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a chest so full

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.


16 Comments Post a comment
  1. Your kids are adorable! That is hilarious about your son and your life partner — especially that Tom asks if his muscles are bigger. Haha. I can’t get my husband to walk around without his shirt. Not even at the beach. I swear, he has hundreds of t-shirts because he wears two at all times. :p

    May 17, 2013
  2. texasdeb #

    You can tell when the temperatures roll above 65 degrees here in Austin because all the guys immediately shed their shirts. This can lead to barely controllable laughter by most females in the area but that is at least partly spurred on by jealousy. Truth is there are days here hot enough I wish I could get away with tooling around sans shirt. It is only my deep and abiding affection for the sensibilities of the majority of the public that keeps me from convincing myself that a sports bra is essentially the same thing as a sports “top”. Honestly at my age I’m not sure it matters. Once I got past the mid-50’s (harrumph!) apparently I became invisible to everybody but my own reflection in the mirror. It’s a bitch when nobody else notices you and you are STILL stressing about how you look.

    May 16, 2013
  3. Peggy #

    And GOD FORBID he ever tries to wear those socks with sandals. . .

    This was one of my faves, Yoona!

    May 16, 2013
  4. shoe #

    Support the McConaughey in all of us! It’s healthy. Next step = bongo drums for Tom.

    May 16, 2013
  5. I just LOVE reading your blog! I couldn’t agree with you more about booger eating. I am REALLY regretting my initial reaction because nothing is more fun than grossing out your mother.

    May 16, 2013
    • thanks beth-anne. finn once caught my gaze in the rearview mirror, picked a large booger, and licked it off his finger with gusto. i ignored him but for my dry heaves, which are difficult to control

      May 16, 2013
  6. Great post Yoona.
    So true that boys are so much more confident. My little guy is 7 and walks around flexing his ‘muscles’ as though he were a gorilla. He’s happy as can be doing it, and I never want that to change.

    May 16, 2013
    • where do they learn about muscles? is it the superhero books? it’s amazing what creeps into their brains when you’re not looking

      May 16, 2013
      • It’s the world seeping into their own minds when you’re not looking. Funnier though is what they retain, and value.

        May 16, 2013
  7. Sam #

    This was really cute. 🙂 The fact that kids don’t care much about their physical appearance as young children just goes to show that the body obsessions that we develop as we age really is a product of our culture.

    May 16, 2013
    • a sad truth. i hope he always loves what he sees in the mirror

      May 16, 2013
  8. Beautifully written!
    “…odd behavior explodes exponentially the more you remark on it…” I’m tucking that bit of wisdom away for a later day. 😉

    May 16, 2013
    • thanks kaela. you don’t want to take it too far of course. i don’t ignore finn’s habit of pulling his socks up to his knees, for instance

      May 16, 2013

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