Maya’s butt was a landscape for washcloths and diaper wipes. At birth, it fit in the cup of my hand. “Look at that cute little butt,” we said, admiring the dimples of baby fat.
Teachers know not to use the word butt in class. Instead, when they want kids to sit down they say, “Sit on your pockets.” They will reference the bum, bottom, backside, rear-end, but never the butt.
Maya’s favorite line from Finding Nemo was when the young sea creatures mistakenly call a boat a “butt.”
One says, “That’s a pretty big butt.”
Another says, “I’m going to go touch the butt!”
Maya can lift me on her back: a strong daughter offering, “C’mon Mom, piggyback.” She was eight pounds of healthy pinkness at birth. After having a premature firstborn, I never imagined I’d have a child over the 50th percentile on the growth charts. By the time she was three, her wrists were bigger than her older brother’s thighs. She believed she was something special inside and out. She liked her size, her strength, her girl power.
The spring of fifth grade on the car ride home, the story didn’t come out. While we washed dishes, side-by-side, she didn’t say anything. During reading, she remained quiet, but at bedtime when the lights were out, that’s when it came.
“Mom?” A quiet whisper as I was just about to shut the door.
“Yes, lovey?” I answered.
Silence. I climbed back up the ladder to the top bunk and nestled in.
“The boys made a list today of the biggest flirt, the biggest tattletale, and the one you’d want to date most.”
“Almost everyone saw the list.”
“They gave me biggest butt.”
“Oh baby,” was all I could say.
Maya’s father had scoliosis as a child. His nickname was Bubblebutt. He remembers the pain of not fitting into regular jeans — of not fitting in, period. Maya’s spine also curves like an ‘S’ so her belly and butt announce themselves. Which is to say, my baby got back. She had always lovingly accepted her ‘S’ curves because they were hers.
I reminded Maya how strong and powerful she is in her skin. I told her someday she’d have a partner who would think her curvaceous rump was an asset. I told her how every size and shape is perfect.
“You are perfect, Maya,” I said.
But in her voice, I heard something new: doubt. Those stupid, immature boys with their narrow-minded, media-driven list had trumped mom’s unconditional love. Damn those boys.
Maya is at the counter doing homework and eyeing me.
“How do I find the original cost of a meal if the tax is 6% and it comes to $3.00?” she asks.
“How do you start these kinds of problems?” I ask.
“I don’t know,” she says annoyed, “I feel like I don’t understand anything.”
My back is turned while I pour pasta into the simmering water and when I come back to the counter for the salt, her head is in her hands. This isn’t about math.
“What happened during lunch today?” I ask. Usually if something troublesome has happened, it’s happened at lunch.
“You know how really skinny girls will complain about being fat like it’s the worst thing that could ever happen to them and then everyone reassures them that they’re not and how that really bugs the crap — excuse my language — out of me?”
“Well, Camille said ‘These jeans make my butt look totally fat even though it’s not — no offense, Maya.'”
What a little bitch.
“That’s a really awful thing to say, Maya. Friends don’t talk to friends like that.”
Camille is a beautiful, talented, size zero young lady with self-esteem built on leveling the friends around her. A mean girl, a queen bee looking to keep others as “no see ums.” I don’t understand why Maya subjects herself to that kind of treatment by sitting at her lunch table. Because Maya has integrity, kindness, humor and smarts, Camille must go for her butt.
“No offense, Maya.” Those three words ring in my head. I’m struggling to accept the things I cannot change when Maya comes out in her black jeans and fitted hoodie. She’s her glowing, radiant self again. Flashing me a grin, she shows me a thick white studded belt.
“It’s my confidence belt,” she says.
Like Wonder Woman’s armbands, Maya will need wisdom, true friends, and even belts to deflect society’s Goldilocks Butt Rules. If you have a flat one, you are assless and that’s a problem. If you have a big one, well, that’s a problem too. And don’t even try to find a variety of trendy jeans in the stores for you. While it may be the only thing I have in common with the royal sexist rapper, Sir Mix A Lot, I like big butts. I like big butts, I love my daughter, and I’m mourning the loss of unconditional love of all butts.
8 replies on “Butts”
This is a favorite topic of mine. You see, my children are lucky because they inherited their father’s “bubble butt,” which is actually a wonderful asset (no pun intended there). I, on their other hand, carry the gene for the flat butt, which they like to tease me and call it a “matzah tucus,” which is a made-up Jewish description. I would much rather have a well rounded bubble butt to fill out my jeans than a shapeless derriere. If only I can rearrange the extra padding from my belly to my backside.
Love the article, love the writing. One comment to think on … girls/women are just as guilty for the obsession with the stereotype of beauty in our culture, and the criticisms are directed from girl to girl ealiest in life. I think I am off to shop for a belt!
Very touching and well written!
Very touching story. I still remember the first time when other girls started discussing my large chest–I was 12 and had never thought about it before and I was horrified.
I hope you find a way to help her accept and love her body.
In retrospect, I wasted a lot of time disliking my looks as a teenager and young woman. I wish I could undo all that.
Great little story. I know your Maya is perfect and i am so glad she has you. The butt, or lack of it, is a cultural phenomenon and many women are touched by it, or not (which is the case in my case, pun intended). It can make or break a woman’s self esteem, standing way up there in competition with breasts.. Its a complex cultural experience, and no one gender is to blame for it. But it’s very pervasive and I see it come to life every day in front of my eyes, in media, in real life.. I hope for a future where each one of us can see the perfection in all sizes and shapes, but each one of us has work to do in getting us to that day.. Man or woman, we each have responsibility for what we support and condone.
Your Maya is immersed in a butt-breast, gendered world and you are her biggest supporter.. She will face this world and see it from your eyes, just as she will from the eyes of others such as Camille and men who are raised in this same world. But Maya has the fortune of having you as her mother and she will continue to bring her butt-breast experiences to run by you, because she wants your words to help her resolve those dilemmas.. Because your words will always hold a lot of power in her world.
What a great kid you have! I will now see every belt in my closet as my “confidence belt!” Thanks, Maya!
Thank you for a lovely post. When reading about Camille I was reminded about a book I recently read called My Secret Bully by Trudy Ludwig which addresses when a “friend” isn’t a very good friend. I found it really helpful, you may enjoy it for your daughter too.
My nine year old neighbor came home from school after being teased about her size. She didn’t want to run through the sprinklers with the rest of the girls that day, she felt fat and self conscious. I turned on the music and we watched from the deck. Soon, we began dancing. I showed her the many ways I could shake my butt and asked her to give it a try. The girls in the yard joined in and we had our first bikini dance party of the season. As we practiced one particular slow and soulful move, I told her, “Honey, just remember, you can’t move like this with a little butt.”