Thursday, April 15, 2010

To Cop A Feel - as published in Underwired Magazine

In the checkout line, Aubrey creeps under my skirt and stands up to run her fingers across my bare buns. She’s three and I’m used to her innocent caresses; however, I’m not prepared for her cold fingers goosing me as I pay for groceries, or the echoes of her voice bouncing off linoleum floors, glass doors and an open cash register with the holler of “Hey Mommy! Why aren’t you wearing any panties?”

I wince and blush at the checker suppressing her laugh and the guy in line behind me with bearded stubble and a 12-pack. I guide Aubrey down – and out – of there, and then ask her to please stand beside me and hold off on further observations. Please.

I’m not about to explain the subtle nuances of underwear at Safeway to a three-year-old: I’m not about to tell her and our neighbors in line that I am indeed wearing underwear, but I’m wearing what we call a thong, which would give her more to figure out and a more elaborate image for our neighbor than makes me comfortable.

I save that conversation for the van ride home, where I explain differences in underwear choices and panty lines to a little girl who will later that week hike her panties up to her armpits, creating a sort of toddler thong, and run through the house yelling, “I’m Mommy! I’m Mommy!”

Recently, her attention has turned to my breasts, and has advanced to petting. Heavy petting if I don’t stop her.

She cops a feel when we read books, when I finish a shower, when I wear a pretty blouse. She starts with the outer curves, working circles around them, and moves her way inward, skimming the nipples. She pokes, she strokes, she kisses.

I feel like a teenager in the back seat after Sadie Hawkins. I try to fend her off with a smile and the option to, say, just hold hands. “But, hey!” she seems to plea. “You invited me! And, after all, I love you!”

As unnerving, and even annoying, as these experiences can be, I know it’s healthy that my daughter is curious about the female body – mine, in particular – and that she is expressing herself this way. In fact, I’m grateful she admires what she sees and feels. It’s taken me years to get to that point. It’s taken me years of unassuming one-piece swimsuits, control top pantyhose, and bad posture to make my breasts seem smaller, all because I didn’t think the fullness, the billows, and the curviness of my body deserved much more.

My own mother had full breasts, thick thighs and a stomach that wasn’t flat. She was active – skiing, hiking, wearing short shorts and two-pieces without worrying about looking perfect – and she otherwise dressed in a classic style she thought served her figure well. I didn’t necessarily admire her body, and I never caressed it with Aubrey’s zeal, but I intently watched how she handled it, which seemed confident if somewhat careful.

A child of the ‘70s, my strongest notions of body size and proportion probably came from television. Wonder Woman, with her large breasts, small waist and cottage-cheese-free thighs set an early standard for me. As did posters of Farrah Fawcett at my dad’s house and any commercial with an attractive woman in it. I watched wholesome shows like Little House on the Prairie and Diff’rent Strokes, too, but my mind clung to images of women filling out their jeans and skirts, and even their prairie dresses, just so.

So when my daughter, who doesn’t watch commercial television, feels me up, telling me she loves me, that I’m beautiful, and that she wants to be just like me when she grows up, I start to understand that this size 12 body of mine is getting exactly the attention and admiration it deserves. Aubrey’s perspective is pure.

Some of that pure perspective rubbed off on me this summer, when I saw my mother and my aunt together. Both in their sixties now, their knees are dimpled, their waists are thickening, their arms are firm, and their breasts are still large, if slightly lower. They played croquet, they sat and talked, they ate from the snack tray. They laughed at the dog sniffing where nobody wanted him to sniff. They weren’t self-conscious. They were happy. They were comfortable.

I thought, Look at them. Look how they move with agility and strength, how they smile and laugh with confidence. Look how they accept themselves and enjoy others. And then I thought, That’s me. That’s me in 30 years. Look how lovely they are – and look who I’m going to be.

Perhaps Aubrey’s having that revelation now. Perhaps when she runs her fingers across my backside, gropes my chest, and asks when she’ll get her own set of breasts or if I’ll save my pink panties for her, she’s literally embracing who she is and who she’s going to be someday.

Who knows? Maybe I should have tested the limits of the cue I’d taken from Aubrey this summer. Maybe when I admired my mother and my aunt, I should have grabbed handfuls of their butts and their boobs like Aubrey would – if only to fully embrace my destiny, too.


Anonymous said...

This is so beautiful! I see so many girls this age already self conscious and worried about becoming "fat" at 9 years old. Lucky little girl to have a role model like you! Beauty comes from self confidence.

Cathy Burke

Jennie Englund said...

The "heavy petting" still sends me into a giggle fit.

And that cover is A.MAZ.ING! Yes, it HAS to go on your kitchen wall!


Anonymous said...

Thanks again, Anjie, for your deep insights and that Underwired Magazine recognized your talent.
Wish I could go back in time and have had such valuable experiences with my Mom as you and Aubrey had and still have. NO WAY would I have been curious about my Mom's curves, let alone even spoken to her about my thoughts - they just weren't there and certainly wouldn't come up as a topic of interest. I'm a tad envious, can you tell?
BUT I'm completely supportive of "To Cop A Feel" - excellent writing while describing thoughtfully a sensitive topic - to me, not fortunately to you and 'curious' Aubrey.

anjie said...

Thanks for your comments, everybody.

Jan, I can especially appreciate that your generation tended to be silent about body questions and image. But it's also your generation that started to speak out about it, because it didn't seem healthy to be so quiet. We're just standing on your shoulders. And Aubrey will stand on mine. And so on and so on.

Thanks for your comments and encouragement!

Love, Anjie

KUrlie said...

Whoot! Awesome as usual Anj. And while I believe fully that you need to frame this sucker as a tribute to your successes, I also think the cover should go on our fridge doors, to remind us that cans of frosting and jars of peanut butter do not make us happy - they give us horse-sized asses. It's really a multifaceted WHOOT! :)

Bug said...

I just love that kid!

Anonymous said...

BRAVO!! So fun...and your transition to each next incident is so smooth.
When I read this again, I laughed SO MUCH at every scene and especially "guide her down - and out - of there" clever. Loved the way you kept your cool and then used it for a teaching moment (in the van) and, of course, Aubrey's response to the lesson later. FUNNY little girl, who has a SUPER mother!
Just really a great observation and acceptance of what was and is to come!
Hmmm, how true, Karen. Still fight those urges myself.
I could go on and on. Will definately make sure "No Panty Auntie" gets this.
Keep it up, Anj.
Love, Mom

Anonymous said...

PS. I mailed a hard copy to GG. Can't wait to hear her response. She loves your writing!

Kierah Jane Reilly said...

This was beautiful! It actually brought tears to my eyes - and not because I was laughing (which I was). You are an amazing writer, and I'm grateful to know you.

Uncle Lorren said...

Hey Anjie. Can't beleive my neice see's her anunt and mother different then I. Loved this.Hope Sharen and Laurie got a big chuckle.
Love ya, your redneck Uncle Lorren

anjie said...

Hey Uncle Lorren, nice to know I helped you see your sisters in a new light! Thanks for commenting - and for reading the story. Love you, Mr. Redneck. -Anj

And, Jane, thanks for stopping by and commenting! I'm glad you liked the essay. :)

Jen said...

Love your blog, the raw emotion and the blog title is brilliant!!! I look forward to following you!

Wow what an experience! I have to say that it will be an interesting day when I have children and need to go through this! You handled the situation beautifully though!

Anonymous said...

Awesome! Simply awesome!


Wendy Jung said...

Congrats Anj! Great writing. Although I have to admit that I was a bit disappointed that you did have undies on...I was waiting to see the explanation of why you didn't. :)