My friend Dustie’s husband texted me last Friday in a panic.
“Call her,” he said. “She couldn’t find anything that fit for the Christmas party tonight. She’s at Kmart now trying to find something that will work.”
I dialed her and she picked up, sounding cheerful.
“I know what’s going on,” I said.
She immediately dropped the happy act. “I don’t know what I’m going to do,” she said, near tears.
I tried to talk her down, assuring her she is one of the biggest fashionistas I know and that if anyone could rock a last-minute dress, she could.
Then I put down the phone and shook my head. See, the reason Dustie was having trouble finding a dress was because she had just given birth to her gorgeous baby three short weeks before. The dresses were too tight because her body was still trying to reconfigure after this monumental change.
But despite this very important fact, Dustie was frustrated and upset and feeling … ugly.
Interestingly, I’d had the same feeling that very morning. See I, too, was attending the party and I, too, was looking for something to wear. I thought I’d decided on my outfit after hours of shopping for the perfect dress a few weeks before. But after trying it on that morning, I realized I hated it. It was so conservative, the material wasn’t right and was I really serious about wearing red? What was I? Santa, all of a sudden?
I stood in the mirror and actually watched my Ukrainian thighs grow larger. My hair was a haystack, and I was developing a painful pimple on my right nostril. After months and months of doing push-ups almost every day, my arms had only gotten lopsided, so that I looked like a Romanian wrestling coach ready for a fight.
I tore off the dress and flung almost every piece of clothing I own onto the bed. I started trying each piece on and my thighs, amazingly, progressively got larger. My stomach got poochier. And the pimple, it glowed.
I realized the thing to do was jump on the elliptical machine, which I did, sweating it out for 50 minutes, sure this would solve my problem. When that didn’t work, I decided I would not be attending that night’s event.
So I ate a piece of chocolate cake.
It was finally a trip to the hairdresser that poked a hole in the inflated drama I had created for myself. She tucked my hair back, told me she’d been there before, and I found myself able to breathe again.
I got home, picked out an outfit and started applying makeup.
By the time my husband got home, he was unaware there had been any fashion emergency. We ended up having a nice evening that night, and Dustie looked great, just as I knew she would.
But since, this nagging thought has been bouncing around in my head, and it’s this: While I may be a little more neurotic than the average woman, I think most of us can relate to how it feels to feel ugly before a party. Almost all of us have made tornadoes out of our closets searching for the outfit that will finally turn us into beautiful.
But the fact is: If we can’t even let post pregnancy be an excuse to look less than fabulous, when can we give ourselves a break? Most importantly, what is it that makes us feel so much pressure to look good? I would venture to say it’s not the men, but the other women who will see us, the other women who have likely created their own closet tornadoes just hours before. It’s all, in the end, pretty ridiculous.
So for this year’s New Year’s resolution, I vow to give myself a little break. Not a full-on pass, but a little recess nevertheless, one in which I decide to take stock of what’s important and what, ultimately, is noise.