Warning: naught language ahead.
My daughter and I went shopping for workout clothes the other day and it was better than bra shopping, I’ll give it that.
Until my brain kicked into overdrive, and I went from thinking, “wow, my baby girl is growing up,” to thinking “oh my god, judgement, shame, expectation, what will people think, does she know, does she care, oh my god butt cheeks.”
My daughter wears booty short. And her body looks amazing in them.
I could deal with the bikinis. I mean, it’s a bikini. It’s swimwear, I get it. Personally, I hate wearing bathing suits, and the less fabric clinging to me the better. I am not especially bothered by my belly-pouch, appendectomy scars or thighs rubbing together, because if you don’t like them that’s a reflection of your taste, not my worth. I’d go naked if the world would let me.
But my baby? Working out in booty-shorts?
That’s something different.
I mean, that is, well, sexy. I love watching her work out. She’s a thing of wonder. She can do pull-ups all day long, throw around weight so heavy that I can barely lift it, her form—the mechanics of her weight-lifting—is damned near flawless. It blows my mind how strong she is. Watching her discover CrossFit was like watching a tree-dwelling fish fall off a branch into a river for the first time. I swear, I heard violins and felt the tears of virgin fairies wash my weary soul.
But the shorts.
They are so short. They made me uncomfortable. I don’t really want to see the curve of her butt-cheek. I don’t want anyone to see the curve of her butt-cheek. So I thought about ways to break of her of the habit. Hell, I over-thought of ways to break her of the habit.
My favorite strategy was to borrow them and wear them.
I was confident that she would not want to see me in them. That going to the gym with me wearing booty-shorts would bother her to the point that she’d give me one of those “ew, gross, moooommms” that only a teenager has the nasal fortitude and eyeball-flexibility to deliver with proper flair. Victorious, I would exclaim “RIght! And it’s no better when you wear them.”
And then came the subtext.
I fucking hate subtext.
That she should be ashamed of her body? I mean, there’s really no way for me to say, “cover that up” without saying “people shouldn’t see that.” I don’t want her to be ashamed of her body. Not for one millisecond.
So I watched her walk through the gym. I have never seen her look so confident. So proud. So strong. She beams and floats through the place. And her body is magnificent. Such a slight figure doing things that exhibit unlikely strength. What is there to be ashamed of? Nothing. That’s what.
That she should be concerned about what other people think of her body? She is not responsible for whatever I feel looking at her. Or whatever some guy or girl feels looking at her. It is not her job to squeeze all the raw power that is her into some little corset of expectation. She is not responsible for other people’s shit, whether it’s horniness or shame or—none of it. And I am not about to teach her that she is.
Not. Gonna. Happen.
That she shouldn’t do what makes her feel the strongest and happiest because some people expect something else? No. She says that she feels like she can lift better and work out better in things that don’t get in the way. “I don’t care how you feel empowered honey, squish that power down, girl, so that others won’t judge you harshly.” Um? Nope.
I watched her doing a Clean & Jerk with such power and precision and couldn’t reconcile that with the imaginary conversation I was having in my head about why she needed to cover up. Granted, part of the problem is that even in my imaginary conversation, she’s smarter (and stronger) than me. I know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that if I really were to put on those booty shorts, she would either not notice and not say a thing, or say, “your body, your choice, you always do what makes you feel the most like you.”
I know that at it’s core, my problem is that I don’t really want her to grow up, and be all autonomous, far away from me. I love her, I like her, I want her near me. I raised her; I want her strong and empowered, wherever she is, whatever she is doing, I remind myself.
I want to protect her from anything and everything I can. Including judgement, and… And what? Shame?
There’s the rub. She can’t experience shame unless we teach it to her. She has done nothing wrong, and she knows it in her core, in her every pore. If I tell her she has, she’ll learn to second guess her judgement, her body, her right to be and express herself however she wishes. And I will be to blame for that.
And, no, I won’t teach her that if someone looks at her and thinks she’s sexy that there is anything wrong with that. Because there’s not. There is nothing wrong with her being sexy. There is nothing wrong with someone feeling sexual feelings when they look at her.
There is a lot wrong with my telling her that it’s her responsibility to police, control and mitigate other people’s impulses.
She moves on to kettlebell swings. With a heavier kettlebell than I ever lift. She bends at the waist, knees bent, butt back, then with an almost violent thrust of the hips sends the kettlebell up in the air, perfectly controlled by gently bent arms and her gaze straight ahead. Pure power, unfettered focus.
I am so in love with her.
With this mighty little powerhouse who has set goals and surpassed them. Who has discovered strength that surprises even her. Who is comfortable in her body and her power in a way that I have only tasted as an adult, and would never have understood at her young age.
I would never, never, ask her to cover any of it up. I would never want her to change so much as a hair on her head to pander to my neurosis or society’s demonic need to control young women like her.
I picked out the last three pairs of booty shorts. And a couple pairs of spandex tights, for colder days. When I look at her now, all I see is strength, courage, confidence, and an ease that is capable of moving not just weight, but minds and hearts.
I am in awe of her. All of her.
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Editor: Catherine Monkman
Photo: Anthony Topper/Flickr