The setting: a lazy summer afternoon on the beach with my then-boyfriend. Kicking back together and watching people in the truly carefree way that only college students can. We were playing one of those ill-advised “who do you think is hot” games. When Boyfriend pointed out a certain beach stroller as his pick, I quickly said, “Really? Did you see how fat her knees were?”
Her knees. Yes. I said that. I wish I could say I quickly caught myself but I didn’t. In fact, it wasn’t until years later that I had the epiphany – the one we all eventually have – that women are primarily concerned with how they look to other women.
Men are so oblivious to the details we obsess over! We see ungroomed eyebrows, chipped nail polish, dated colors, and dark roots. They see boobs. We see dorky hat, way-too-cutesy print, and cankles. They see booty. Or a nice smile. Or a sweet disposition. You get the idea. (More after the jump)
So who do you ask when you want to know how you look at any given moment? Not your husband or boyfriend, I hope. I’ve seen too many stand-up comics do the “Aagh! God! How are we supposed to answer when they ask if those jeans make them look fat?! Blergh, sputter sputter, women are so nuts” routine to trust any straight man. I’m not as worried about having my feelings hurt as I am concerned they’ll miss something. He’ll tell me I look great and later in the night I’ll see a pantyliner stuck to the back of my leg.
You know dudes are no help so you go to your girlfriends, right? WRONG. Girls, admit it: we are too busy validating the shit out of one another to say, “Noooo. Oh no. Do NOT leave the house with that dress on. The back view is heeeiinnousss.”
I challenge you to tell me that you’ve never experienced some variation on the following sequence:
1. Indulge in a late afternoon/early evening cocktail with your pals
2. Decide you should all go shopping (urging a friend to spend even more if she’s recently been wronged by a man – “Yeah! F**k him! You deserve something hot!”)
3. Each take turns picking up garments and squealing, “This would look awesome on you!” or exclaiming, “Oh my God! You look gorrrgeous!” without regard for accuracy
4. Get home, slightly dazed, only to realize every overpriced thing you bought looks like ASS on you and you will soon have to face the grouchy salesperson as you return it all
Right? It happens. I have a dress in my closet that I bought on a girls’ trip to Savannah last year that looks SO bad on me that every time I look at it, I want to cuss out those dumb tricks who urged me to buy it! (JkJk; love you girls.)
So it turns out you can’t trust broads either. That leaves kids. Kids are your #1 reliable source for meticulously-rendered real world feedback on your appearance.
One of my daughters had a friend over for a play date years ago. As I prepared snacks for them, the precious moppet poked my soft belly, cooing sweetly, “Are you gonna have another baaaabby, Ms. Lib?” I experienced simultaneous seething rage and crippling shame.
At a friend’s wedding in January, I decided to straighten my hair, something I never do. So many women (note: women!) told me how awesome I looked that I actually started asking myself why I didn’t straighten it more often. “Everyone loves it,” I thought. “Why did I think it looked bad?”
Fast forward 10 months. Last night my 15-year-old picked up a photo of me from the wedding and said, “Mom, never do that to your hair again. It looks terrible. Your face looks really long and it sort of emphasizes -”
“Ok! That’s ENOUGH!!” I replied, calmly and evenly. (Ha!) That’s when my very sweet-natured, totally mommy-loving 10-year old-stepped in to add, “Mom, it really didn’t look good.”
There you have it!
Before you leave the house next time, ask a kid how you’re doing. You may not like the answer, but it’ll be the truth.