The other morning I woke up to a tousle of blonde hair in my face. Jane jumped on top of me and gave me an aggressive hug. I choked a little and removed a hair from my mouth, but I always welcome hugs, no matter how many side injuries may occur. Let’s face it. I’m the mother of a daughter. Those goodwill hugs will someday be replaced with eye rolls, so I soak it all in.
I hugged her and said good morning.
“I really love when you hug me with your arms,” she said.
“Is it better than when I hug you with my feet?” I joked.
She ignored my joke completely, because it did not fit with her current conversation branding. She had a point to make, and it wasn’t about my feet.
“Do you know why I love your arms?” she persisted.
She stroked my forearm, which was initially sweet, but followed quickly by the sour.
“Because they’re a nice peach-ish color. Like food. I like peaches,” she stated.
“Okay,” I said slowly, silently reminding myself that my kid is an avid artist, and color details are her heart’s greatest love.
“And do you know why else?” she pressed on.
Only god knew what was coming next, and I suspected even he/she might be cringing a little.
“They’re not just peach-ish,” she continued. “But they’re also really soft and jiggly. Like marshmallows.”
I struggled not to jerk my peach-ish marshmallow arms away from her. Her dessert themed word portrait wasn’t the mental image of my dreams. After I dropped her off at school, I began scrambling for my dumb bells. I wasn’t sure if they were buried in the basement closet, or gathering dust under a bed somewhere, but by the Sword of Grayskull, I intended to find them.
It feels like it’s been winter since September. The weather turned on us quickly here in the north east, and we went from summertime straight into winter. I may or may not have adhered to a strict schedule of looking out the window, muttering to myself “I really should go for a walk” and then proceeding to eat a cookie and ensconce myself in my basement office to write, motionless, for the next six hours straight. There was usually one day a week where I angry vacuumed, a practice that involved yelling, “Why are there Cheetos behind the tv? Why are there popcorn kernels in the bathroom? What are you people, animals?” I stand behind this practice as a very legitimate way to burn calories. If you angry-vacuum a 2500 square foot house, you lose at least 300 calories from movement, and an additional 75,000 calories from the intense injustice that you’re having to do it at all. But alas, that one day of rage cleaning did not offset my other six days of sloth lounging.
I decided that having peach-ish marshmallow arms called for something extreme. I did a hard 45 minutes of video guided aerobics while holding soup cans (as my dumb bells were still AWOL). I participated in this new-to-me activity called mountain crawling. I thought to myself, “Huh, this is an interesting way to work out.”
The following day I discovered that I could not raise my peach-ish marshmallow arms up past my bra-line, and my abdominal muscles were seized to such a state that I had request my husband help me up off the toilet. If you think having your child compare your arms to marshmallows is humiliating, just try yelling from the porcelain throne, “HEY, I could use some help in here.”
I came to a conclusion that night, as I soaked in an Epsom salt bath and pondered whether I would be able to save myself if I accidently slipped under the water and couldn’t overcome my seized stomach muscles and jiggly arm strength. I decided that I should be far older and wiser than this. I wasn’t 25 years old anymore. And even though my arms may have been lightyears away from Tina Turner glory, they weren’t yet in Golden Girl vicinity. There had to be a better way.
I gazed over the impending 40-something landscape. My peers were immersed in filling Pinterest boards full of moves to tighten butts and reclaim teenage abdomens. There was a whole world of diets that went far beyond cans of Slim Fast. There were women who lived at the gym, rising before the sun comes up. There were women already engaging the skills of a plastic surgeon. There were women who militantly proclaimed “I don’t care” and ate their pizza and embraced stylish plus sizes. I registered on websites that send me emails with titles like “Walk Off Your Belly” and used words like “burn” and “cut.” What should a slightly fluffy peachy lady with marshmallow arms do? All I knew was that it wouldn’t involve anything that contained the word “shredding” because I place way too much importance on being able to rise from the toilet under my own steam.
As I perused my options for transforming my body, I began to ask, “What about moderation?” Why is it that when it comes to a good glass of wine, the motto is “don’t overdo it” but when it comes to our bodies, we glorify killing ourselves in the name of resembling Lara Croft? At what point are we no longer making ourselves “healthier” but tearing ourselves down?
I decided to find my dumb bells, keep them at my desk, and use them several times during my six-hour writing stretches. I put a small stationary bike base under my desk. I skipped a few cookies. I went for a long walk and listened to podcasts. I even got one of those mini-trampolines with resistance chords. I look ridiculous when I use it, but I don’t hate it.
Am I the same size as I was ten years ago?
My doctor is the only one who could reveal those details, and luckily HIPPA laws ensure my ability to fudge that information.
Will my daughter see me in a bathing suit and say something like, “Your legs have bumps on them like moonrocks?”
Probably. She may also sketch a portrait detailing said dimpling because that’s how she rolls.
But I love my body, even if it does have less-than firm arms, because it’s the vehicle that enables me to occupy space on planet earth. It’s my soul’s house, and I’m grateful to have it. I like my arms, whether they are marshmallows or toned powerhouses, because my arms do things. My arms make my family dinner, angry vacuum, and hug my daughter. I have decided to approach my late 30’s body with moderation and kindness. I need my body to live, and to function, and while I would really enjoy having Tina Turner arms, I really just need them to be strong enough to live my life, not bench press a grown man. I believe in a little less boot camp, and a little more walking. I believe in less self-criticism and a lot more patience toward marshmallow arms and cellulite.
In all things moderation, they say. And that definitely includes what we expect from our bodies.