I don’t know a single woman who is fully content with her looks. But I know a lot of men who are. It’s an odd truth, but one I never really thought about until my six-year old son began going around shirtless.
In the universe of cute things, I find little-boy torsos to be right at the top. The big head, teetering on gawky, narrow shoulders. Skin so pale it’s translucent in spots. A mountain range of ribs. Tiny baby moles, some in the same spots as my own. Nothing makes me happier than sticking my nose into Finn’s neck and feeling his laugh vibrate. I can feel his life blood beating there, the humid warmth mixing with the almost powdery freshness of youth.
I love Finn’s bare torso, but that doesn’t mean I’m not alarmed when I see it out in public. First to go were the pajama tops. “Where’s your shirt?,” I’d ask, when he’d come down for breakfast in the chill. He’d shrug as Cheerios fell from his mouth to rest on his bony chest. Spring came, and the temps got into the high 50′s. And then Finn started taking his shirt off at every opportunity. He takes off his shirt to play outside. He takes off his shirt to eat dinner. He takes off his shirt to watch Jake and the Neverland Pirates. He’s always fully dressed for winter on the bottom, which makes it even weirder.
I don’t fuss. If I’ve learned anything from my six years as a parent, it’s that odd behavior explodes exponentially the more you remark on it. A lesson I learned the hard way, with booger eating. Some things are better ignored.
As with all things, Tate has started taking his big brother’s lead with the semi-nudity. But at least Finn has some meat on his bones. Tate’s 3-year old torso looks exactly like E.T.’s. That’s what you end up with when your favorite food is watermelon.
I don’t know if Finn associates bare torsos with athletes, which is a possibility. Or if he is taking a cue from Tom, who will start walking around shirtless after any two consecutive days of gym visits. “Do I look bigger??,” Tom will ask, while flexing his chest. Or, stretching luxuriously after a shower: “Do you want to touch my muscles?” I always try to nod yes. Because these are the kindnesses that life partners owe to one another.
I laugh at my guys, but I wish I had more of their confidence, their ease, their comfort with self. That extra five pounds? I’m fooling myself if I think anyone cares but me. Sometimes the constant struggle to be stronger, thinner, better—it just leaves me feeling hungry. And I want to feel full. Sated. Not by food, but by the knowledge that all the big and small pleasures in my life make me whole.