Fresh out of the shower, I stare at my naked body in the mirror.
Look at those love handles. And that pooch! My hips are definitely spreading. I can’t believe I’m going to stuff this body into a swimsuit at the beach in just a few weeks. I’ve got to start exercising again. I’m definitely going to the gym this weekend.
Once dressed, I survey the outfit I’ve selected – a three-year-old floral peasant skirt and scoop-necked tee from Ann Taylor Loft accessorized with a wide leather belt, coordinating wedge sandals, and a pair of dangling earrings given to me as a gift by my husband.
I hate my clothes. And I can’t accessorize for shit. God, I’m dull. I dressed cute once. But now? I don’t even like to go shopping anymore. When did I lose my sense of style? When did I stop caring?
Standing over my bathroom sink, I examine my freshly-applied makeup.
I look washed out. My makeup is so boring. Except for the color of my eye shadow and lipstick – when I even wear it – I never vary my routine. Meh… why bother? I don’t care how many smoky eye tutorials I pin, I will never be able to pull off that look. Is my blush splotchy?
Rubbing a dab of product through my hair, I scrutinize my no-fuss pixie cut.
Ugh. I look positively middle-aged. I hate the way this cut grows out. It doesn’t look sexy or hip or edgy. Is it even feminine?
There is a woman I know in passing. She’s beautiful. Her makeup is always flawless, her long blonde mane perfectly coiffed, her figure fabulous. She is professionally accomplished and exudes confidence and poise. Always well-dressed with a mega-watt smile, she cannot take a bad picture.
Even in her downtime, she looks amazing; I know because I once saw her at the pumpkin patch with her equally-adorable family. She simply does not have an off day.
To me, she represents The Unattainable. Someone I will never be. An adversary of my own making.
I give my appearance one last critical glance and go downstairs to find that my two-year-old has pulled all the dish towels out of a drawer and scattered them across the kitchen floor, which is in dire need of a vacuum. The island is cluttered with unsorted mail, several Caillou books are strewn haphazardly about the adjoining family room, and a lone sock rests beneath the kitchen table. It looks like a small tornado has blown through my home and the illusion adds to my general sense of unkemptness.
But I can’t worry about that at the moment. My only priority is get to work on time, which means we must leave now. But as I attempt to herd my easily-distracted child out the door, my mind wanders again to The Unattainable and her inevitably spotless house. I wonder… does she ever feel like she’s drowning?
Image Source: Natalie’s Sentiments
At school, I kiss my daughter good-bye and hurry back down the second-floor hallway of the musty old building. I’m the only one in the corridor and the rhythmic click-click-clicking of my heels echoes off its walls. It’s a lonely sound.
As I push open the door to the stairwell, I encounter another mom ushering her two children toward their classroom. I don’t recognize her.
“Oh, look at you!” she exclaims to me. “You’re so pretty! I wish I could look like that. I look like a frazzled housewife.”
I pause, startled, my eyes involuntarily assessing her. She wears baggy scrubs and no makeup and a sheepish smile. There are circles under her eyes. Her shaggy, shoulder-length hair looks slightly over-processed, its auburn hue offset by darker roots at the crown. She’s by no means unattractive; just a little bedraggled.
But had she not brought her appearance to my attention, I wouldn’t have noticed these surface flaws. I would have seen only a fellow mom. One who, like me, was just trying to keep her head above water. And I would have smiled at her in greeting. And in unity.
Instead, I find myself stammering out a surprised thank-you in response to her compliment. And in that moment, I realize that to some women, I may represent The Unattainable.
And also that, as a collective group, we are each our own worst adversary.
Who (or what) represents your unattainable ideal?