When Justin and I got married, we promised to always tell each other the truth. This has proved to be one of the worst decisions I have made to date. Worse than the time I cut bangs in my hair, decided I would only listen to jazz music, or the time I thought cowboy boots somehow suited me, was the decision to always be honest. It’s not my honestly with which I have the problem. It’s all the honesty coming my way.
Case in point. When we were on our recent vacation Justin told me only two of my swimsuits looked good on me. I was in a swimsuit at the time so naturally this sent me into a deep mental nose dive that had me wondering A) which two were the good ones and was one of them the one currently on me. And B) what strangers agreed with him and how much of their mental energy had they already spent that day (or more for god sake!) thinking about how terrible I looked in my not those two swimsuits.
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Justin wasn’t being critical. He was just holding up his end of our marital bargain that had us always being honest with one another. Even more benevolent in theory, he was trying to help.
He was probably right about the swimwear. But considering we were on vacation at the time, it’s not clear what I was supposed to do about my bathing suit situation. I’m not one of those “oh that was helpful, let me ignore this information and not loathe myself for eternity” kind of people.
Also, I’ve had children out of this bod. There’s only so good it’s going to get. This begged the question: was it the swimsuit that was the problem or the wearer? Thinking about this also sent me into another deep mental nose dive that had me Googling juice cleanses and death by liposuction statistics. To think an hour before I had looked in the mirror and thought, “Not bad.”
Naturally as is to be expected, the minute we returned home I not only threw out the feared offending swimsuits, I tossed the whole lot. We’ve been back two weeks and I’ve spent the bulk of that time cyber stalking swimwear. And if you’re wondering why swimsuits are so relevant to my life, I live in Los Angeles. It’s 400 degrees about 11 ½ months of the year. Eventually, one is going to find herself near a pool.
Our family has an upcoming warm weather vacation over President’s weekend. So I said to Justin, “I’m going to get some new swimsuits.” This was my way of pre-empting the deluge on the credit card because as we all know, clothing items that use the least amount of fabric and require the smallest amount of workmanship also cost the most. I continued, “You said mine looked awful on me.”
I expected him to wince as he assessed his honesty in hindsight. Instead, without taking his eyes off the TV, he said, “They do.”
Since Justin and I vowed in front of friends, family, and my childhood rabbi to always be honest with one another, I can’t really be mad at him. Sure I wouldn’t really mind if he didn’t tell me and I walked around whatever resort pool we were at lathered in denial, but we had agreed to be honest with one another. And let’s face it, any husband who is willing to be honest with his wife about her attire has the resilience and fortitude of a Navy SEAL. Both will see battle, but the army guys get a medal for it. The husband will just have to sleep on the couch.
So I’m okay with Justin’s benevolent honesty. It’s my children with whom I have a problem. See, I’m not married to them. We didn’t exchange any vows with one another and promise to say every thought that comes to mind. In fact, I intentionally don’t tell my children the truth in certain situations. Like the 9-year-old can tell the world’s longest story. They are rarely interesting to anyone over the age of nine, but I indulge him. Why crush his spirit? Instead, I nod on occasion and just don’t pay attention. He doesn’t need to know that I was bored to tears.
But my children don’t seem to share the same, “let’s not say everything that’s on our minds” mentality. In fact, motherhood is starting to feel like one giant Yelp! review. But my kids aren’t reviewing a new nail salon or the Thai place on the corner, they’re reviewing me. My looks, in particular.
The first review came when the big one was a toddler. “Mommy, you have a big tummy,.” he’d say. “You look like you have a baby in your tummy.”
I’d fight back tears, because what mom of a toddler doesn’t already wince at the sight of her own stomach and I’d respond with something clever like, “I don’t have a baby in my tummy. I have a sandwich.”
Then the little one grew old enough to talk and she somehow assumed she was a reality show judge and I was the contestant. “The shoes aren’t pretty,” she’d say if I dared wear flats in the evening. Then she might follow it up with a doozy like, “What’s it like to have soft stuff on your bottom?”
The tipping point came the other day when we finally got around to hanging some pictures in the house. Up went the wedding photo that had been collecting dust for the past few months. Both kids looked at our wedding photo, then at me as if id’ing a corpse and said, “You look different.” Different, if you hadn’t figured it out, is kid code for older.
I vowed to be honest with my husband, but not with my kids. Why do they have to be so honest with me?
But, then the next morning the big one came down to breakfast. The first thing he said was, “Mommy, I feel so fortunate. You’re so important to me.” I was waiting for him to ask for something, criticize me, or complain, but that was all he had to say. And for that moment, I was happy he was being honest.
I knew I was just hours away from being told my hair doesn’t look right or that my freckles look like dirt, but until then I was willing to take the little bit of flattery I got. I needed it. I had spent the past two weeks ordering swimsuits and they were set to arrive that day. I braced myself for all the honesty coming my way.
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