Have you heard this one?
Wilford Brimley was five years younger when he shot Cocoon than Tom Cruise was when he shot the last Mission Impossible. Go check it. It’s true.
It’s weird facts like that that made me wonder if I’d ever suddenly look like I thought adults did when I was a kid. At what point would I suddenly look in the mirror and see someone like my mom. Not, resemble my mom. But actually look like a MOM, you know, in her 40s, chasing kids, weathered, no longer GAF about it all. Maybe we’re just all too well-preserved and endlessly cool to become that. What would that even look like?
I remember my brother-in-law once telling me that he used to wonder how so many middle-aged men in the South would walk around with shorts and tall black socks pulled all the way up.
Can’t you see how horrible that looks?
There is no reason you have to look that bad!
And then he said one day he found himself mowing the lawn with shorts and black socks pulled all the way up, and realized, “Oh. One day life just gets so life-y that you don’t care about something as dumb as socks and what people think of them.”
I thought the same about senior women in my profession, whether CEOs or serious broadcast journalists. I also sort of felt like I was playing dress up early in my career, compared to a lot of them. I’m never quite as pantsuit-y or blown out, even when I have on a pants suit and have a blow out.
It didn’t happen when I hit 30.
It didn’t happen when I became a mom.
Nor did it happen when I hit 40.
Am I Tom Cruise? Destined to always look hip and in my late 30s and not quite professional enough…
But y’all: It. Has. Happened.
I don’t know when. I don’t know if it was creeping towards my mid-40s; the cumulative impact of seven years of motherhood or the cumulative impact of building two startups.
Some of this is not super positive. I can no longer hold my arm in a way that hides a big sagging arm flesh. I used to be able to drop weight predictably if I worked out, cut out the wine and ate well. I didn’t drink for the first six months of the year, and did all those other things. I lost 20 pounds but it was HARD FOUGHT and nowhere near the amount I wanted to lose. How was it so much easier just five years ago after Evie was born? I’ve always had epically long legs, even if nothing else on me looked quite like I wanted it to. I’ve realized that short shorts are officially no longer a good look for me.
And there’s this: Every pair of jeans becomes mom jeans on me. I feel like I could make low-rise jeans look like mom jeans. You don’t understand why mom jeans are a thing until it happens to you. There’s a great quote I read a while back from Maya Rudolph about this. She was recalling the “mom jeans” skit they did back in the day, stuffing the front of their jeans, laughing about poor puffy moms with bad fashion sense and, welp, she woke up one day and that was her.
But it’s also my face. It looks…Like it’s seen things. I’m 42 and I’ve had two kids and I work all the time and I’m never gonna be someone who has plastic surgery. I don’t even get regular haircuts. I’m just not big on maintenance. This is me.
Part of this is also good. I look wise. I look at peace. I look like I’m done with a lot of the bs of trying to be a cool, hip, desirable woman. There is power in that that I wouldn’t trade for the world’s flattest stomach.
This was the picture where it hit me…a closeup from the first night of the Chairman Mom Flee.
That is a different me than the me of even a few years ago.
I don’t mean to say this was a bad picture. It was a picture where I looked nice, I’d showered, I’d washed my hair, and put on some makeup. It’s well lit. It’s shot in gorgeous surroundings by an amazing photographer. It’s a good picture. But it’s a good picture of grown up mom/CEO/adult/middle aged me.
Here’s what I find most striking about this photo: This is the me that will be permanently fused into my kids’ minds when they think of “mom.” Just like the picture of my mom that I have in my head when I think of her, that’s really some 30 years younger than she is now. I look at pictures of my mom looking all 70s with long black hair when she had just had my eldest siblings and that doesn’t feel like someone I knew. My mom, to me, has short grey hair. Not black like it was for so much of her life, not white like it is now, but grey.
Anything before this moment, and they’ll say, “WHOA! Look how young mom used to look!”
There’s something comforting about her finally being here. I’m still me. Maybe I’m more me. I still wear bright colors, I still wear outrageous jewelry, I still have huge hair, and I still wear cowboy boots more days than not. One day, I was having breakfast up in Sonoma, and an old woman sat next to me admiring my Rodeo Clown-esque ensemble. “You make me feel like I should wear whatever I want to,” she said. “F— yeah you should!” I said back. “You’ve earned it. I’ve earned it. We’ve all earned it.”