I haven't been to a party in a while. A long while. Not since BPC. Before Pork Chop.
The occasion was a Listen to Your Mother DC cast meet and greet. Or, in my case: meet, eat cheese, greet, eat candy, greet, eat more candy. For a hard-working mama in a still-unfamiliar town, what could be better than hanging out with new friends, celebrating the upcoming show, and enjoying a rare night out?
Well, before I got to the party, the answer was anything. Anything could be better. The thought of rubbing elbows with a bunch of unfamiliar women sounded like my worst nightmare.
I have a recurring dream that I show up to a party in a hot pink tube dress. Moments later, model-slash-actress Molly Sims shows up wearing the exact same dress. In the quiet of the night, Molly Sims is parading around my psyche like Miss America Barbie while I'm stuck playing Skipper, crying big homely tears onto my ill-conceived party attire. In all seriousness, I have woken from this dream to the sound of my own muffled howling. I've outrun vampires, Satan, even a homicidal Beagle, all as I've slept, but nothing chills my blood like Molly Sims in spandex. So I found it hard to look toward the LTYM party with anything other than dread.
|Molly Sims, you asshole.|
To start, I put on a massive "statement necklace" that made me look like a suburban mom with aspirations of becoming a Masai warrior. I tried on skinny khakis, but didn't think I could pull off the camel toe. I slipped into a jaunty houndstooth blazer and then remembered that I'd be arriving in my Civic, not on a thoroughbred.
In my one clean pair of underpants and ratty nursing bra, I stared into the bathroom mirror, paralyzed. My hair, greying at the temples, was gathered atop my head in a deranged ponytail. I'd dabbed both acne cream and wrinkle cream all over my face. My bellybutton, once a pert little pucker, grimaced back at me.
I didn't know what to wear. There wasn't enough spackle in the universe to fix my face. I smelled like sweat and fear and diaper cream and Burberry Brit eau de toilette. The party hadn't even begun, and I was already circling the drain. And that's when I did it. When I said the bad thing.
"I've really let myself go."
My husband, who was carting Pork Chop off to bedtime, stopped briefly outside the bathroom door. He just shook his head at me, sighed, and walked on.
He was frustrated. Not that my bellybutton makes frowny faces, but that I'd said the bad thing. Again. That I'd not only said it to myself, but that I'd said it in front of him and in front of my son. That for someone who would be a bra-burning feminist were it not for her boobs' Sherman-like march south, I had somehow adopted an Us Weekly attitude toward my own body.
Let myself go.
As I dotted concealer on my under-eye circles, as I brushed out my greying mop, as I morphed from frantic woman in underpants to frantic woman in underpants and full makeup, I wondered what it even meant -- to let myself go.
In the past 21 months, I've grown a human being inside my torso, pushed over 8 pounds of person through a hole in my business end, produced food from my own body, learned to sleep in 45-minute increments, and made peace with a home that always smells slightly of pee-pee. So, yeah, I let a few things go, like my abdominal muscles and any hope of rest, but myself? No.
It's more apt to say that I transformed, and I'm talking "transformed" in the Michael Bay sense of the word. But wait. You think I'm going to tell you that moms are like Optimus Prime, don't you? You think I'm going to tell you that women are hulking metal goddesses from planet Cybertron? Sorry. No.
Thinking that we're Optimus Prime is the problem. Or a metaphor for the problem. A Transformers metaphor. I spent a lot of time with my nephews this weekend. But anyway. My point is that we think of ourselves as these sleek and towering aliens, when, in fact, we are really, at heart, tractor trailers. We are made to carry a heavy load. Every once in a while, say for a party, we bust out the big guns and the big hair and act the part of the Autobots' fearless leader. But the rest of the time, we're just trying to get from point A to point B with our cargo intact. And it is precious cargo. And our journey is long. At least 18 years long. There isn't always time to pull over and enjoy the roadside attraction of six-pack abs. Sometimes we have to just let that stuff go.
In the end, I put on some black pants, a pair of striped flats, a chambray shirt, and red lipstick. I looked clean, maybe a bit too nautical, but mostly like myself -- Optimus Sub-Prime perhaps. And I enjoyed the party. The women I met were funny and friendly and didn't once comment on how many times my nerves compelled me to dip into the candy dish. Surprisingly, no one wore a tube dress.