Thursday, January 10, 2008

Identity Crisis

Once upon a time, I had an identity other than mother. And it showed. Once upon a time, you could tell by looking at me, that I had opinions, that I was not “mainstream.” Once upon a time, I was funky, cool, interesting. And it showed.*

And now? I have a politically liberal bumpersticker on my suburban-mom-mobile. But otherwise? I look like a mom. Which is not to say that I’m not hugely tremendously earth shatteringly thrilled to be a mom. But. I am more than a mom.

I am working in a new neighborhood bakery/cafe. I am sitting near a guy wearing a political shirt, with a folder covered in stickers, and more on his computer. And I show no outward signs that I agree, that my politics align, that I am more like him than he probably suspects.

When I used to mentor the undergraduate feminist group at the university, they made T-shirts that said “THIS is what a feminist looks like” - and some of them wore them skin tight, cropped, over snug fitting low rise jeans. Broadcasting. Challenging.

I don’t know if what I’m wishing is to change how I look - I feel dowdy, and old, and while I love being a mom, I think maybe I wish I didn’t look like one all the time, even when I’m sitting in a coffeeshop working. I suppose I should instead think about how to challenge the notion that how people look has any bearing on who they are or how they think. That would be the noble thing, right?

But still. I think I need a funky makeover. I want to broadcast that I am a mom, and I am a feminist, and I am still funky inside.

How about you? Do you think your outisde reflects your inside? Am I being totally trivial? Is it lame that I’m asking questions here? Fess up.

* Okay, no, having red or purple hair or an eyebrow piercing does not inherently mean anything about one’s personality or politics. But still.


  1. I know the feeling. I've definitely let myself go lately... to the point that I actually let my husband cut my hair, with not very stylish results.

    Maybe a bit of a wilder makeover IS in order?

    I bet you looked fantastic with a bit of red and/or purple hair. Best to do it while the kids are too young to be embarassed, right?

    When I was in college, I knew a mom who just about shaved her head when her first child turned one. At the time I thought she was nuts. Now I completely understand.

  2. I was just thinking about this very issue today on my walk to work - lamenting my new "style" as the motherhood induced frump aesthetic. How fun for you.

    I used to stand out. Not in a particularly wild way, but I always dressed uniquely and with style. I don't even know what that is anymore.

    One of my things to help change this is my plan to get another tattoo (on the inside of my wrist) within the next year or so. It's very "me", and is just a way of reclaiming a bit of who I used to be.

    If you do change something to rediscover the old you, I'd love to know what it is.

  3. I have one of these identity crises, it seems, on a near-weekly basis. I've tried a few little things, and none of them have really helped. I guess I do take some secret delight, though, in looking like a respectable mama while still being a rebel girl at heart.

  4. OMG- I so hear you on this. I know you didn't mention this aspect, but I'm just so frustrated with post-babies weight and the fact that all my cool clothes are about 5 sizes smaller than what I am right now. And I can't really afford a new wardrobe right now- unless I get on What Not to Wear, which my husband keeps threatening to nominate me for.

  5. I totally hear you. Well, except for the being cool and funky before being a mother. But now I sometimes look in the mirror in the middle of the day and realize I didn't even rub the hair gel in or some such thing. I'm always covered in baby stains and I have no bras that fit correctly. I don't even do dressing professional and standard ATL well anymore. And I finally colored my hair after walking around with roots for months, but I was distracted and did a poor job.

    Not sure what I'd change, though. A dramatic new hair style? Funky new clothes? Maybe just a bra that fits is a start.

  6. I think I look pretty much the same now as I did before. Maybe even a little better because that was some nasty depression in those infertile years which is not kind to self care. But I didn't have much of a style to begin with. I'm just me, and that's how I like it.

  7. for me it's my new figure (or lack of one) which is the problem. I can't fit the cute clothes any more, so i'm slobbing around in loose trousers and tops. I have started to put on eyeliner a couple of days a week, that's start, right?

  8. Oh, this is huge for me. I think I care too much, but at the same time it breaks my heart that I've lost my edge, so to speak. Being identified as a mom (and not much else) has been a hard adjustment for me. I miss my old self, my old look, my old me.

    That's not to say I'd trade my babies to have it all back. Nope, no chance of that.

  9. You know Cass you could still wear that feminist t-shirt...

    i got my hair cut for the first time in years just before Christmas. it was ridiculously expensive but i felt great.

  10. I hear you.

    Plus I just turned 40, so that's adding to my feelings of frump. I have fantasies about pulling myself together, but it hasn't happened yet.

  11. My New Year's Resolution is that this year I will be at least as groomed and stylish as my children.


    I was actually given gift certificates to a grocery story for Christmas, which is nice but I mean, I used to be given gift certificates to clothing stores. It felt like my family had decided that I was nothing more than a cooking, child-caring-for lump. I'm sure that wasn't the intention, but...

    I am just starting to feel like I am more than a mom again but I'm having to grasp that and wrestle it to keep ahold of it.