I've been watching the Olympics. Well, that's not quite true. I've been watching beach volleyball and Kerri Walsh's ass. Mesmerized by her tush. Is it OK to say that out loud? Although I've grown accustomed to my curves, there's something about a lean little butt I've always envied.
When I was a young woman, the worst thing someone could say about your body was that you had a big ass. I was a skinny adolescent, but that ended rather abruptly in high school, when I grew wide and meaty hips in a single summer. I was devastated. Even my mother seemed disappointed, as though somehow she thought I would be spared. She had her own demons.
We’d be at the grocery store. She’d see a woman with ample hips and pull me aside.
“Is my butt that big?”
And the thing is, she did not have unusually large hips. My mother was a classic apple, who mostly carried extra weight in her mid-section. I take after my dad’s side of the family. The cancerous pears. Most of my height is in my torso, and I carry excess weight in my hips and thighs.
So, my mom, who didn’t even have a big butt spent her adulthood worrying about it anyway. I can only assume I learned anxiety by example. The first thing I’d ask when I tried on a new outfit or before going out was, well, you know ...
“Does this make my butt look big?”
As I’ve mentioned before, I gained a good deal of weight as a young woman. I lost the weight in my early 20s. I was married and living in Germany, and I sent my mother a picture of my svelte self. She was impressed. Other mothers might leave it at that, but Lillian had to take it another step. She asked me what size panties I wore. I said size 7. She was like, no way, surely I was smaller than that.
I ended up putting on a pair of panties and asked my husband to take a Polaroid of me from behind. I mailed it to her and wrote, “My size 7 butt.” We laughed about that for years. When she died, I went home and was flipping through some family photo albums, and there it was! I was going to take it out when my sister wasn’t looking, but it made me laugh, so I left it there for future generations.
It’s hard to remember when I stopped worrying about whether my butt was big or small or something in between. I just stopped worrying. Part of it is the culture. In high school, my girlfriends and I all wanted to be skinny. Having a tiny ass was somehow a mark of superiority. Power over ourselves, or power over the other girls? The culture changed, I don’t know, 10 or 15 years ago? Butts became fashionable. Geez, they even do butt implants now. That’s one of those things that if someone told you 30 years ago it would happen, you would say that person was smoking crack -- if we had known crack existed.
Thank you, younger generation, for giving us back our butts. It is such a pleasure to just put on clothes that fit and live life without all that unnecessary angst. Big, small, whatever -- it's just who we are. No self-loathing allowed. I still admire the beauty of an athletic body such as Kerri Walsh’s, but maybe I just like checking out chicks.
By the way, did you see the abs on those runners?
This post originally included a photo to illustrate, but I've since deleted it. You will see reference to the photo in the comments, if you should get so far.