I used to have a great ass.
Black men would stop me on the street. “You have a great body,” they’d say politely, and then continue on. “Your jeans look great on you.” My butt was nice and round. “Juicy,” I’d hear. Just that much bigger than the women’s magazines told me it should be for my frame. My ass served me well in my 39 years, and for that I am grateful.
Ole girl’s doing OK. Thanks to some jogging and yoga, she’s fighting the good fight. But I’ve noticed a droop. She’s not defying gravity like she once did. It’s easier to find pants that fit, actually. But gone are the days of sidewalk and dance floor admiration.
That is how it goes. In the past year or so I’ve noticed other first, albeit subtle signs of aging: The large pores. A second glass of pinot grigio at night and I wake to extra-dark circles and creping under my eyes. The cellulite that has hugged the back of my thighs since I was 12 has spawned and now also covers the front of my thighs. After two babies and four decades, I don’t expect to see a flat tummy again. Everyone knows bodies age, yet are surprised when it happens to theirs. Here I am.
And yet for the first time in my life, I see something else that wasn’t there before. When I see pictures of myself smiling I notice the fine laugh lines, yes. There is something else in my whole face that is new. The same thing when I catch a reflection of my eyes in the rear-view mirror as I glance at my children sleeping in the backseat. I see the crow’s feet at the same moment and I see a pretty face. I did not see pretty before. It may have never been there, I’m not sure.
What I see now in the mirror is not what I saw when I was 12 or 18 or 22. Then, when I met a man for the first time, he saw, I assumed, an awkward face full of black heads and large teeth that never seemed to chomp back all the wrong words. He saw the person who could not be really loved. Someone who could be easily left. When I supposed what the hiring manager saw as I walked in with my Ann Taylor pant suit, she saw, I assumed, someone faking her way through. Not really up for the job. Someone who would screw up.
I did screw up. But not so terribly much.
I was left. But I was also loved.
And before I turned 36 so many things happened. Loves. Joys. Successes. Loss. Oh God so much fucking pain it seemed impossible to be real. And those babies. Those babies who made me so happy it seems impossible, too. Now when I hold them under their armpits in the pool and jog backwards through the thick water I can remember their squeezy, poreless baby skin, and now it is tight and muscular. And even in their little bodies, all the smoothness and perfectness is now roughing into that of a child, with arm hair and skinned knees and who use words like “concentrate,” and “actually” and opinions on how friendships work and which shoes go with which shorts. Their skin not of an baby, but skin of the person who they are now. Who they have come to be.
Just like me. When I peel off my sweaty headband while jogging with a friend and she says, “You are gorgeous!” and the client says, “You make a great first impression.” And, from across the restaurant table he says, “You just glow!” and then the other one smiles and says, “Your overbite is sexy.” I don’t suppose what they see. I know exactly what they see, because I see it too. Because now I am in the skin that has always been here, but only now really fits me. I have finally grown into that skin just as I have grown into my ass and my teeth and my eyes. And it is all of me, the inside and the outside are the same, even as one blooms and the other wilts, together they turn towards the sunlight in something that is more true than ever.