Standing in my bathroom, I peer down at the flesh protruding over the top of my athletic shorts. It looks like a dimpled loaf of unbaked bread, or maybe a doubled-over baguette. Whitish and smooth, it rises as I breathe. I poke at it, and it jiggles a bit. As if it thinks itself to be Jolly.
Its appearance is nothing new. I’ve analyzed this flesh for decades in its various iterations: spilled out over the top of my stonewashed, peg-legged jeans; shoved into Spanx; rolling like waves under a lycra cocktail dress; growing veiny and bulbous around my offspring, and drooping like a deflated balloon after they moved out.
But today something is different. I am not scowling at its protrusion. I am not stretching it back and flattening it with imagined clothespins (or ‘skinpins’). I am not judging its poundage or the number of situps required to shrink it. I am simply looking at it. There it is; a part of me.
I see you, Tummy Flesh. You are the protector of my innards. You are the insulation around my third chakra. You are the meat of my power center.
My daughter (she is 4) has the most beautiful round belly. It is my favorite thing. The delicate, firm curve of her midsection arcs outward with the sweetness of a teddy bear or a baby Buddha.
“Tummy kisses!” I say as I dress her for bed.
She giggles, hands on hips, and pushes her belly out. I rest my cheek on her navel, whispering You are the best belly ever, and she proudly wiggles it side to side.
Women’s bellies are so important. They are both our softness and our power. Yet we are taught that they should be diminished and flattened.
I hope my daughter (ALL the daughters for that matter) will always look in the mirror and shimmy her midsection (in whatever iteration it is in at the time) declaring it to be the Most Beautiful Belly Ever.