I’m a confident woman. That’s what I tell everyone. I believe me when I say it. They do, too.
“You look so cute in that dress, Hannah,” compliments my coworker.
I wink at her and say, “I know what I got.” She laughs. We giggle.
“I wish I had your confidence.”
“You should. We’re too beautiful for this office. Alas, we must slave away to get our pay when we should be off modeling somewhere.”
Her eyes shine, her hand fluffs springy, gorgeous hair, her hip shoots to the side. She believes me when I say I am beautiful. She believes me when I say she is beautiful. We are the most gorgeous women to walk into this school. It is our truth.
Today I wake up and decide to spend time looking in the mirror. It’s a Saturday, so I have time for luxuries like this. I don’t spend a lot of time on my hair or makeup because I think it’s my right to not spend thirty minutes on my face when I could be sleeping. My husband does not have to do any of that to be respected, to look good, so neither do I.
Then I look closely and I see dark hair growing where hair didn’t used to grow, drooping where my neck was once firm, lines around my eyes. I come in close, stare at the stray hairs and think, for a moment, “You are hideous today, more man than woman.” Maybe I should slab on some foundation.
I grab the chub that muffins around the top of my jeans and I sneer at it. “I just got rid of you last summer, but you’re back again! You snuck up on me this winter, you fiend!” Maybe I should wear those granny spanks that sit tight over my ribs and under my boobs, causing sweat to gather and breath to falter. I don’t have to sit today. I can just pretend I like to stand, so the granny panties won’t roll off my fat and expose my lies.
Because my mind is a wonder, trained to concentrate on diminishing my self-worth, it thinks, “What will you do when you go to Vegas? You don’t have to wear shorts here. You can pretend you like your legs in Washington state, cover them in jeans and fat girl tights. But in Vegas you’ll have to stomp those chubby things around for all to see, or pretend that you like it when your legs sweat inside stifling jeans.”
I start to see a different me than the one I thought I was. I become morphed to me, too long to be too bumpy, but I am. I’m bumpy and long. I’m turkey necked, bat-winged, mulleted, snaggle-toothed, rat-eyed….
“What are you doing, mommy?” Mommy. That’s me. That’s right. I’m mommy. What a stunning thing to be.
I turn to her, and her eyes shine in that way that tells me she sees something different than what I see when I start to berate me. I realize I never want her to treat her amazing self the way I started to treat me. So I pretend, again, to love myself. For her. For my son. For women. For me.
”Just looking at how awesome I am today. You know what I found out?”
She tilts her head to the side, crinkles her nose in curiosity and answers, “What?”
“That I look better than I even knew, so good I better not wear makeup or brush my hair. I don’t want to have to fight off compliments all day.”
And she believes me. I see that she agrees, and when she says, “Yeah, that’s true,” I believe her.
And when I say, “Yeah, I’m so beautiful that I didn’t think I’d ever see anything as good as me in the mirror, but then…”
“Then I made you and brother, and I decided I was wrong. I’m beautiful, but you’re both the most beautiful.”
And we believe me.
I turn from the mirror and look at my daughter who truly is perfection to me, and I remember to remember that a beautiful mother and beautiful father made her and we are perfect in her eyes. When we speak our truths our children, listen. I do not speak the darkness that whispers only my flaws. I will not allow that to become my truth, her truth.
We walk away from my doubt hand-in-hand, and I realize something about me when I see her smooth little hands encased in hands that have aged, chubby if long fingers, garden-torn nails. This feeling, this hand in mine, is enchanting. The two most beautiful beings in that moment were we.
I believe me.
H.M. Jones is the author of the BRAG Medallion, NIEA Finalist dark fantasy, Monochrome, which centers around a mother’s struggle with postpartum depression after her first child. She is also the author of the young adult graphic novel series Adela Darken: Potent Undead. Her poetry is published in several anthologies, as are her sci-fi/fantasy/magical realism short stories. She has been a featured blogger for Stigma Fighters, Rachel in the OC, Feminine Collective, and HuffPost Women, so, yeah, she writes a lot. She teaches college when she’s not writing. She’s the mother of two great kids, three loud chickens, one litter-spreading cat, and one silly mutt. She lives in the pacific northwest with Mr. Jones, and, yes, she likes the rain.