I looked at my feet recently and saw my vanished sense of vanity.
The kids were strapped in the car while I was pumping gas, so I had a couple minutes to look around and notice things. I leaned against the dusty car, looked down. Fuzzy brown socks bulged over the bridges of my feet, poking out of my faded, leopard print, clearance flats. Mom jeans, not quite electric blue, met them at the ankles, completing a trifecta of awful.
I didn't even realize I was still wearing the socks until that moment. Rather than be embarrassed, I chuckled and snapped a picture.
Since having children, I've evolved into the kind of person whose stress level you can read by her appearance. Fuzzy socks and flats=busy but comfy day. Two different shoes (this happened last week, too)=chicken-with-head-cut-off kind of day. Puke/snot/other unspeakable stains on the clothes=do not approach.
I used to take care with my appearance. My morning beauty routine usually took about 30 minutes, including showering and dressing. I've whittled that to 10 minutes. Shower, towel dry, comb hair, lotion, brush teeth, dress. Usually there's a kid or two hanging out in the bathroom, pulling toilet paper off the roll or rummaging in the trash. If I'm alone, I can shave off two minutes of referee time and complete the routine in eight minutes.
Where younger Lindsay lingered in the mirror to perfect her appearance, older Lindsay lingers quizzically. Hair askew. Extra wrinkles around my smile. Winter lizard hands. "Meh," I think. Then I snap the ever-present hair tie off my wrist, throw my mane into a ponytail and pivot away to run toward the baby with one hand in the toilet and a toothbrush in the other.
I quit primping when I had my first child. I was working then and feeling a lot of guilt about the lack of time I was spending with Quinn. I opted to forgo the make-up and blow-drying in favor of a few extra minutes with him in the mornings.
What I didn't know was that I was making a semipermanent choice. I got rusty beyond repair. By the time I had Bennett a year and a half later, I had lost my ability to assemble a fashionable outfit. I stopped shopping for myself, save for once or twice a year to replace worn-out wardrobe staples. I asked for a fleece from Bass Pro for my birthday this year. I saw an Internet special for velour track suits and considered buying one. Y'all, I stopped buying SHOES.
None of this bothers me. I read once, and wholeheartedly concur, that You Don't Have to Be Pretty. "You don't owe prettiness to anyone," the blog post reads. "Not to your boyfriend/spouse/partner, not to your co-workers, especially not to random men on the street. You don't owe it to your mother, you don't owe it to your children, you don't owe it to civilization in general. Prettiness is not a rent you pay for occupying a space marked 'female'." (If you're pumping your fist in agreement, here is the link: http://www.dressaday.com/2006/10/20/you-dont-have-to-be-pretty)
I used to feed off of being pretty and fashionable. In college, I was poor, but I'd spend hours sifting through thrift store racks and reveling in cobbling together outfits. I still remember what I wore the night I met my husband. Red velvet blazer, boys tuxedo shirt, pastel striped tie. I was a bloody hipster.
I would look ridiculous if I tried to go in public like that now, I guess because it's a state of mind. My mind is focused on taking care of the kids and selling our house, not on going out. Last Saturday Will and I caught the opening of "Skyfall," the new Bond flick, and my hair was as rumpled and my clothes were as snot-stained as ever. It was only an 8 o'clock movie, but I was so tired, I (gasp) fell asleep in the theater.
Perhaps I need an intervention, but I like the comforts of my ultra-low-maintenance routine. I love reaching over in the morning and putting on glasses, rather than fiddling with sticky, dry contacts. I judge my shoes for comfort, not sex appeal. I avoid anything within 50 paces of a "dry clean only" tag. Good god, I am my mother.
I have a feeling that the rest of the mom-jean-wearing set wasn't born that way, either. Pump those fists, ladies, hop in your minivans and carry on. It's a wonderful kind of freedom, living on your own terms.