A woman’s worth, it seems, is measured in how attractive she is to the public at large. I never noticed it when I was young and unmarried. I knew a lot of women suffered from body image issues, but I couldn’t understand why. Who cares if you look like some stranger in a magazine or not? I shrugged it off and went about my business.
Fast forward to after I got married and had my first child. Body image issues hit me like a ton of bricks. What had happened to my youthful appearance?! I had stretch marks etched on my hip (just one hip, so it wasn’t even symmetrical) a dark vertical line running down my midsection, and I looked like an overstuffed sausage in all of my pre-pregnancy clothing. I panicked. What was my husband going to think? He is going to be so horrified and wonder what happened to the girl that he married!
And his behavior toward me after our first baby did change. He kissed me more often. He loved being close to me. He told me he loved me a lot more. What was going on? I was so confused. Didn’t he notice my attractiveness had taken a massive hit after this baby? How was he not horrified by this? And why is he acting like he loves me more than ever?!
You see, I had been profoundly affected by the diseased attitudes toward women without even noticing it. I considered myself only worthy of romantic love if I were young and attractive. Because there are vapid men out there who will flit from woman to woman as their appetite dictates, citing “unhappiness” as their reason for leaving when they really mean she no longer satisfied them. On to the newer and prettier model. And this insidious attitude permeates everything that surrounds us. Look at your typical blockbuster, for example. The male lead can be attractive, but needs to be a passable actor. The female lead can be a passable actress, but needs to be attractive. I’m looking at you, Transformer movies. There are exceptions, of course, but this seems to be the prevailing practice. A woman’s worth in the entertainment industry is entirely dependent on her looks. A man’s worth in the entertainment industry is entirely dependent on his talent. This attitude toward women we know is wrong, but subconsciously we as women allow it to define us. The logic would be as follows: after having this baby, I would definitely not be cast as the female lead in a Transformers movie; therefore, I am no longer worthy of my husband’s love.
I have witnessed many times a man telling his wife she is beautiful only to have her roll her eyes and vehemently disagree with him. I have done it many times myself. Then, I realized something. We are doing these men a disservice. They are not crazy or suffering from sudden blindness. They are not just saying that out of pity to comfort us. They actually mean it. (I know, my mind was blown too.) They don’t see you and obsess over every imperfection like you do. They see beauty. They see a woman who has gone from being the cute little caterpillar that they married to being the beautiful butterfly that is the mother of their children. (I’ll bet you didn’t see that trite metaphor coming.) Don’t call them a liar, because they are not lying. Accept it and appreciate it. I know it is hard to do because your head is so wrapped up in the empty Victoria’s Secret version of beauty, but you must fight against that inclination. Try to see yourself as he sees you. You are loved, and that is much more fulfilling than being considered attractive by strangers. Don’t take it for granted.