A Short Story: The McJudgerson I Have Been
It was tiring. A day and then some. Jake was in the stroller and let me tell you something about my baby. He used to lick things. Public surfaces, random objects, rarely his food. Yes, I am disgusted just writing about it. But I came in for shorts, and now I was holding bright yellow plastic like flats with a bow because, well, Jake licked them. Right off the sale display table, right in front of 3 sales people having a powwow on how fabulous they all look. They were not so absorbed, however, to avoid Jake and his tongue caressing the rubbery shoe like it was a brand new lollipop. Hot dog. New shoes. Not. There’s not a moment I wear those ridiculous things that are impossible to garden in, even if I liked dirt, or walk in the rain, because, let’s face it; they really don’t keep my feet dry, no sir, there’s not a moment I wear them without thanking God for the extraordinary constitution of my boy that he is not in the hospital with an unknown foreign parasite. (Those were a lot of surfaces under the age of 3.)
But I persevered you see, because I needed shorts. While the collective number of days in New England on which one could wear them were not vast in number, it still got mighty hot. I could not hide in jeans forever—although I really wanted to try, I needed new shorts. And I had figured out the perfect length of 5 inches, which creeped enough over my backside and inched downward until a decent amount of post-baby leg was swathed comfortably in khaki.
In the present day, I have a nice array to choose from. The 7, 5 or 4-inch inseam is largely dependent on the state my thighs are in that particular morning. No pressure warrants a 4, increased a 5 and well, you can imagine the state of the 7. Which brings me right back to J.Crew where I was trying to get some shorts, with coverage. This seemed to be an oxymoron.
“Why!” I seethed and muttered in frustration, “do you carry these in the store for $45 with a 3 inch inseam?!” And right behind me, probably monitoring Jake’s rogue tongue, was the perkiest, teeniest, sales associate ever. And she had lovely teeth. I don’t know why I remember that.
J Crew Lady: “Well, they’re very popular.”
Me (thinking): with what kind of alien stick figure, and who would they be popular with? The thighs that can enter these shorts without any kind of circulatory threat, are usually young and they cannot AFFORD them.
JCL: “Would you like to try them on?”
Me: “No, but I thank you, because until today, this very second, I had no idea that I resembled a thirteen year old girl.”
Withhold your criticism! I had had no coffee and just purchased weird shoes. And anyway, she just smiled at me, puzzled, and floated away. On $118 dollar heels. Wearing the very shorts I was twisting in my claw like hands.
Which sets the stage nicely for this story because I bought some new shorts this past weekend. I now live in Florida, and it’s part of the uniform. Or I can melt. Or just mildew. In any case, moist is an adjective that is best for cakes. I’ve been working out to keep my middling swell at bay and it’s a job and a half because I just cannot do what I need to do or know I need to do to really detox and jump start the metabolism cracking. So I had to buy some shorts, and you know this is a trial.
Everywhere you go you see women in varying degrees of warm weather clothing, even if it isn’t shorts weather where you are, you have been, I’m willing to bet, at some point, in a place where you were surrounded by a veritable cornucopia of summer styles that would make any fashion editor’s head spin. You’ve sat with your family, eating ice cream and allowed your eyes to wander to the rest of the crowd, and you see it. Women wearing too short or too scarce of something that allows the eye to see things that perhaps should be best saved for indoors. I’ve done it. I’ve judged it. And every time I do it, whisper mutter to myself about the woman in question, I feel completely justified…or am I? Because here I am talking about self-worth and self-acceptance and self whatever, and I’m being a McJudgerson all by myself.
I was trying to figure this out, why I care enough to comment on a fellow traveler. So I am confessing to you that I am unloading the snark because I am jealous. I know it seems small and silly but that's where I've located it. I am jealous that this woman can wear these things and not care about what anyone thinks and I am struggling with inseam length. I am vexed that a lady feels so comfortable to wear a bikini (hot pink at that) when I have not done so in ALL MY YEARS ON THIS EARTH (even where nothing on me rubbed together) and allow everything to fall where it needs to. I am envious that this woman feels so secure that she can allow everyone to see the sleeve of permanent ink on her arm as she feeds her toddler the gruel that is the same no matter what socio-economic rung you hang from. I am irritated that this woman does not feel the need to dress in slimming black but is wearing white and could not care less what day it is even if it isn’t Memorial and that it basically is drawing my eye straight to her and seeing that she is completely content.
Why. Why. Why. Am I doing this? How many conversations have we had amongst our girlfriends that go something like this:
Me: “You look great!” (Honest but I am also being nice because I’m fishing for an equal and resolute compliment myself.)
You: “No I don’t! I’m soooo fat!”
Me: “Oh, please, no you don’t! You look awesome.” (Because I earnestly feel she does and I am comparing myself and she looks better than I do. And has great nails.)
You: “Well, thank you, but I do need to do something.”
And we go on to something else all the while I am glad that the status remains that way because then I can feel comfortable being uncomfortable and not the best I can be. It stinks.
I have read recently that certain designers are resizing their brands to make their customer base feel better. For example, a former size 10 will now be an 8, it’s still a 10 but for many a day, you can look at that label and convince yourself the donut did not matter in the least. Maybe it’s worth something, I don’t know. What I do know, is that until we stop with the pressure to be and sit right with what we are right now, it’ll never be a good thing. Snark overload. McJudgersons everywhere. We are fighting each other and nobody wins.
- Your arms may continue waving long after you’ve said farewell, but remember who you held in those arms just a moment ago and how much that little said he felt always safer there?
- Your stomach may carry all the crowded lines and scars of a war, but consider the spoil of the battle—isn’t she worth it?
- Your legs may not be where you need them; the thighs may spread past the point of comfort in company, but look at where they’ve led you?
It’s true, right? You know it is. Don’t believe me, just ask anyone who knows you. Ask them what they think. And here’s the hard part. BELIEVE them.
Just the other day, I was out with my family, and I saw this woman, she was wearing those short jean shorts and what appeared to be an orange bikini top under a tight tank top. She was bending over to fix her small son’s shorts. And I overheard them, women like me snarking it up. “How could she wear that?” “My eyes hurt.” “Some people should learn how to dress.” I understood them, because I was one of them.
They were mine just as I was theirs…but I was hers too. I believe that this woman, the judged upon, has probably heard all of it before. In fact, I’ll betcha that she’s heard it almost all of her life. At some point, I reckon, she just stopped listening so she could get out of her door and LIVE.
Because she’s finally figured out what we are all just too busy being jealous/vexed/envious/irritated to accept, that the worries and the wherefores and the whys stop you from going, living, being and doing the one last strange trip we’ve got. Life.
So again, here we go. Wearing our size out and allowing the judgments to stand.
Will you do something with me?
Instead of the internal evilogue that goes through your mind when you see the woman that you think isn’t “quite right,” can you think instead: what can I do to be as brave as she is today? Because in locating the brave in her, invigorates the brave in you, a chain reaction of the good that eliminates the snark and will bring comfort, security and contentedness no matter what you decide to wear. Tim Gunn, notwithstanding, do this, and you'll make it work--whatever that "it" is.
For me, being brave today is wearing the t-shirt that my mind is telling me may be a little too snug. And the knowledge that whatever shorts I grab will be for myself, because I know what makes me me and time is too brief not to be brave. So, tell me--tell me about your brave below in the comments. And please, don’t go anywhere. I’m due for a new swimsuit, and if there is anything that takes a fizz out of a pop faster, it’s the lighting in those rooms. I need you sister, egads.