One day, while pregnant with my first son, I walked in front of a full-length mirror for the first time in a few weeks. I admired my round, shiny belly and my full breasts. I ran my fingers through my fuller, thicker hair. I felt beautiful. I felt like a big fertile sex birth goddess.
Then I turned around to look at my ass and saw what appeared to be a spider web—as depicted by a manic child with a purple magic marker. I had stretch marks. Not a few. Not little silvery ones. I had epic, sprawling, deep purple stretch marks all over my favorite body part. Basically, my ass was doomed.
I cried that afternoon, mourning my ability to hit the beach in a thong—even though the last time I’d hit the beach in a thong had been eight years before on an ill-fated trip to South Beach that had ended abruptly when a pack of fully clothed young men started taking pictures. I called my mother and sobbed that my husband was never going like my butt again. Then I picked myself up, dusted myself off, and avoided full-length mirrors until long after my delivery.
Almost two years later, my stomach was more or less flat again. I felt okay in a bikini even though I had wider hips and some rolls where I didn’t have rolls before. Most notably, my once-proud boobs were now sad, deflated iconic sacks of motherhood. Fourteen months of breastfeeding reduced my fun bags to the equivalent of used feedbags.
Or so I thought. Plus, that’s what I read everywhere. That’s what magazines told me and other moms said. That’s what my mother complained about for years as she purchased the latest and greatest push-up bras to compensate for what my brother and sister and I had done to wreck her body. Motherhood pretty much equaled saggy boobs. And if you asked my grandmother—who got a boob job in the 1970s—breastfeeding meant you were especially screwed in the boob attractiveness department for all eternity.
That year, I went to try on clothes with a single friend of mine. We stripped down together in front of a mirror and sighed simultaneously at our reflections lit by a fluorescent glare. I glanced aside at my 30-year-old friend frowning at her never-been-pregnant body and quickly looked away.
I felt like an asshole.
For months, I’d been bitching and moaning about my saggy body and tiny tits and how motherhood had really done a number on me. Meanwhile, my childless friend’s breasts were smaller than mine. They were naturally petite. Her nipples protruded more than mine, from genetics—not the maw of a hungry baby. The silvery stretch marks on her hips were just part of her body, not the battle scars of pregnancy. She wasn’t happy with her body, and she had no socially acceptable frame to explain her insecurities.
The cult of sagginess doesn’t belong to moms. Sagginess belongs to everyone.
Think about it. Guys don’t have babies, but they sure as hell sag. They expand. They get stretch marks.
Our bodies age. Even young bodies shift and change. We’re born with flat chests, with average dicks, with pimples on our backs and hair on our butts.
Would it be radical to call for an end to the moms’ endless angst over saggy boobs? Because I think it’s a cop-out—and excuse. A chance to say: “My boobs are saggy and my butt has marks all over it but I earned these marks, see? I have this kid here, this accomplishment to explain away my imperfections.”
I know this because I’ve fallen into that trap for too long. It’s one thing to be proud of the way my body has changed. And it’s pretty reasonable to be proud of being a mom in general. But to monopolize the realm of insecurity and saggy tits and awkward nipples and body issues? No way.
Moms—we are annoying the hell out of our childless friends. We are annoying the hell out of our spouses. We are annoying that guy over there overhearing us talking about the very bad things that happened to our bodies when we procreated.
Unless you’re a 19-year-old with a preternaturally pink butt hole and dainty pussy lips, you’re probably not going to look great in a porno with a camera two inches from your crotch. And that’s okay whether your vagina is somewhat mangled from having a baby or you were just born with a run of the mill vagina like most women. Most men joke about wanting to be porn stars but when it comes down to it most men aren’t up for the challenge and even fewer are prepared for that classic shot from behind that involves a whole lot of butt clenching.
Because we’re all kind of screwy looking when we’re naked. We fold in weird places. We have marks. We sweat. We’re hairy. We’re pudgy. Sometimes we smell. We’re human. All of us.