We act as if it's merely a matter of choice, when in fact, what you look like after becoming a mother has everything to do with genetics, resources, energy, effort and the desire to transcend nature's reckless path toward ass-flattening.
In the end, I have decided I want to ride the lightning right down the middle, or what I like to think of as hedging fuckability at all times. This means I would like to remain totally fuckable except not at all. Like a kaleidoscope of desire, I would like to represent both extremes of possibility, hopefully simultaneously, so that the result is both intriguing and confusing. Don't ask me to explain this just yet — I'm working on some schematics and will present them in due time.
This is perhaps a heightened issue for me in Los Angeles, where many of the moms I see at playgrounds on the west side look about as much like a stereotypical mom as I look like a Kardashian. In other words, they are aggressive eradicators of all proof a baby ever slipped through their bodies. Instead of frumping out, they are lean, lithe and sexy, I suspect sometimes even leaner, lither and sexier than before.
This is troubling on multiple levels: For one, motherhood used to be an excuse for avoiding all kinds of things, and sadly, I've noticed that the get-out-of-everything-free card I thought motherhood would bring doesn't really have the same cache it once did. I wanted to skip a lot of boring activities and get a minimum of five years' sympathy for weight gain after having a child, but it turns out that if Kate Hudson can exercise away her baby body in six months working out six hours a day, then you, average woman, should at least be able to do a coupla leg lifts in between burritos.
But if you're like me and sort of ornery by design, it all makes you just wanna roll up on a bitch with rat's nest hair wearing a sweat suit covered in tuna juice. Don't ask me WHY tuna juice. I not only don't want to be them, I also want to make a concerted, transparent effort to NOT be them. And I want them to have to deal with it. I realize it proves nothing and hurts only my child's chance of making upwardly mobile friends.
But I know what you're thinking — where does the fuckable part come in? You know, with the sweat suit and tuna juice? Good question. When no one else is around I can still make a reasonable effort, but only for my husband and only in private and only sometimes. He LOVES it. Kidding, it's a disaster. Please give advice in the comments.
Also, if Halloween costumes are any barometer for shifts in public feeling on the issue of women's bodies, then this wig I ran across the other day at a costume store that purports to be a "Mom Wig" is only supporting my theory that the unfuckable mom image is still a rager. The good news is, at least this is something I'm really comfortable with aesthetically in my family. They are probably already waiting with open arms.
Tracy Moore is a writer living in Los Angeles. She's got two mom wigs and a can of tuna juice at the ready for Halloween. Talk me out of it on Twitter @iusedtobepoor.