Fall: The Grand Return. As summer flings and fantasies fade faster than those lingering tan lines, children truck back to their yellow busses endued in smart new clothes and jittery optimism. Vacations vagaries proceed from life to lore. Autumn air is tinted with a smoky hominess. Pumpkins litter the grocery store atria, while arguments rage about the pumpkinosity of "pumpkin spice." And the small smattering of cyclical resolutions resurge.
Summer was the time to push past the self and beyond the ordinary. Fall is the time for Odysseus to reconnect with Telemachus, swords flashing and indiscretions ignored. And so, in the madness of our toddler tarantella, we begin the cycle with a new little creature and a little self-embrace. There is no normal for parents, but there's the settling of new routines (for however briefly they may last before whole new routines rev up).
So back to me. I'm bringin' sexless back, yeah! That's my theme music for a thought or two on the ol' mommy wardrobe.
You don't always think about how the tiniest features daily life might impact your "style." Well, ok, you might. It's not exactly a hard thing to fathom that convenience and identity are external factors in the ongoing evolution of one's "look." Of course I blather on and on about how we attach symbols to our bodies in order to associate with whatever in-group we most identify with. Mom-jeans were upgraded to yoga pants. LuluRoe and all their splendiferous leggings leapt upon the scene - they say not only are you a mom who balances comfort and individual expression, but that you probably actually have it together enough to attend "pop up boutiques" - parties hosted by your friends featuring a legging orgy. If not that, that at least you are in the right groups with the right friends for online fashion. And they are cute and comfortable. You are the fun mom who still gets a drink with buddies at the end of a day of leap-frog and adventuring.
I don't quite do mom-chic, though. I do mom-mess. Kind of the early 1990's Seattle version of mom-chic. You know the whole overplayed "boyfriend cardigan" idea? My current sense of style is a bit more "big-brother's gymbag." But it works for me. Athleisure becoming so socially acceptable in the US is a boon, though I rather enjoy my birthday haul of decidedly non-gym-bag palazzos gauchos, and flowy shirts that hearken back to my youthful dancing days.
Of course it makes sense that I'd want something (1) comfortable, (2) easy to stumble across rooms trying to stop tiny human from self-destruction, (3) not dripping with opportunities for snagging and pulling and yanking, (4) not hideously unflattering to the more effeminate body that has emerged post-parturience. I don't quite elevate myself to buttery leggings and flowing tops. Nonetheless, lifestyle and fashion. And the freedom in America to go sloppy and call it athleisure.
But shirts, in particular, have a certain constriction: breastfeeding dictates a lot. Not for everyone, but for us.
When the gremlin seemingly started self-weaning at tennish months, I began fantasizing of sartorial splendors. Or at least shirts whose merits are not solely their ability to flip-and-flash the boobies. Not that this is not a miraculously fabulous design feature. Were my breasts at all erogenous areas anymore, I'm sure there would be even more attendant excitement and novelty about the peek-a-boo convertible top. But it is fairly limited. You can only do so much with a flip top shirt. In fact, You can't do much at all if you detest nursing bras and do not have an extensive bosom that can froth out over normal clothing.
And no matter the nice design work in the back or appealing color-scheme, the nursing top is typically also a maternity top, or one at least designed to charitably side-step the mommy pooch. Which means that the midrift is set adrift in florid fabric oceans. And this doesn't lend itself well to attractive profiles or accessorizing with any additional layering.
And so, it's nursing tops, running pants, and my favorite hoodie. I've tried desperately to mix things up with at least a few different styles of hoodie, but only this one particular hoodie maintains deep enough pockets to carry my cell phone and keys with me. And a cell-phone pocket is particularly important. I recently discovered restaurant server aprons as a handy summertime porta-pocket, but these tie awkwardly under other hoodies. And Chaya has learned how to untie them, which she finds hilarious. I still don an apron on warm days or during kitchen binges, but I prefer the damned hoodie. It's my version of a lovie, I think. I just don't feel quite as safe and warm without it.
I briefly managed to find some lovely nursing tops. Beautiful lace work in the back. More structure in front (instead of a full flip top, there's a two-piece tank that separates around each breast). Elegant profile. But Chaya has set about tearing honey-badger-style at the underlying structure. She is so driven to distraction by the part that remains around my breasts that she will incur severe niplash popping on and off and ripping at the shirt. I have returned to the simpler, less flattering flip-tops recently. Which is fine, because the lace in the back was not really meant for my "throw everything in the washing machine and hope for the best" approach.
At any rate, the fantasies are momentarily stalled, as Miss Chaya has not only reversed course on the self-weaning thing, but has also taken to rapaciously ripping at my flip-tops when she decides (a) she wants to nurse, or (b) ha-ha, mommies boobs are funny and wouldn't it be fun to scratch off that mole mommy has, which is already scabbed over from previous attempts? (c) how many times can I drench mommy's shirt in a combination of drool and let-down milk before she gives up and finds a toy to distract me from what will otherwise be a maelstrom tantrum when she puts her top back up. My poor tops are already getting a beating.
Then again, I do accessorize as best I can. I can't wear pretty well any of my favorite dangly earrings for fear of an ad hoc lobe-ectomy, but my daughter's spurned baubles look great on me, if I do say so myself.
I shall reclaim some momentary sense of "style." I am slowly re-opening my boxes of soxes.
Of course any semblance of style and suave will take a backseat to the somatic slump.
Parent hunch. Not code for my approximate and far more nebulous version of "mother's intuition." This is more like Quasimommy Kyphosis. I can't imagine how sunken chested I'll look once the nursing gazongas deflate back into (small) pumpkins. It's a mix of devastated abdominal floor, creaky core, stoooped and snarled back, and that particular combination of fully enveloping a little one during naptimes and nursings. I can feel the tectonic shifting of my shoulders into a forward arch. The oozing slump of my pelvis. I know the posture is prowling into calamity, but it's a little hard to stand in glorious attention while leaning over a toddling non-walker. It's not super easy either when you're singing your sixtieth round of Dream a Little Dream of Me to a baby who is alternating between nodding off and pounding your chest while screaming LADLDLDLDLALDLAL and blowing raspberries into her hand. It's not merely a bowing in the back, but a sheer shrug of parental uncertainty, as the shoulders raise themselves towards my ears. Truly not my finest display of frumpery, but one which puts me in solidarity with office workers and elderly folks everywhere.
Still I stumble on in my charming manic pixie dream mess, I am reclaiming tiny slivers of my original Adella mojo - namely I've realized that Russian novels are fantastic for the sort of sporadic and staggering reading that mommydom requires. I've resumed Anna Karenina after a year-long deferral. And while essentially everyone is named either Anna or Alex (and variations thereof) in addition to having twenty additional names, you can read almost each chapter as a short sketch in its own. The plot (there nominally is one, I swear) is less driving than your average Edsel, while the language and internal monologue is rife. I can rapidly reorient in each chapter, wade about in the primordial mental and spiritual muck, then emerge mere minutes later at the end of a chapter. It's rather relieving. And it's quite satisfying to read again. During the naptime hours, I've taken to pacing around the kitchen island (my entire life involves circling this bastard) with my kindle. At least once I'm done with the cleaning and cooking and barefoot-but-not-pregnant-in-the-kitchening. It's great. Sometimes it's almost ploddingly internal, but the language is lovely and just dripping with clever observation and simple profundity.
And speaking of language (segue time) I'm utterly marveling at the complexity of language and the human induction that underlies it these days. Nothing like having a preverbal toddler pointing at everything in search for a term to remind me of the heuristical marvels of basic human cognition and communication. How on earth do we understand that the cartoon on a page, the toy rattle, the gigantic furry monster loping along howling, and the yipping rodentish quadriped are all dog.
But also could be doggie, puppy, chihuaha, King, Spot, canine, etc. Birdie, bird, duck(ie), robin, crow, chicken, emu, cock (oh my!), hen, warren... but not fly... Bunny, rabbit, hare, Angora, And lord what is she pointing at now? Ceiling? Sky? Spider? Every single word is a rabbit-hole into deep and complex ponders about the very essence and eidos of the universe itself.
And wow, how gendered our language is! I'd like to give Chaya as much space as she needs to understand her own gender identify, but it's almost impossible to teach simple language without imposing heavily loaded cultural notions. What's a boy or a girl? What, really, is the difference? As soon as you start explaining how to distinguish, you impose a world of expectations and ideas - a treasure trove of aspects and adjectives that take prescriptive prominence. As soon as pronouns go beyond "it" you associate objects with feminine or masculine traits.
What makes a woman? What is a mommy? Do we define women by their biological function, something that many women will never exercise and which mommy herself was not actually able to fulfill on her own? Do we leap headfirst into the external trappings or the prescriptive job descriptions. Do we begin to heap on heteronormativity?
Of course we end up doing so. What else are we going to do? Do I dress my daughter in neutral grays and never wear anything that could be at all associated with either gender? While I certainly don't shun the boys' section when I'm shopping, I cannot resist the cute dresses, the pinks and purples, the sparklies, and all the vicarious fashion fun that having a little lady allows. Are her loving nicknames often feminine? Yes there is always Princess Papaya, though I maintain that "sweetie-chai," "pumpkin pie (or "Pumpkin spice latte" for the autumnal season), would certainly be used for a little boy-Chay as well. Do I usually point out little "girls" and "boys" based on their manner of dress and hair style. Do I interpret some of her behaviors as feminine and joke about her "boyfriends"?
Of course. Are mommy and daddy already exceptionally gendered in their style (see it all ties together), manner, mien, and occupation? We never begin with a blank slate and it gets chalkier every ticking second (and even the tacit ones).
But I digress as I fall back into the writing ramble of an autumnal nap period. We are rounding out another year in the life of Miss Chai and her (W)rightly Ranglers. And I may never quite rediscover the entire dresser full of cute tops, but mama will have her mojo moments. Or perhaps mojito moments, although that doesn't seem particularly autumnal. Perhaps with a little pumpkin pie spice dashed in?
Happy autumn all.