Fat and pregnant: 30 weeks

Since it’s been a while, allow me to present a selection of pictures in payment for your patience.

27 weeks, in the same position as the baseline:

Yup, everything's growing

29 weeks, taking video of the three most adorable vow-renewal attendants you could imagine (I haven’t gotten permission from the parents of two of the three to share any of the pics of them, so you’ll have to trust me):

And two days ago, at 30 weeks (little did I know when I bought this dress it would make such a fabulous maternity top):

(You can tell which picture me and my dinky camera phone did NOT take, aye?)

And now, a wordy tangent:

All the clothed pictures you’ll see of me from here on out (until the Fetus decides to come out, at least) are likely to be either in a dress or wearing a dress-as-top, for the simple and pragmatic reason that that’s all I have that fits. It’s a strange feeling, to dress so femme, not on the occasional whim, when the mood strikes, but every single day, because there aren’t any other choices that cover these gawdawful belly panels.

And it’s all the stranger because I’ve long had a complicated and difficult relationship with femininity. Internalized misogyny thanks to a second-wave era upbringing, the micro-culture of my nonconformist family, having my body take on a woman’s shape before I was ready to let go of a child’s life, a lifetime surrounded by fat shame and fat hate, including in my own family, and a deeply hurting psyche that said (and, as we’ll see, says) I’m not good enough, worthy enough, beautiful enough for beautiful things: these all contributed to a discomfort with anything “feminine” and especially with any desire of mine for femininity, for “girly”, for pretty, for nice. Wanting these things is a sign of weakness, these factors conspire to inform me, a deviance, an acquiescence to colonization by patriarchy.

It pains me to write these words, and know that some part of me still — always? — believes them to be true, for all I can see their falseness.

It’s getting better. I can buy make up now without wanting to hide it (though I will never want to wear it more than twice a year). I can ask for recommendations for and schedule an appointment with a hair stylist (though I will never buy Product, for a variety of reasons not least of which is I can’t be arsed). I can shop for and say I want a gorgeous, versatile dress (though I will always pull jeans on by default).

But when the dress shows up wrong: I can’t stop from hating myself for how much it bothers me. I can’t admit how much I care. Because it’s wrong. It’s weak. It’s shameful. It’s just a silly dress, and I shouldn’t be bothering with them anyway, it’s all foppery and femininity and I’m too good and I’m too ugly for such frilly finery.

It’s just a dress, and if I care, then I’m just a girl.

My brain is not always a stable or comfortable place to be. (But then, whose is?)

I care. And there’s a girl inside of me, who hated pink but wanted to sometimes, just sometimes, love it too, who hurts like hell when she’s finally allowed something pretty and it all goes pear shaped, because perhaps she’s allowed an indulgence, but only if it’s clear that it doesn’t matter, that it’s a silly pastime, a self-aware amusement and nothing more. But she’s not allowed to care.

It’s that message, from my own mind, that hurts more than anything. And the tears that flow from that only fuel the disdain.

The whole situation is more than a little ridiculous.

But it’s also entirely serious.

The dress in question, by the way, is the one in the second picture above. I’ve been assured it looked lovely, and it went well enough on the day that I didn’t devolve into a panicky puddle (it helped that my mantra was It’s Not My Day), but it didn’t show up the way it was supposed to. And I wasn’t supposed to care.  But, of course, I did.

It would be easy to laugh it off and blame pregnancy hormones, and certainly that’s a culturally accepted out. But although they complicate it, exaggerate it, I cannot lie and say they created this too-much-caring, this contempt-of-caring.

For if nothing else, it’s not unique to me. If you listened to the Think Out Loud radio show I participated in1, you heard much confusion between gender-neutral parenting and anti-femininity parenting, where the point was not so much to offer our children options but to erase any leanings toward the girly.

The activist in me sighed to hear it, but the girly-girl, the long-denied dress-wearer, cried.

  1. And if anyone knows where to find or has made a transcript of it, please let me know!
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18 Responses to Fat and pregnant: 30 weeks

  1. Erika Simpson

    This is exactly how I feel about pretty clothes. Like I’m too nonpretty for them, which leads to me saying I can’t be bothered. I wonder how much is me being a tomboy and non-society’s-idea-of-femme-conformist and how much is my fear that I’ll look wrong.

    I loved seeing your body and the changes!

    • Erika — For me, I really am most comfortable (both physically and psychologically) in relatively non-gendered, non-femme clothes most of the time. Or rather, about half the times in jeans and a plain T and half in jeans and a kick-ass blouse from a fat lady boutique. But it’s that 1% of the time, when I want to get femme — to wear more than a blouse, to (gasp!) spend time on my appearance — that all this tends to come to the forefront for me. Including some worry that, because I do it so rarely, I don’t really know how: don’t know how to style my hair, to give myself a facial, to put on much less pick out make up. And it’s not that I want to do it more often, just that I want to not be ashamed that I want to know how to do it, to want to do it sometimes just because.

      And thank you. I’m really glad I started taking the pictures, and even happier about all the fabulous feedback I’ve received.

  2. For the record, I told you that dress was awesome before I finished reading this post. I’d just gotten to the red dress pic when I said that. So, yeah, the dress is awesome. You looked BEEYOOOTIFUL in it!!! Not that you don’t look beautiful otherwise … you know what I mean. :) Out of curiosity, what was wrong with the green dress?

    • Kareena — hah! I was wondering about that. ;)

      I originally wanted the dress to have a full-circle skirt (because what’s the point of going femme if there’s not a full-circle skirt? and I adore the feeling of abundance and swirl with a fabulous, full skirt), but was talked into an extra-full A-line. Except she got that part of my mom’s and my order mixed up, and my mom ended up with the extra-full skirt, and I got the plain ol’ A-line. The good news is, my mom looked amazing, and I’m really glad she got that skirt. The bad news is, it took me a day and a half to stop crying when I thought about it.

      And thank you. It did look well enough, even if it wasn’t quite what I wanted and expected.

      • Ah. I get what you mean about swishy skirts. They are way fun. :) But, still, that dress looked fab even without the full skirt.

      • I’m glad your mom looked awesome. I’m sad you didn’t get the skirt you wanted.

        Talk to me, and maybe we can work out a trade – massage for sewing?

  3. Erika’s mention of the fear of looking wrong makes me think of how I became a tom boy as a young girl. Rewind to 1976 and the Dorothy Hamil haircut my mom made me get at the age of six. The first comment I got at school the next day was an emphatic, “You look like a boy! You’re a boy!” from one of my classmates. From that day on I refused to wear dresses or skirts, until I was 14, for the fear that I would look wrong. The fear of looking wrong also carried over to other aspects of my life, like the toys I preferred to play with. No more playing with baby dolls, or any other toys I perceived as “girly”.

    Even now, when I don a dress I don’t quite feel right, quite likely all because of a haircut!

  4. Oh, wow. You’ve once again managed to articulate beautifully my own painful relationship with the feminine, clothing and my inability to feel like I belong in a skirt or dress (even in the middle of a SCA event!). I want to wear them – I long to wear them and be pretty and twirl in fantastic circles of skirted glory -but I feel as if people are staring at me when I do. I haven’t owned make-up in years. While I was pregnant I bought a bottle of nail polish and then never opened it.

    I did want to say that you looked wonderful in the green dress in the second picture.

  5. FWIW, I think the green dress looks amazing! I relate to your feelings about dresses and girly-ness. Have you seen this (I’m sure you have, right?) Eve Ensler talk on TED about embracing your inner girl: http://www.ted.com/talks/eve_ensler_embrace_your_inner_girl.html I loved it…and now I’m going to go watch it again. <3 to you!

  6. Thanks for this. I certainly feel you on ambivalence around caring about femininity, and I think the reason is: societal anxieties are intensified around female femininity* – both solicited and forbidden. It gets more attention (indeed, there seems to be a recurrent idea that femininity itself is a sign of *wanting* attention), and more policing. There’s twin poles of anxiety – “too much” femininity makes a femmephobic/misogynistic society get narky, and “too much” masculinity for a woman pings its homo and transphobic anxieties!

    So no wonder there’s an emotional conflict, with a cultural space fraught on all sides. Low-key, middle-of-the-road femininity is much safer (but not *safe*), I think.

    And knowing all this doesn’t necessarily help much at all – personally I very rarely wear a dress except for parties or photo shoots, because I just don’t have the energy to bear other people’s bullshit most of the time.

    * anxieties around male femininity are different, if related, I think

    • Emilia — It very much is a catch-22, and there is no way for women to win. (Think slut-blame and burqa bans and poking fun at frumpy: somebody will ALWAYS criticize how we dress, and it gets exponentially worse as we move away from the white, cis, middle class, thin “default”.)

      For me, most of the time, know this does help, because it allows me to say “Well fuckitall then, I’ll wear what I like.” Except, as above, when what I like is high performance femme*, and I get all kinds of performance anxiety.

      *By which I mean anything involving more than one article of femme-ish clothing. What? That’s not how everyone defines it?

      • It strikes me that “gender performance anxiety” might be a useful concept. The ability of occupy that particular space of the high femme is stressful, partly because it’s premised on all the work producing it disappearing – you’re supposed to make it look *effortless*, right? Has to be one seamless look.

        For me that’s really tough, because I’m clumsy so I’m bad at ironing and my dress will have the odd crease, anything more than kitten heels will see me losing my balance and stacking it, I don’t have great fine motor skills so no matter how I concentrate my make-up’s not quite perfect etc etc.

        So while I admire women who can pull it off, I can’t *be* that kind of femme – so I have to find another way that incorporates my own ability levels (current description: “mod Disney princess”)…

  7. I’m with Kareena – you are GORGEOUS, no matter what you are (or aren’t) wearing! And I’m also curious what was “wrong” about the green dress; I think it’s lovely, and looks great on you.

    I’m still ashamed and embarrassed about buying makeup, and while I’ve gotten more comfortable with a certain amount of day-to-day femme in the last decade, I still refuse to consider myself “girly”. This is despite the long hair, etc., etc. I love wearing dresses, drapey clothing, etc., but end up in pants 19 days out of 20 because I find them more practical, just easier all ’round. Now you mention it, I think it is due to internalized misogyny due to the second-wave feminist upbringing, etc… blah. Some days I just hate that we have to worry about these things.

  8. craftydabbler

    I mostly grew up in a woman led single parent household (70s-80s), and yet somehow I had the idea that being feminine/female was weak. Then I was raped at 11 years old, and for years I wished I could just be neuter, not be female, not male, just nothing of interest. Femininity was not only weak, it was dangerous. It has been hard for me to like pretty things, domestic things, but I have really worked on it for the last several years. I hate how I feel inside about it all, how I have to have long conversations in my head with myself, how I have to stop justifying things to myself. Anyway, you are not alone. That is for sure.

  9. I would *love* to hear more of your thoughts on this – it’s an area that has a lot of resonance for me, but that I haven’t explored a lot. I find that a certain amount of femininity (which tracks rather well with what my mom did during my childhood, not coincidentally) feels comfortable, anything much beyond that often feels weird and like I risk ‘failing’.

    Objectively, if I like how it looks, how am I ‘failing’?! But I know that if I don’t get the social approval of ‘you look lovely’, I’ll feel all addled, uncomfortable and wretched. If it’s just a lark, then there’s a lot less ‘at stake’ in the endeavor, but if I find myself wanting to ‘look pretty’, then it’s a huge, big Thing. I’ve used up my daily allotment of scare quotes, so I’ll leave it here, and thank you for posting such great pictures!

  10. Pingback: Fat and 36 weeks pregnant and… ready for birth?? Pictures, pools, and ranting | Raising My Boychick

  11. Wow. I never knew just how much anyone else could relate to my issues around femininity. Other people have wanted to hide makeup?!?!?! Thank you for spelling this all out. I’ve never been able to articulate it as clearly as you did here. This is VERY helpful for me to have read, to have language for these thoughts and feelings. As I commented on a related post on Womanist Musings, the thing holding me back the most from doing what I *want* is, as Emilia described, the gender policing and attention. If I dress even a little more femininely than usual, I get a lot of positive reinforcement for the “improved” gender performance (not usually in so many words but I get the message), which is frustratingly gratifying but mainly unwanted attention drawn to my body. I also see how my female toddler gets the same treatment from, oh, just about everybody. Always comments about appearance, of course, but the more conventionally feminine the styling the more glowing praise.

    (I’m also glad to have read this in a forum that respects the “importance” of privilege, because I’m reminded that these issues for me are mitigated by many privileges, or perhaps better, uncompounded by other marginalisations.)

    Anyway, thanks again!

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