She stood in front of the mirror in her little outfit, making those slight and not so slight turns to and fro that allow for what seems like a total picture of yourself. The skirt was shorter than she could (or should?) probably pull off at her age. The top was low, but not scandalously so. There wasn’t much fabric overall. That was the point, of course.
Looking at herself so attired lent itself to reflection. Having children had taken a toll on her body, but actually not in a horrid way. No stretch marks, expanded hips or rolls of fat. But there was the general squishiness of her skin, particularly in the stomach, that came from all the changes the body endured. Add that to the aging process and she could definitely see the difference the last few years were making in her skin in particular. The hips and waist had the turned out and thickened appearance that few (no?) mothers can escape. But again, not too bad in the scheme of things.
Not too bad does not make her feel comfortable, though.
How other women could go out in public like this, she could never understand. How anyone could feel empowered by being so exposed made no sense. Like most carelessly adopted beliefs, it probably had very little basis in reality for any of the women who so vigorously expounded it. Insecurity is often masked by an over-the-top show of bravado. The fact that bravado is supposed to be paraded about clothed like a woman of the night is obviously a falsity perpetrated by men.
Our particular woman is not one who pretends to be either fully self-possessed and secure, nor so insecure as to put on a mask of confidence when there isn’t any underneath. The outfit is not to be worn. At least not in public. On a particularly saucy day, maybe she would wear it for her husband. These outfits are for the benefit of men anyway. Her husband already knows her imperfections, and loves her for them, and in spite of them. Not nearly as scary a prospect as the dreaded public.
With her twenties far behind her, a redefinition of self is taking place. How can she be beautiful and desirable (goals that have been sewn into her understanding of herself for as long as she can remember) when she no longer fits the typical definition of either of those traits? At least in her own mind. Age changed her understanding of herself. Life feels so different that she can’t help wondering if anything is the same.