For most of my adult life, I’ve been the kind of slim that inspired a stranger to tell me “If you could just eat a pork chop sandwich, you’d be alright!” In the fall of 2017, when my husband and I learned I was pregnant, I figured this baby would be that sandwich—but not anything more than that.
Nevertheless, during the first two trimesters or so, I snapped on anyone who attempted to tell me that I would likely “snap back” right after birth. “Don’t put that pressure on me; snapback culture is made up by Instagram anyway.” I reminded my husband, playfully at first, and then with more gravitas, that he had to stick with me no matter what. He joked back that he’d never leave me, but that he would start hiding food if it became necessary. As the pregnancy progressed—40, 50, then 60 pounds later—I would waddle down to Shake Shack on my lunch break, sometimes holding onto the wall, as people jumped out of my way.
I didn’t feel like a glowing giver of life. I felt like a sweaty blimp taking up more space on the sidewalk than was appropriate. I also felt invisible. I’d heard stories of women being hit on while pregnant, but somehow, I dodged that bullet. Once I was visibly with child, even the guy outside of my grocery store who typically asked for money averted his eyes and found another victim. (Small victory, perhaps?)
And so when someone I’d dated years ago texted to say “Hey, long time no speak,” I felt a dangerous thrill at the thought of someone who may not know I was pregnant talking to me. I couldn’t articulate why, but I also felt guilty, even if it was just a harmless text from someone who had no idea that I could no longer wear shoes with laces. We caught up on the basics and he congratulated me and my husband on my pregnancy, and I figured that was that.
As the weeks continued, we’d chat sporadically. “What books are you reading?... How was the baby shower?” and I reveled in the attention of this person unable to see my cheeks plumping, my ankles swelling and yet still able to see me, as trite as that sounds.
Eventually, as people from your past tend to do, he crossed a line. I’d like to say that I blocked his number, but I didn’t. Instead, I changed the subject and then stopped responding to his messages. Meanwhile, my husband constantly reminded me that I was beautiful, but I didn’t see what he saw. I just saw a swollen, carb-inhaling machine. Plus, he’s obligated to say it as my spouse and the person who knocked me up in the first place; how do I know it’s real?
I gave birth to a beautiful, baby boy and for a while, our family of three was so wrapped up in each other, I didn’t care what I looked like. As the weeks went by and I settled into motherhood, like many predicted, I began to shed the weight I’d picked up.
Yet, when I met new people, I felt obligated to work into the conversation early “I just had a baby by the way.” I wanted everyone to know “This isn’t my real body; this is my body after a baby. Did I mention I just had a baby?...That’s why I look like this.”
Almost a year later, due to the demands of working by day and chasing a deceptively fast crawler at night, I am back to pre-pregnancy weight, but I feel like a deflated balloon, limp and stretched out. My navel is now a sort of valley between my abs that separated (yeah, this is totally a thing). I am softer, lacking the lean muscle mass I had before, and while I feel proud of what my body was capable of doing on my son’s birth day, there’s a part of me that wonders if I will ever feel the blissful joy of rocking a crop top without layering a jacket on top of it again.
So when Ayesha Curry, wife to one of the most recognizable professional athletes alive, author of cookbooks and also of one of my least favorite tweets appeared on Jada Pinkett Smith’s Red Table Talk and said,
“Something that really bothers me and has honestly given me a little bit of an insecurity is the fact that, yeah, there are all these women throwing themselves [at Steph], but me, like the past 10 years, like, I don’t have any of that. Like I have zero, this sounds weird, but like, male attention. And so then I begin to internalize it, like is something wrong with me?... I don’t want it, but like, it’d be nice to know that…someone’s looking.”
I got it.
For a moment, Ayesha Curry wasn’t the eye-roll-inducing lady in a tax bracket light years away from me. She was a wife and mom who knew that in many ways she’d changed since she was 20. While I was having a moment, Ayesha Curry was learning what many women figured out a long time ago—whether you’re Mother Theresa or Amber Rose, you can get dragged for an entire news cycle or two.
Ayesha sat with her family, moderated by an Oprah-inspired Jada Pinkett Smith, and she did what black women have been doing for years when we get around a kitchen table; she used the safe space to share a self-admitted insecurity, one only heightened by the public nature of her life. Maybe, for a moment, she forgot that while those at the table could empathize with the toxicity of snapback culture, unrealistic body ideals, the glamorous trophy that she is expected to be, and a thirsty media wholeheartedly committed to reminding the world of who hasn’t quite lost the baby weight, puerile meme-makers on the world wide web could not.
The critics saw a wealthy woman who previously complained about catcalls now complaining that she no longer had catcallers. I saw a woman envisioning her stock going down and questioning her value. They saw a woman who has it all—a beautiful family, light eyes, and an enviable career, including her own line of pots and pans, whining about attention she doesn’t need anyway. I saw a mother examining herself in the mirror wondering what we all wonder—“Do I still have it?”
I saw me.
In a world that sees nuance as nuisance, women are not allowed to both despise the man on the street that compliments your ass AND also feel invisible in the shadow of a man who is showered with adoration, praise and the attention of countless women.
But I’m noticing something I haven’t quite seen articulated yet.
Maybe the shade rooms are subconsciously realizing what they always suspected: even a handsome, wealthy and successful man isn’t the silver bullet to happiness for women, not even the alleged gold-digging NBA wives. Maybe women are beings with passions and insecurities that a ring and Instagram followers can’t squelch. Maybe, just maybe…women are people too.