My Giant Knickers

“What the hell are those?” he asks one evening a year and a half ago, recoiling slightly at the sight of a pair of knickers. Side note: why on earth do they say ‘pair of knickers’, because I’m pretty sure I only have one fanny. Anyway, I digress…

They’re laid out on the bed, like some deflated, beige flag representing my just-had-a-baby saggy glory.

“Those are my knickers. I’m packing for our holiday,” I say defiantly.

“No, no you’re not taking those. They look like some kind of ace-bandage wrapping, or men’s 1930s swimming trunks. No.”

Great, I thought. I kind of agreed with him, but I didn’t want to face an alternative. These scuba-like pants were certainly practical, and they felt “safe”. As in, “you’ll need a shoehorn and WD-40 to get me out of these things” safe.

As per usual, I deflected with humour. “Okay, clingfilm, then? What can I do to keep all thissss (circling my hand in front of my belly and pouting my lips like some bargain-basement catalogue model) looking sexy?”

He starts to smile and raises his eyebrows slightly. “But you look great.. I mean, I get it, it’s fine. But I was also thinking…”

Yes, I know what you’re thinking.

A lot of men, my husband included, would choose that slinky lingerie that resembles a tangled mass of fishing line, black cheesecloth netting, and a couple of pink bows (to make it “classy”, I presume). It’s the hopeful, Christmas-morning excitement that they get, hoping they’ll get to fool around with some kind of supermodel fantasy. I have that kind of lingerie (I’m no supermodel). Back in the day, I liked wearing it a lot, even going so far as to wear matching sets. Matching! Oh the luxury of disposable time and income! However, that was before my pregnant body morphed into something I thought resembled Violet Beauregarde and I hoofed out three massive babies.

I held my hand up. “I’ll stop you right there. No fancy stuff. My Incredible Underpants are going in the bag, I’m overruling you. Nothing I have fits me anymore anyway. These pants hide it all…” I mumbled that last bit and it dissipated into the space between us. My cheeks burned crimson, because I felt really awkward having to justify my giant knickers, even though I kind of hated them.

I gave him that stare, the stop talking, this isn’t fun stare (I have 3 kids, I need efficient ways of communicating), and it ended the conversation. He left the room.

The next day, whilst he was at work, I was editing the contents of the suitcase, securing a place for my giant knickers (okay, full disclosure: I packed three pairs, in different colours). I looked over at my lingerie that was cowering at the back of the drawer. I sighed. I took it all out in handfuls and unceremoniously threw it in a pile on the floor in front of me (I’m pretty sure a cloud of dust mushroomed around it). He had a point, I thought. He saw me as the girl he fell in love with, not just the mother of his kids and the family chauffeur and cage-fighting referee. He saw me as strong and beautiful and sexy. Maybe I should see myself that way more often?

I never vocalise negative feelings about myself in front of my kids. I’m careful to project a body-confident and strong example, especially for my daughters. But that doesn’t preclude days where I’m thinking I need Botox on 95% of my face, I look like I have a hair helmet and oh my god why has one of my boobs totally disappeared?! It’s hard work to find the positive spin when I’m trying to market myself to… myself. But with gritted teeth, I’ve started owning it more. That rad, fabulous feeling where I’m proud of my healthy body and how it’s marching me through life. It’s not about the size of the lingerie or about how much loose skin I can pinch (I swear I have no idea what to do with it except fold it into my bra). It’s about seeing past it all to the core of who I am.

I think partners are pretty handy in situations like this. They spot the person hiding underneath, through all the various layers of insecurity and self-defeat. They spot the original amongst all the Amaro-filtered copies. They love us unconditionally, without agenda or logical reason. My guy loves the fact that inane adverts make me sob, he supports that I have unwieldy childhood baggage, he loves that I’m prone to sweary outbursts and aggressive hand gestures. When I’m standing in front of the mirror, half-naked no less, pointing out knee wrinkles (WTAF), spider veins and turkey neck, he sees the girl he fell in love with; the one with the loud, snorty guffaw, fuck-it attitude and pert bum. He won the lottery.

Shaking up that self-love can be tricky. I have bills to juggle, kids to sidestep, in-laws to keep happy, mummy-group-politics to navigate. It’s exhausting, but I find reminders in the little things.

It’s P!nk circa 2010 on full blast in the kitchen when I’m burning toast. It’s a wink in the rearview mirror when I’m painting on my MAC Diva lipstick to gloss over the fact that I forgot to put a nappy on the baby and she’s just done a massive poo on the carseat. I’m fabulous, even though I just rammed the back of our car into our brick wall.

I’m strong and unique and fearless and vocal and beautiful. Not because someone says I am, but because I am inherently that, and I’m starting to believe it. It’s the content of my character. It’s the hidden magic simmering underneath all the loud noise. Big pants, small pants, frilly pants… none of it matters, and yet all of it does. Ultimately, all of those things are pieces in a story that is the life that I’m living, and the trick is remembering to celebrate the storyteller; the me right in the centre, stretching my arms out, saying yes, I remember ME. Now, hand over those kitchen shears so I can trim my glorious 70’s bush.*

Those giant pants taught me to start loving the person that I was, that I am, and that I’m constantly becoming.

That night, I did pack some lingerie that looked like glorified dental floss AND all three pairs of massive pants. Because all of them are me. All of them are part of my story.

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