Rubber duckie. Check.
Little Mermaid wash cloth. Check.
Pink Disney teapot and tiny teacups. Check and check.
There we were, mother and daughter, splashing together in the bathtub. She was barely two and I was, well, old enough to be her mother. As she carefully measured and poured and chattered on about princesses and puppies and preschool, I watched her, relishing in the precious, innocent moments of her toddlerhood.
“I lub you, Mommy,” she said as she handed me my bath time tea service with her chubby pink fingers. “Be careful. It’s hot! Blow on it first.”
I pretended to drink the tea from the tiny teacup.
“Mmmmm, delicious,” I cooed. “May I please have some more?”
Hey, I wasn’t going to miss an opportunity to teach manners! With pleases and thank yous, we’d replay this scene over and over until our fingertips wrinkled like raisins.
Bath time was our time. Sweet. Sacred. A time to wash away the grime and stress of the day along with the remnants of the mac’n’cheese she had for dinner. A time to sing and giggle and talk. To blow bubbles and bond.
Then one day, everything changed. We’d finished our shampooing and our tea and I flipped the lever to let the water out. As the tepid water drained away revealing goosebumps and flesh, she looked at me and said, “Mommy, you look like an old woo-man,” her long Os oozing out as woo-man.
Ouch! Huh? An old woman?
I’m sure I visibly cringed. I knew my post-baby bod was not exactly fit for Baywatch, but still! Was it so awful a toddler would notice? Seriously…an old woo-man?
She must have sensed my shock because, before I could utter a word, she smiled and said, “That’s okay, Mommy, you are an old woo-man,” and patted my knee.
As if that would explain it all. And you know what? It did. At two, she was not judging. She was simply stating a fact. She was calling it like she saw it. To her, I was an old woo-man. And that was okay. I was her mom. An old woman with squishy parts and saggy bits. The same old woman who washed her hair, drank her tea and loved her unconditionally.
Why can’t we seem offer this kind of matter-of-fact, unconditional love to ourselves? Saggy bits, crows feet and all. Why can’t we forget the judgement and comparisons and simply observe? And dare I say appreciate? I know, it’s hard to appreciate wrinkles and stretch marks and age spots. And it’s really hard to appreciate peeing a little when you sneeze.
Don’t get me wrong, I wish I had the skin my Instagram filter gives me—acne-free and smooth. I long for the boobs of my early 20s—perky and pointing north. I dream of the hair of my teens—thick, curly and without the slightest hint of gray. And my waistline, well, you get the idea.
But guess what! In spite of what the beauty companies say, aging is not a sin. Sure, they tell us, “You’re getting old and that’s bad. But never fear, we can fix it!” And if we purchase their miracle products or services, they assure us they can turn back the hands of time and reveal our true beauty.
To that I call bullshit.
I’ve earned every one of my stretch marks.
Every. Single. One.
And I don’t need any outside judgement telling me I’m not okay. More so, I don’t need to be judging myself too harshly. If there was ever a place for perspective, this is it!
I know too many women who radiate inner beauty to fall for that load of crap. These women come in all shapes, sizes, colors and ages. Some (gasp) even have gray hair! They may or may not see an aesthetician, attend Weight Watchers, or use anti-aging products. It doesn’t matter to me. Like my daughter in the bathtub, I appreciate them unconditionally, whether they wear makeup or not. Whether they carry a few extra pounds or not. Whether they invest in plastic surgery or not. I see their beauty in how they treat others. Their actions and words make them gorgeous. Anything else is just frosting.
Please know, my friends, that I’m not telling you to not take care of yourself. And I’m not judging you if you choose to blast your age spot with laser beams. I have my own drawer full of creams and potions. I color my hair each month. I get to decide what’s right for me. You get to decide what’s right for you. Nobody else gets to do it, especially not the negative voices in your head that tell you you’re not beautiful enough or thin enough or whatever enough.
You. Are. Enough.
You get to celebrate your womanhood without apologies for your years of experience. You get to grow older gracefully. You get to be you. Beautiful you, inside and out.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to go wash my collagen mask off before I take a bubble bath…alone.