All men, regardless of education, notoriety or greatness, exercise their ability to say something so profoundly stupid 200 years later women STILL want to play beer pong with one of their testicles. May I present to you Exhibit A:
Get real, Honoré de Balzac…
Before I go any further, let me first say that Monsieur de Balzac is arguably one of the most important literary authors to have ever lived, and therefore he has said a lot of things. Many of those things were not dumb, and there a few that, after hearing them, will make you believe he’s a God-damned genius. You will want to shout from the top of your refrigerator: “HALLELUJAH! THIS MAN GETS IT!!! WHY ISN’T HIS FACE ON THE ONE DOLLAR BILL? WAIT, OH YES, IT’S BECAUSE HE’S FRENCH! BUT I DON’T CARE! THEY SHOULD HAVE SENT US HIM INSTEAD OF THE STATUE OF LIBERTY! HE IS A GOD-DAMNED GENIUS!!!” You wouldn’t be alone in believing that; he’s considered the “father of literary realism”. I can almost smell the breaks burning and hear the tires screeching in your brain as your mind comes to grips with the fact that such a smart man, who invented real for cryin’ out loud, could ever utter something as foolish as “…children can alone console a woman for the loss of her beauty”. Earth to Balzac (by now you’ve changed his name to Ball-sack, like me): That sounds like something you’d tell a woman so she wouldn’t freak out when you tell her you don’t have a condom. Children do not console a woman for the loss of her beauty any more than gravity holding her to earth so she wouldn’t burn up in the atmosphere consoles her for the numbers that are obscenely displayed on her scale. We tolerate it, as a kind of cause and effect type of thing or necessary evil, but I can’t think of a time I’ve ever looked at my stretch-marked scarred abdomen or my boobs that once had nipples that triumphantly pointed to the heavens, but now seem to be scanning the ground for loose change, and think to myself: “Oh, Dear and Loving children! Because you are so dear and loving, I am blinded to the fact that in addition to my sanity and my personal space, you’ve also claimed my body. Your very existence has wrecked my body like little F5 tornadoes, destroying everything in their path. But it’s OK because you are dear and loving.” Obviously this man has never gone shopping with a woman who needs to buy a dress for her 20 year high school reunion, nor has he ever been within a hundred miles of a woman preparing to go to her adult child’s college graduation who knows that her ex-husband and the teenage tramp he calls his new wife are going to be there. In fact, there was so much wrong with his statement I had to know: Did Honoré ever know any women? Has he ever been in the same room with one for more than 5 minutes? Better yet, did he ever spend time with any children? The fact that he calls them “dear and loving” makes me wonder if everything he knows about children he learned by staring at Neoclassical paintings, because, believe me, Neoclassical paintings are among one of the only places children appear “dear and loving”. Did he like to chase the dragon or enjoy a little too much sauce on a regular/daily basis? I’m not stereotyping, but he’s an author so you never know. And by “I’m not stereotyping” I mean I totally and absolutely am doing exactly that. I wasn’t at all shocked to discover these three things: 1) He was distant from his mother. Like, second cousin twice removed, “hey, mom, stop having children with my friends” kind of distant. 2) He had no known legitimate children, although there is speculation that he knocked up a few married Duchesses/Marquises, and 3) He was married. Once. He was older than 50 and it only lasted for 6 months, which is how long it took him to die after he finally did get married (men: insert “death is better than marriage” comment here). And as to the question of how hard he was hitting the bottle, pipe or any other method people in 1800’s France preferred to get themselves flying high, he considered himself a subscriber to the virtue of temperance, so no drinky and no opiates. Apparently temperance doesn’t apply to carnal relations with married women of upstanding French and Polish society, and he wrote two pamphlets on marriage many years before ever actually taking the plunge. Imagine that? Someone with zero (0) experience in having and/or raising children or being married commenting on the process. That almost NEVER happens…(Sarcasm, party of 1, your table is now available).
This brings me to my point. Monsieur Honoré, you may very well be the father of literary realism, and you may understand the interactions of men and women in society more than anyone who has ever lived or will ever live, but when it comes to women, motherhood, and our bodily image, you don’t have a clue. It’s OK, because that’s why I’ve chosen to highlight you on my little Beauty Heap page. I’ll let you in on a little-known and closely guarded secret: We women don’t have a clue either. It’s not like motherhood comes with a manual or a warranty, and this “stuff” we women feel can be as shocking and make as little sense to us as it does to you. We do not have any switch that gets flipped once we bring a child into this world that takes away our desire to be desired. The fact of the matter is: we love our babies, and we can and do go through hell for them. But we also love ourselves, and even though our lives change so very drastically to accommodate our roles as mothers, that desire to be beautiful is still very much alive within us – even when we haven’t slept in 72 hours and the bags under our eyes are so big we’d have to check them if we had to fly anywhere; even if we have spaghetti hanging from our ears and we have no idea what the smelly stain on the front of our shirt that hasn’t been changed in 5 days is; even if we realize we haven’t had to buy shampoo or body wash in two years and our shower loofah becomes brittle and breaks apart due to lack of use. We still want to see you do that double take when we walk by, because as much as the memory of you doing that the first time delights us and is part of the reason why we fell in love with you, it’s when you do it at 3 am when we’re coming back to bed after feeding an infant who eats like he’s in training to become a competitive eater, and we’re so tired that we don’t even realize one boob is completely twisted into a pretzel and is flopping out for all to see, double takes in those moments are what makes us STAY in love with you. So stop trying to put how we feel about our bodies into words. We can’t even do that, and saying things that sound like you are giving us permission to be ugly because we are mothers, kind of makes you sound like a jackass, even if your reasons for doing so are noble. Better yet, it’s probably safest for you not to comment on our post motherhood bodies at all. If you simply cannot abstain from saying something, make it ambiguous and keep its ambiguity to yourself, i.e. whistle and say “Damn that ass…” and trail off like what you are looking at is so sexy you can’t even finish your sentence. She never has to know you are thinking “Damn that ass… gets bigger by the minute”. Lord knows I’ll never say anything. If you catch your woman reading beauty blogs, or making comments about how she wants to try the newest brand of nail polish, don’t remind her how long it’s been since she’s brushed her teeth. Gather up the kids, hand her the car keys and your wallet and say, “I’ve got the kids, babe, and I can do the dishes. Why don’t you go on to Wal-Mart and see if they have that nail polish you’ve had your eye on.” If you do that, I guarantee once the babies are all nestled in their beds for the night, you’ll realize that motherhood hasn’t caused her to forget everything. After she showers, of course, and puts on that new nail polish.