But still, I think I would like to have another. Another boy.
That's the problem. Frankly, the idea of having a girl scares the hell out of me.
I haven't always felt this way. I was absolutely convinced that Hollis would be a girl, up until the day we got the results from my amniocentesis, definitive proof that the baby-to-be had one X chromosome and one Y. Only then did I adjust my thinking and prepare for raising a man.
As you all know, your view of the world changes irrevocably once you become a parent. You look at your past, your partner, your society through the lens of parenthood. When I emerged from the sleep deprived haze of new mommyhood and started to look at my world as a mother and not just a woman, I realized how very difficult raising a strong, confident woman in our society can be. Part of this problem is our skewed perceptions of ourselves as women, our body image.
Sitting in the airport waiting to come home on Sunday, my BlogHer roommate* and I started talking about body image. I honestly can't remember how it is we got to the topic. I think we were both feeling a bit raw and vulnerable after the 36 hour blitzkrieg of people, booze, and expected jocularity. For two introverts, there's nothing more draining.
As we were talking, it dawned on me that my roomie doesn't see herself as the intelligent, accomplished and beautiful woman that she is. When she looks in the mirror, or even looks inward, she still sees the fat girl from school, ridiculed and unloved.
I was floored.
My roomie and I have spent quite a few evenings together, with kids and without, since we met through the blogosphere some 6 months ago. In my interactions with her I would never have guessed that she was anything less than confident and secure. And yet this lovely, well educated woman doubts herself. For her, BlogHer brought all those doubts roaring to the surface. She spent much of the conference feeling as if she were alone among all those women, rejected and unsure of herself.
I'll admit there were times at the conference when I was overwhelmed. Overwhelmed at walking into a ballroom crowded with women I did not know. Overwhelmed when I hadn't made lunch or dinner plans ahead of time and found myself searching for one of my bloggy crowd in a slight panic, hoping that I wouldn't be left sitting on the sidelines, the wallflower, alone. We all have those moments, don't we?
When I felt that doubt creep into the back of my mind at BlogHer, I did what I always do. I told myself to get the hell over it and ask those nice looking women if I could sit at their table for lunch. Then I pulled up a chair, sat down, and had a great conversation.
I am not always tuned into the feelings of others. I'm a bit socially awkward, but not because I'm shy. I'm a bit reserved, but I think pretty much anyone who met me at BlogHer can tell you that I'm not a shy person. I just don't easily read social cues. Or I read them too closely. Being social, being tuned into others, is exhausting for me. But I've never worried that someone wouldn't like me. I mean, yeah, I'm sure there are people who do not like me. I just don't worry about it all that much.
I'm not sure why it is that I have this self-confidence. I'm sure it had something to do with the way I was raised, the experiences I had. Yeah, Junior High sucked, but I have yet to meet a person who actually enjoyed being 13. High school was fun for me, not filled with angst. But I think some of my inner peace is related to how I view my body.
I began swimming competitively when I was 8 and continued for the next 10 years. Sure, I had some soccer, baseball, softball, and gymnastics thrown in there for good measure, but I was a swimmer. Every day, sometimes twice a day for 10 years I pushed myself physically and emotionally. My body was not just a pretty shell for the latest clothes and a boy to admire. It was a machine, a functional, beautiful machine that I could push to incredible heights. To be honest, I still consider myself a swimmer, an athlete, despite my current pathetic lack of muscle tone. It's just part of who I am.
During those crucial pre-adolescent and adolescent years when I was becoming aware of myself as a social and physical creature, I had a place where I always fit in. At swim practice I had friends who saw me as an athlete, just like them. While my "friends" at school might suddenly decide to stop speaking to me because I didn't have the right jeans, my swim mates didn't care because I had a kick-ass breaststroke.
Even now, 15 years and I'm not going to say how many pounds later, that confidence remains. It's an indelible part of me that I completely take for granted. It has nothing to do with my physical appearance and everything to do with the person I am inside. Losing weight, for me, is a path to a healthier lifestyle, not the route to happiness and self-actualization. I so take this confidence of mine for granted, that pinning down the source now, at 34, is difficult for me.
In discussions with my friends, I realize that most women are not like me.
Many, many women I know have a very skewed image of themselves wrapped up in either a cruel and damaged childhood or their worth as a ratio of physical appearance to weight, a sort of masochistic fraction. Despite grades, education, marriage and children, many of my friends still don't see themselves as worthy of love and happiness.
What is it that causes this? Is it simply society's emphasis on the physical, the shallow, the conformist? Or is it something more? Does parenting come into play? Or many confounding elements made up of all of our past experiences?
I'd really like to know, so please tell me what you think in the comments. And tell me what you think we can do to make sure that our girls have confidence beyond their smooth faces and trim bodies.
In the meantime, I'll concentrate on raising my boys to know not just their own worth, but the worth of women.
* I'm not going to name my roomie or link to her unless she gives me the go ahead. Some of my regular readers know who she is and that's fine. But she has a private blog and I think she would prefer that her family not read this. So if you do know who she is, please don't mention her name in the comments.