Who you really are


Right before I became pregnant with Shane in 1997, I was struggling with my weight and my self-confidence. Again. Like many women, I had this image in my head of what I should look like. Because I didn’t look like an airbrushed supermodel. No one did. Not even the supermodel.

So obviously, every time I looked in the mirror the image in my head and the image in the mirror did not match. Then I got pregnant and I couldn’t follow my typical crazed exercise bulimic ritual. So I planned for After The Baby. I bought a 13” television-VHS combo and a post-pregnancy yoga video. The plan was that while the baby slept, I would do the yoga video and lose the pregnancy weight. Like all pre-baby plans, the VHS-yoga-weight-loss plan went in a completely different direction.

Because the baby didn’t sleep. So I never used the VHS player for the post-baby yoga video. My baby Shane was colicky and did not sleep more than two hours at a stretch. As it turns out, the only thing that would occupy him during these bouts of colicky crankiness were 1980’s movie videos. I would bring him into bed with me while he fussed and wiggled and I would put a movie into the VHS player.  And I would pass out. I’d wake up hours later, the movie would have rewound and restarted, and Shane would be sitting up at the end of the bed in his onesie, focused on the movie, swaying back and forth as he watched the movie.

Fast forward 19 years. We’re at the dinner table. It’s me, Shane, Max, and Shane’s friend. We’re discussing Shane’s imminent move to Oregon and what he will take with him. Max said, “You’re taking the VHS TV to Oregon, right?” Shane said, “If I could only take one thing with me, that would be it.” His friend says, “This is so cool. I don’t remember the last time my family sat down for a home-made dinner and just talked.” First, I have finally begun to enjoy cooking and food. Because life is short and you shouldn’t freaking deprive yourself. That evening, I had cooked a good meal, I’m just going to say. And second, we explained in that dinner conversation that the VHS-television player had been given to Shane, who kept it and valued it above the other electronics and technology he acquired in the 19 years of his life.

I have a B.A. in Psychology: in the books and studies I read towards that degree I learned that there’s been a long-standing dispute about whether an individual’s mental health is determined by genetics or environment. In my Shane’s case, I’d say environment was predominant, largely due to the movies of his infant years. He has the 1980’s VHS movies from his early years memorized. He can recite The Breakfast Club from heart, start to finish. And when I want someone to watch Better Off Dead with, I can count on my eldest son to sit through it, again, with me.

For his high school yearbook dedication, his brother and I wrote this, from his favorite movie:

“Dear Mr. Vernon, we accept the fact that we had to sacrifice a whole Saturday in detention for whatever it was we did wrong. But we think you’re crazy to make us write an essay telling you who we think we are. And you see us as you want to see us… in the simplest terms in the most convenient definitions. But what we found out is that each one of us is a brain…

and an athlete…

and a basket case…

a princess…

and a criminal…

Does that answer your question? Sincerely yours, The Breakfast Club.”

My Shane moves to Oregon next week, to study film and video. He’s taking the 20 year old VHS-television. He is a unique, athletic, kind, rebellious, audacious, human being. And I could not be prouder of my kid who defies definition in the simplest terms. I will miss the hell out of him.

For the record, despite never doing the VHS yoga video, I lost the “baby weight.” I didn’t lose weight because of the VHS-television and the video I bought. I lost weight many, many years later. I lost weight when I let go of the bullshit reasons that anyone else put on me to lose weight. And it wasn’t the baby weight or the divorce weight or the stress weight or however else we define it. I lost the weight of expectations and definitions. I lost the weight of what I thought I should be as a wife, mother, daughter, woman, friend, lawyer. Those are the simplest, most convenient definitions.  But that doesn’t really define who I am. Or who any of us are. When we let go of the weight of unrealistic expectations, we gain this airy freedom of who we really are. Like anything else, weight is how we define it. I’m free. It doesn’t matter how much I f*cking weigh.

The world is an imperfect place. Screws fall out all the time. (The Breakfast Club.) But imperfections are just another convenient definition. In fact, imperfections define our uniqueness. Look in the mirror. Check out that imperfect, beautiful, audacious, rebellious, kind, heartfelt, badass, free, human being. And be proud of yourself.

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