I was naked when she asked me the question. Maybe that was why it hurt my feelings. “You have kids?” She was smiling, maybe in her late 70s. There was no reason for me to find the question off putting, I suppose. It was casual chit-chat.
In the locker room at the gym there are lots of different kinds of women. I am envious of the older women that stroll nonchalantly from the shower to their locker. They are free, maybe even confident, certainly at peace with the body they live in. There are the younger women and the quiet gals that change in the “dressing rooms,” the awkward spaces with shower curtains that don’t quite close all the way. I fall somewhere in the middle. I have given birth twice. I came of age in a theatrical dressing room. I can surely get my bathing suit off in a locker room without demonstrating something just short of a magic trick to get my bra and underwear on before my towel drops to the floor.
But I am not yet free. I am not yet at peace with this body. It still feels new. I am not embarrassed, not really. “You have kids?” she asked me. Why? Is it my stretch marks? I thought they were fading, maybe there are some I don’t even know I have. Maybe it’s my stomach. But then I never really had much in the way of a flat stomach before I even had kids.
It took me by surprise, my reaction to such a simple question. Immediately, I wondered if my body was telling a story that I could not even see. Fresh from a long swim I was feeling long and lean and that three word question brought me to a place where I begin to wonder if I need to just settle in to a new normal and accept that this body ain’t all that bad.
I smiled and said “I do. Girls. One and seven. Lucky mama gets to shower today in peace.” She smiled warmly, turning back to her locker, unaware the spiral her innocent question had started.
I pulled my jeans on and ran a brush through my too short hair. I took a deep breath and put a smile on my face, knowing I was going to walk by a long mirror on my way out the door. I would smile at the woman in the mirror, maybe take it easy on her.
And smile I did when I saw her. Yes. This woman has kids. This woman with the Cinderella towel. She keeps her goggles and her shampoo in a hot pink Yo Gabba Gabba tote bag. Perhaps it wasn’t my stretch marks that gave me away after all.
Day 95 of This Book Will Change Your Life has me on the look out for aliens. It gives a helpful list of how to spot the extraterrestrials among us. I wish it would tell me how to spot the moms at the gym. Evidently Disney towels and Nickelodeon tote bags aren’t enough to make it obvious for me.