Hitting "Refresh" on My Body Image

A ripe appreciation for the pear shape

by Catherine Newman
Photograph: Anita Kunz

My daughter’s butt looks so much like a piece of ripe and beautiful fruit that when she was a toddler, an old woman on the beach leaned in close to ask, “How do you stop yourself from biting her?” “Oh, please,” I said. “I know.” But here’s the funny thing: While I’ve always known that Birdy’s bottom was the tops, the fact that it is a proportionally miniaturized version of my own has occurred to me only recently.

I have not always loved my prodigious hindquarters, this seat of no small amount of angst. Is that a pair of cantaloupes in your back pockets, or do you just have a sizable fanny? Why, I’ve always wondered, couldn’t I have inherited my grandmother’s ginormous bosom instead? My DNA went to Bodytown, and all I got was this huge ass. Does this big butt make my butt look big? Yes. Yes, it does. As does the fact that my pants are all taken in at the waist, since I buy them two sizes too big so they’ll fit over the backside. What is it about pear shaped that sounds so frumpy? As though hourglasses are inherently hot, the sand trickling through them seductively, while pears sound somehow like the class clowns of the fruit world, all self-deprecation and riotous, snorting laughter. Which isn’t true at all! Because I actually collect framed images of pears—a connection to my own personal shape I have never considered until this very second—and I can tell you: They are wildly alluring, in the way that they look like, well, like large, ripe rumps.

Callipygian: It sounds like a pigeon that can do calligraphy, but it’s a term of posterior admiration. Bottoms are fundamental. Maybe the time for bootylicious appreciation really is now: the bountiful buttocks, the sweet cheeks, the delectable derriere, the shayna tuchus, the gluteus maximus. Birdy, who’s 10 now, sure thinks so: She cranes her neck around to admire her own in the mirror, shaking her head almost wistfully over its perfection. She waggles it and sticks it out and wears stretchy yoga pants that make it look as if she’s got a heart-shaped pillow stitched to her seat. But also, this aesthetic appreciation notwithstanding, my daughter’s approach to her body is all about use value: Her legs are great for getting her where she’s going; her face offers the perfect hole into which to shovel delicious mac and cheese; and her butt? What better thing could there be to sit on?

Gratitude. Is that the moral of the story? Because I have been ungrateful. Especially in the 1980s, when I thought to conceal my hot little body inside baggy parachute pants and my father’s enormous suit jackets. What was I thinking? If I had that body back, I would dress only in Saran Wrap. I would pop over to your house for a cup of coffee, naked. I would try out for the remake of Caligula. I would not cluck my tongue over this or that imaginary imperfection. I would not crane my neck around critically, rolling my eyes at this great and beautiful gift. If I had that body back. This body. The one I have now. It’s now or never, right? In five years, 10, 25, I am going to look back at this exact moment, this one here. I am going to understand that I was drenched in youth, showered with gifts. I am going to understand that this big-butted moment with my big-butted daughter was a beautiful thing. I am going to. I do.

CATHERINE NEWMAN lives with her large bottom and small family in Amherst, Massachusetts. She writes at benandbirdy.blogspot.com.

Next: Age of Enlightenment: Clearing Space for the Real Me

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First published in the March 2014 issue

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