It’s date night or maybe just a Sunday trip to the mall. Or we’re meeting our partner’s parents for dinner or friends for drinks or coworkers at the annual holiday party. Going to the beach or a baby shower or possibly just the grocery store.
We are all set for this outing. Dressed up or casual, applying the finishing touches of lip color and hair product. Our guy jingles his keys in his pocket, then sits on the edge of his seat, watching YouTube videos on his phone at lightning speed, pushing his impatience down in a valiant effort to maintain relationship harmony and waiting to hear that we are, in fact, ready to go.
We step out, striking a rather hostile stance, nearly tripping our love as he pops off the couch and heads for the door assuming we are leaving. Then we unleash the queen mother of questions:
“Does this make my butt look big?”
(Cue the screeching of the record as it comes to a halt.)
He hesitates, because although this exact interrogation has happened before, he’s never quite prepared for the launched attack that is coming and is therefore confused by the sudden stalling of momentum, the complete and utter change of direction. Our partner waivers simply because there is no good way to answer this question without being misinterpreted and having the perceived thoughts held against you for all eternity. And in that microsecond of uncertainty, we are convinced we hear your unspoken answer.
“You do think my butt looks big. I knew it!”
Next comes the tears, the anger, the violent stripping off of the offensive outfit into a vortex of profanity and jewelry and maybe a heel that will inevitably hurt when it makes contact with his body. Not only will this ensemble be tossed into the donate pile, but so will the innocent date night that was supposed to happen only five minutes ago.
I’m embarrassed to say that I have been an active participant in these games and know all the variations the questions can take:
Do these pants make me look fat? Does this color make me look washed out? Do these shoes make my legs look short? Do I look stupid with my hair up? With it down? Do my boobs look too big in this? Too small? Do I look too curvy? Not curvy enough? Do I look matronly? Trashy? Am I too dressed up? Too casual? Do I look weird? Do you think they’ll like me? They’re going to hate me, aren’t they…?”
These questions can take any form, cover any topic, belief or body part and masquerade as harmless, until they fly out of our mouths, hovering malevolently at our partner’s ears, leaving them like a deer in headlights, which unfortunately, confirms our greatest fears. That you do think our butts look big, our hair too frizzy, our makeup badly done, our earrings too large for our heads, our choice in footwear appalling, and our thoughts, character, personality and general company abhorrent.
Why do we do this?
The truth is, these questions are just rhetorical. We don’t really want to know if our butts look too big in this particular outfit that we’ve most likely worn before. We don’t really want your fashion guidance, hair tips or exercise advice. So why do the questions take this form?
It starts with a moment of insecurity, maybe because we actually are questioning the size of our butts, and not liking what we see in the mirror. We do worry what you’ll think of us and wonder if you’ll be proud or embarrassed to be seen in public with us by your side. We aren’t sure if you know exactly how much effort we put into looking good, and if you notice. Or care.
And if you don’t notice or care, what else don’t you notice or care about where we are concerned?
But we lack insight at that very vulnerable instant and we let our fear speak for us. Our fear at that moment is that you’ll see what we see in the mirror, and judge us as harshly as we judge ourselves. We fear you’ll abandon us on a whim. We fear what magazines and film show us is the truth, that only the young and physically-perfect are seen as beautiful and, therefore, deserving of love. The rest of us be damned.
So, here’s what we’re really asking…
“Do you love me enough to see through my fake question and tell me what I need to hear? To give me the answers to the questions I’m too afraid to ask?”
“Do you think I’m beautiful even if my butt is big?” and “What if it keeps getting bigger?”
“Will you be attracted to me if pregnancy, time or illness changes my body? Because it might.”
“Will you still think I’m beautiful when I have grey hair, age spots and wrinkles? Because I will someday.”
“Will you be able to look underneath it all and still see my beauty?”
“Will you love me, no matter what?”
We need to feel safe. We need to feel loved. We need to feel that even if we have a bad day in the mirror or if we’re sick or don’t put makeup on, or if we gain weight or lose weight, that it’s okay. That we are loved. That you see all of our beauty, regardless of the physical package that contains it.
When we ask you if our butts look big or complain that our hair looks stupid, take us in your arms, give us a hug and tell us how beautiful we are. Tell us you love us—and mean it.
Genuinely mean it.
That is all we’re really asking for.
Author: Amy Bradley
Editor: Nicole Cameron
Image: Allen Skyy/Flickr