Ode to Maternity Clothes

Thank you, maternity clothes, for making me feel less attractive than I already am

I realize the orb-like appendage extending from my midsection leaves you with lofty goals to attain; still, you fall grievously short of your endgame

With fabrics somewhere between highly viscous jet fuel and canvas starched to within an inch of its life

With shoe-string thin ties that either knot in one’s back or threaten to dip in the toilet in an already awkward dance

With handkerchief hems that add volume to our thighs, yet leave our sausage-like backside showing

Thank you

Thank you for pricing anything that looks remotely like real clothing out of range of anyone in her right mind – for three months of wear

Thank you to your merchandising gurus who decided to place your displays next to the plus size wear

Thank you for providing an infinite amount of baby-doll tops to go with three proffered pairs of pants

And to your partner in crime: the fitting room mirror

Thank you for showing me the parts of myself that I hadn’t realized has gotten so hairy under that belly

Thank you for accentuating just how wide my side view now is

Thank you for sallow skin, double chin, and purple circles under the eyes

Maternity clothes, you suck – only slightly more than trying you on


‘Portrait of an Unknown Lady’ by Marcus Gheeraerts II



Pop IS a Weasel

Whatever our proclivities in music, whether we like it or not, pop music is infectious.  It’s catchy, has a funky beat to it, and makes us want to move our bodies – most of the time.  Pop is, after all, an abbreviated form of popular.

I, however, shunned this mainstream music sometime around tenth grade, when Kurt Cobain and Eddie Vedder burst on the scene with their unapologetically noisy and angsty music.  Bubble gum and lip gloss and boyfriends?  Ugh.  Gritty guitar and grunge and pissed-off people?  Yes!

I scoffed at the perfectly polished, canned rhythms and the lifestyle it seemed to eschew.  I slapped a bumper sticker for the local ‘modern rock’ radio station on my car and changed the channel for, oh, about 25 years.

And then my children discovered how the controls on the radio worked.  They discovered the bouncy, syncopated beats.  They called out from their belted backseat bastions for the bastions of popular culture.


from www.nursery-rhymes.org

Who me?

It was only a matter of time, really.  I remember belting out every single word to Laura Branigan’s “Gloria” as a kindergartener.  They only want what feels good and sounds good, with none of the prejudicies of high art vs. low, sophistication vs. simplicity.

However, it is in being forced to listening to these songs and music that I’ve made an important cultural discovery. There’s a whole lot of people walking around completely clueless of their personal worth.

Listen to One Direction’s “What Makes You Beautiful” (I’d post the link but that totally crosses the line of my personal philosophy. Sorry – you’ll have to find it on your own).  “You’re insecure” is the first line of the song.  You don’t know you’re beautiful? Looking at the ground when someone looks at her?  The entire song is these young men pointing out to the female subject that everything about her is what makes her beautiful.

Bruno Mars’ “Treasure”: a song worth it just for his Jackson 5/Early Michael Jackson-esque singing, but that also has a theme of not knowing one’s worth.  Despite being wonderful and flawless, the subject “walk[s] around here like you wanna be someone else”.  He tells her, “you should be smiling.  A girl like you should never look so blue.”

So what is it about our society that we need pop artists to tell us we should be content with who we are; that we should be happy?  What is so lacking that even the airwaves rush in to fill the void?

To me, it’s a disturbing trend.  Someone, something has failed in our current system of being if there is a trend like this among music.  I’m not saying it’s bad to build people up; I’m wondering why there are so many walking around already beaten down.

Were we not loved as children?  Were we not told of our innate worth through hugs and hand-holding and ‘I love you’s?  Have we suffered a spiritual crisis that has let us forget that we are ‘fearfully and wonderfully made’?  As a special deacon used to tell me, “God made me and He don’t make no junk.”  We all have our worth.  We are all someone’s treasure – even if no one else’s on earth, at least our own, and certainly to God.  Our very existence is enough to make us beautiful.

Looking closely at these songs has also tipped me off to one other disturbing nuance: the fact that, in both songs, males are telling females their worth.  As a woman and mother of three girls, it scares me that the lyrics could be construed as a lesson to value oneself through the lens of male approval.  There is something very special about finding a partner who will value you and point out beneficial qualities you may have missed in yourself.  But to look solely to an outside – especially sexual – source for self-worth is dangerous.  The fact that pop music is so infectious and seemingly feel-good could slide such messages right under the radar without young people even realizing their transmission.

And here I was scared that my kids liked pop over some other style of music.  It runs much deeper than that.  Now I really have a reason to go listen to angsty music.  But, if I haven’t ruined the carefree nature of pop music, I could go listen to that for a pick-me-up.  Whatever it is, we all have to move our feet in time to the rhythm and pick each other up if we fall.

* Disclaimer: I must acknowledge that my grunge/alternative music is not so uplifting and self-affirming either.  It was born, in fact, of a self-loathing and misery.  And among its measures are certainly misogynistic ideas and mistreatment.  But pop certainly presents its off-color ideas in a much more appealing package.  Plus, ‘modern rock’ is not in heavy rotation like Top 40.

** Weasel image from nursery-rhymes.org

Pierced by a Princess

I was so excited when I saw the commercial.  It drew me in.  I was enthralled.  It turned the idea of a princess on its head.  Girls were galloping on horses – in britches, not flowing gowns.  They were shooting arrows.  Swimming laps.  They were real.

They weren’t prissy.  They weren’t waiting for a handsome male to save them.  They weren’t sitting in repose filing their nails or coifing their hair.  They weren’t doing the stereotypical things that mainstream media deems as femininely appropriate. 

In other words, they weren’t filling the mold cast by Disney and its multi-million dollar princess industry. The commercial flew in the face of all that Disney defines as princess.  And I was tickled pink.  Finally, another voice in the conversation of young female identity.  I was psyched that my daughters were being bombarded with this media message, albeit a small bullet amidst the other bombs.

Then I realized the smooth transitions between live shots of the young female archer and clips of Merida plucking her bow; a snippet of the young woman’s dialogue stitched up with the princess’ Scottish brogue.  A sharp arrow pierced my heart.

There was no way Disney would loan their highly lucrative Brave empire to a media campaign designed to encourage girls to courageous authenticity.  To eschew animated perfection.  To forgo licensed merchandise for practical attire and tools.

Wherever there’s a princess, Disney isn’t far behind.

They know there are people like me – women, mothers, fathers, grandfathers – who abhor the exploitation of young girls into this gateway of unrealistic expectations of beauty, behavior, being.  They exploited that need in me for another option for girls. 

And while this commercial is, in many ways, the antithesis of the whole royal empire they’ve created, if such a message comes from them, they’ll seem sympathetic.  They understand.  They aren’t the evil mongerers of petticoats and pink.  They want girls to achieve their full potential even if that means they’ll muddy their knees on the soccer field and go to university for engineering.  Oh, they support the young females of the world in whatever they may do.  And if they happen to find inspiration in the snippets of computer-generated heroines seamlessly interspersed with real girls, there’s merchandise for that.  There are DVDs these young ladies can watch for further inspiration.  Movie premieres and theme parks they can visit dressed in appropriate thematic garb for research and encouragement.

Well done, Disney.  You almost had me.  Which means you most likely hooked every girl in America and beyond that you hadn’t yet.

It’s a brave new world indeed.

* Related article: Great read on Brave’s creator’s misgivings on Disney’s treatment

Put the Sexy Back

Décolletage.  Cleavage.  Bare belly.  Unbuttoned jeans.

These are the images that welcomed our band of second graders as we traipsed through the mall to escape the rain on a field trip.  There were sights to see.  We were headed to the upper level and the wall of windows overlooking the river and city skyline.  The foul weather turned what should have been an outdoor river walk into an educational excursion of another kind.

Beyoncé flaunting her barely there bikini on a banner was the first thing my daughter and her friend noticed.  Somehow, the larger than life photos in the Victoria’s Secret storefront seemed to escape everyone’s notice except one of the male chaperones.  The mannequins in various states of undress in another window didn’t, however.

Women have breasts.  We all have abdomens, some even with six-packs.  There is a certain allure and attraction to the human body.  It is beautiful.  But should a shopping center be an inappropriate place to take our children?  Should we be bombarded with images that remove the natural beauty of the human form and replace it with sexually loaded suggestions?

I realize my eight year-old is not the target audience for these shops.  I realize there is a demographic who wants to look sexy and physically inviting.  But if my child is receiving the same subliminal messages as these others are, how can she differentiate the expected outcome?

How will she learn that there is a time and place and stage of life when these things are appropriate?  That her body is to be respected and guarded, shared with a select few who will care for her someday.  That modesty is to be valued.  That the beauty of the human form should not be determined by the amount bared or shape of one’s skin.

I know.  That’s my job.  But it becomes a whole heck of a lot harder when walking through the mall becomes a minefield.  And their marketing budget is a lot bigger than my measly mom one.  They’re everywhere.  Posters, posing, pitching.  Their message will come on the bodies of friends as she ages, in movies, television shows, magazines, in the affection of suitors.  How can my quiet, safe message compete?

I can only try by building up her inner reserves.  By giving her the self-esteem that beauty is not skin-deep.  By teaching her the attitude that her mind, her soul, her sense of humor are something else, something stronger and sexier than the dip of her décolletage.

It’s a tall order.

It seems like a small drip in the swell of the siren’s song, but I will sing.  I will sing for my daughter and all others like her.

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