UPDATE, January 1, 2010: Russell Smith is taking a hiatus from this blog. He’ll return soon.
Every woman I have ever known to have a baby laments that her body is not the same. They think they have been ruined: they are slightly curvier (they say they are hugely, massively fat), their breasts are fuller (saggy, elongated, collapsed, they say), they may have a C-section scar. So I am spending rather a lot of time being reassuring and complimentary these days.
What is sad and frustrating about this situation is not any bodily change – the actual change is almost imperceptible – but the delusional, almost hallucinatory character of the perception. And the reminder that men’s esthetic judgements of women are not really terribly important to women – women see that as driven by sexual desire, which it is, and so discount it as somewhat brutish and unsophisticated. Women are more concerned, on the whole, by what they look like in clothes than without them; they worry about how they are going to look in social situations more than how they are going to look in dark rooms. I suspect this is largely because they know that men will lust after them pretty much regardless of what they are wearing. That’s fish in a barrel. Female social circles are far more difficult to impress.
Anyway, the point is that my rhapsodizing about how deeply sexy she now is – which she really sincerely is, all ripe and bursting with hormones, even sexier than she was before the birth – is not very interesting or useful to her. My constant advances seem to do nothing to reassure her either. And so we blindly push on in our separate obsessions: me in my determined lust, like a moth against the bright windowpane, she in her stern self-condemnation before a glass of her own, this one a mirror, like a startled and transfixed predator, convinced the image she sees there is another animal entirely, a rival, an enemy.
Image courtesy of NeoGaboX.