Eye bags are the New Black.
“You only look pregnant in your face.”
“What do you think you’d be doing if you didn’t have a kid?”
“How often do you nanny?”
“How old are you?”
“Are you married?”
“But you’re not married right?”
“You were never married, were you?”
“Are your kids from different partners?”
I had my daughter in college. I found out I was pregnant my junior year of college. My boyfriend and I decided to make it work and in between my junior and senior year of college, Madison Jo was born.
This year on Mother’s day there was a post I scrolled past that read “I became a mother before I became a woman”. I was intrigued and read the post that went with it. The sentiment was about becoming a mom before you’d figured out who you were as a person. It resonated really deep with me.
The statements and questions that start this post are regular things I was asked and still am being asked right up until this past weekend. Back when I was fresh into my 20’s and pregnant and then a mom, these questions haunted me. They ended up fueling me too. I’d think about the statistics of “unwed mothers” and “babies born out of wedlock” and so on and so forth and I’d hear the shit comments and I’d think in my head “harder, faster, stronger”, I worked my ass off to finish college, made the dean’s list all semesters, and finished without taking any extra time. I took a job with a fortune 500 company, bought a house, then went to grad school, received an assistantship, taught college courses to pay for school, graduated with a 3.9 (one class without an A and yes, I’m still salty about it), taught as a communication professor and STILL got asked all of thee above.
I’d hear the answers come tumbling out of my mouth. I would legitimize myself, state my accomplishments, why I was a good person even though I was an unwed mother, why I deserved kindness. And then I stopped. It was when I was about 25 or 26. My grandmother died when I was 22 and we had some of her things that we were ready to part with—some costume jewelry, old porcelain dolls, and a few household items—so, after my mom and I sorted through all of it, I brought the remaining items to a local antique store to sell. I went through each item with the owner, and then she gave me a price. It was low, it was frustrating, and then she followed it up with “does your mother know you’re selling this stuff?”…My mother? I am a mom? Why would I need my mom here? My mind raced in the split second I took to regain feeling in my face. Why would she say that? Why would I sell stuff my mom wanted? Then it occurred to me she thought I was a shitbag kid that was there probably trying to get some cash to go out or buy clothes or something. I answered her, told her what I typed above about my grandmother, my mom had sent me on this mission, we’d sorted through it all, etc. I got back in my car and just sat. That was the end.
I don’t need to explain myself for you to not be an asshole. An asshole is an asshole and things in proximity to the asshole do not become one. At least they don’t need to. The owner, she was a jerk, but I didn’t need to be and I also didn’t need to tell her why I shouldn’t be talked down to. You might think, well, maybe that’s a common occurrence. Sure. So, make it part of your policy that you ask or have a form to initial and one of the items is “does or could anyone else claim ownership to these items? If you answered yes, are they ok with the items being sold?” Easy.
I also stopped trying to legitimize myself around that time. I stopped trying to look more adult, I look like what I look like. I stopped breaking my back and staying up around the clock to create the perfect everything, to overachieve, to get more degrees or make myself “worthy”. I got hobbies, ones I liked. I started really getting into my yoga practice, mindfulness, and how I fit into the world. I started exploring what made me tick? What made me happy?
I was on a great path for a few years, really in my own groove, really in touch with who I was. Being in touch with myself made me better at being part of my community, a better mom, friend, and so on. When you feel good, when you’re taking care of you, it’s easier to do everything else.
And then a whirlwind of changes, a marriage followed by a baby (order intentional) and I was back at square one. WHO AM I???? I lost myself trying to fix everything and everybody else, tried to fit that mold I thought I was supposed to fit in. But that image, it crushed me. The societal demands I felt were so much and people could be so unkind.
“Did you get pregnant to keep your boyfriend? I was talking about it with some friends and we can’t see any reason a person that’s smart and with resources would have a baby in college—so it was on purpose.”
Some people just suck. But those questions beat me down. Twice. I gave up on myself and my goals and started playing according to what people were saying to make them feel better.
In the next couple weeks I am getting together with my girlfriends from yoga school to make new vision boards. I need this so bad. I’m ready to have a strong vision again. I know the path I want to be on—to know and honor myself. To laugh at how ridiculous people can be instead of crying bout it. To be centered.
My eye bags are my proof of the fire I walked through. But I am out of the fire. I am ready to keep moving. I am ready to fly.