Back-handed compliment

5 03 2008

Neal, past master of the backhanded compliment, hit me with another one last night.   He came up to me and kissed me and then said, “I know that you’re not the woman I married, but I still think you’re as sweet and wonderful as you ever were.”

No compliment beginning with the words “I know you’re not the woman I married” is going to end well, no matter what you say next.  I know what he meant.  Physically, I’m not nearly as slim or put together as I once was.  I do try, though.  I mean, when I met him, I was a college student.

As a college student, I had all the time I wanted to get ready in the morning.  I could wash and dry my hair, pick out my clothes carefully, and put on makeup.  I wasn’t shoved out of bed every morning by two little preschoolers hitting me in the head and demanding breakfast.  No one banged desperately on the bathroom door while I was doing my hair.   I had time to shop for clothes and try things on!  Now when I shop for clothes Mike hides under the clothes racks, Donal whines and complains, Patrick cries and throws things on the floor, and Brenna tells me I’m fat.  I get about a 20 minute window to find something on the rack that I like and see if it fits.  Argh!

When I met Neal, I ate very healthy.  The refrigerator was full of food I wanted to eat, not cheerios and baby yogurt, mac & cheese, peanut butter and mini raviolis.  I ate cherries and apples, plums, fresh beets and sweet potatoes, almonds and fancy cheeses.  I cooked about once a week, making a large pot of chicken or vegetable soup that I reheated and ate all week when I wanted something hot.  Of COURSE I was skinny!

I wasn’t trapped in the house.  I walked a lot, walking to class and walking around the neighborhood in the evenings.  I biked to the grocery store.  Now I’m trapped as surely as if I had a ball and chain attached to my ankle.   Trying to get the kids out to exercise is an incredibly gruelling task, and now we can’t walk out of our yard where we live!  Someone is always hot, tired, thirsty, their feet hurt, their legs hurt, they need a potty, they need a change, or they fall down thirty feet away from the door and need a band-aid.  I can get to the gym if I get everyone up an hour early, shove them through their breakfast while they whine and complain, pack three bags of stuff (swim stuff, diaper stuff, and gym stuff) find everyone’s YMCA pass, put on two pair of shoes, find everyone’s jacket, settle a fight, and buckle everyone into their car seats.  Getting out of the gym takes nearly as long as getting into it, and the whole process uses an entire morning.  We can’t go in the afternoon after our school day, because there is no child care between 12 and 4pm.

I am not as beautiful as I was when I was 25.  Sorry, hon.  But I like to think that even so, I am now more of a woman than I was then.  I know so much more.  I don’t cry as much, scream as much, fight as much.  I can keep my temper and keep my house.  I’m a better writer and a better mother and (whisper it) a better lover.  Also a better cook.  I’m closer to God and what God wants me to be.  I’m softer, gentler, more loving.  I have more patience and more sympathy.  I have more grace and more confidence.

And if we both have a little more padding around our waists, a few more wrinkles, and less ability to bend in certain places…. well, we have four beautiful children, lovingly raised to the best of our ability.   I’m glad he loves me despite the way I’ve changed.  I love him despite the way he’s changed, too, but I guess for men the appearance of beauty is more valuable.  Women have always had the ability to love someone a little craggy-looking, loving the heart and not worrying too much about the face.




2 responses

5 03 2008
Linda Miller

Dear Heart,
I see a beautiful lady who manages to nurture everyone who comes into contact with her. Nobody could possibly pass out more love and compassion than you do constantly. These are the busiest times of all for stay at home Mothers and I can’t believe how well you’re handling every aspect of your life.
I used to get a lot of comments about my tummy until I noted that I had 4 children to show for it, too.
Much love & hugs,

12 03 2008
Grandma Wilhite

Nobody, NOBODY is the same person he/she used to be 10 years ago. I’m certainly not the person I was 55 years ago! That’s one of the surprises — or tricks? –, that life plays on us. I suspect that many marriages fail simply because one grew up and the other did not. Or one grew in a way the other couldn’t handle, but EVERYBODY changes. My Daddy commented about that once, after he and Mother were in their 60’s, and Marilyn Monroe was wowing the guys. He said that Mother far more beautiful to him. She was different than the one she married, but she was more lovely and desirable then than the girl he had married. Her maturity had become her. Those in a canoe either learn to paddle together, or they have to paddle solo!

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