Big Mom on Campus: Raising Two Kids in a College Dorm
2012 Grand Prize Column Contest Winner
Taylor Harris enrolled at Thomas Jefferson’s university (as a Black, non-slave) eleven years ago. In 2005, she grabbed her diploma, along with a suitable mate, and left for Washington, D.C. Now she’s back at UVA—with her professor husband, two young kids, and a minivan. For the next year, she and her family will live in a college dorm and interact with students (on purpose).
Make Mine a Skinny.
Six months have passed, Thanksgiving’s come and gone, and you want to know what he said. You marked it as an event on your Google calendar: Taylor’s Postpartum Weigh-In.
For those of you just tuning in: You think you can just drop in at anytime? I know your type. You’re the ones who came to the wedding at Cana after you heard Jesus was pouring the good stuff. Shame on you and welcome and please tell your friends and like my column on Facebook I love you forever!
I’m talking about my six-month checkup with the OB/GYN after having my son, Tophs. I gained a good fifty pounds during the pregnancy, and when my doctor realized this, all he said was “Whoopsies!” Then he gave me until November to lose the weight.
So my most loyal readers, the ones who carve my profile into their forearms when the guards aren’t looking, have been counting down the days until I step on the scale.
“You have strong abs.”
That’s what he said. Or was it, “You have really strong abs”?
Move over, Jillian Michaels.
I was not, as you have assumed, strutting my stuff “Gangnam Style” in the full-length mirror behind the door when the doctor walked in on me. I was actually on the table in my free! tear-away gown, and he was doing the usual—re-arranging my ovaries with two fingers and making sure I wasn’t harboring homeless kittens without a permit (They were cold and hungry, and I had a uterus)—and I naturally tensed up because the lamp is hot, but the kitchen tongs, my friend, are always cold.
And he didn’t mention my weight. And the nurse didn’t mention my weight. In fact, she let me use my weight from a recent appointment, so I didn’t actually step on the scale that day.
So I don’t know if I was being set up for that show What Would You Do? on ABC where they put people in fake situations to see if they act ethically, but I kept it movin’. As YouTube sensation Sweet Brown says when she goes out to get a cold pop and catches bronchitis on the way, Ain’t nobody got time for that!
But you deserve the whole truth, which is that I missed my mark by four pounds. That means I lost four pounds since writing “I See Fit People” in September. I know some of you can lose four pounds in an hour with a prune juice shooter and a toilet, but I decided to celebrate. I bought skinny jeans.
Everyone knows they make two types of skinny jeans. I didn’t buy the ones for white girls who eat hummus. I bought the kind where the salesperson glances at your thighs and says, “Have you tried these? We just got them in. They’re suuuuuper stretchy. Sometimes I wear mine to bed. Over my long johns.”
So I bought the skinny jeans specially manufactured for those of us who feel most comfortable in burlap trousers with built-in Spanx.
You may also remember that if my calves were crayons, they’d be the thick toddler kind. But I found some Steve Madden boots that don’t zip, and I pulled them up over my jeans just like I’ve seen the cool undergrads do. It seems the trendiest students wear boot socks, which, I gather, should be pulled slightly above the top of the boot so it looks like you didn’t really mean for people to see them but if they just so happen to see the signature J.Crew stripes then whatevs because you can’t help being a style maven and Rhodes Scholar.
I’m lucky if I can find a pair of socks that aren’t the purple fuzzy kind you get from Mom each Christmas. So whatevs. I like this look, though, because it forces me out of my mom jeans and meek flats. I don’t look like the college hotties, but I also don’t look like the suburban mom full of Botox and bare midriff who is trying to look like them. I’m hoping the students who see me at Starbucks on UVA’s Corner think, Motherhood does some damage to your swag, but it doesn’t like totally wreck you. Though I’m certain they’re actually thinking, OMG. She is sooooo fearless. Hashtag CNN Hero. It’s like she doesn’t even care what people think.
Speaking of my status as an inspirational figure to all women of the universe and their small household pets, I never did make it to that gym on Grounds. In fact, I told Paul to cancel my membership. But it had nothing to do with those horrific night terrors where I saw my cankles bearing down on a pair of unsuspecting boat shoes. Really it’s because I don’t need the gym when I’m comfortable with what I’ve got: Jillian, Trader Joe’s, and The Ramp.
Seriously, my Slow and Steady Postpartum Weight Loss System is one guy named Norm away from a patent. It’s comprised of three phases that shouldn’t be haphazardly mixed and matched like panties at Walmart.
First, you gotta buy the Jillian Michaels Ripped in 30 video. And you gotta listen to her life-changing coaching tips, including, “I wanna bounce a quarter off your butt, okay? A quarter! Your butt! Off it!” and “What’s that smell? That’s the smell of fat burning.”
Next, you have to shop at Trader Joe’s and eat vegetable masala burgers and light wheat bread and freeze-dried berries and stuff you thought you’d never touch unless a vegan abducted you because you are from the Midwest and when you were a senior in high school your dad bought half a cow and a separate freezer to store it in and served you steaks every night for three months.
The third and final step is to live on a hill. With a couple of kids (or bags of rocks will do). And a double stroller. I heard on NPR that folks who live the longest integrate physical activity into their daily lives differently than most of us. They don’t go to the gym; they garden and take family walks. I totally get it. And thanks to that conversation on The Diane Rehm Show, I now embrace the layout of our dorm.
Let me explain: To get from our parking spot to our front door, I either have to take the stairs (which are also frequented by blue-tailed lizards and at least one snake, now deceased) or a three-part zigzagging ramp. Let me further explain: Elie Mae has made a pact with the sandman. This child refuses to stay awake for the last few minutes of any road trip. No matter what time we get back to Grounds, she is snoring, pacifier half out of her mouth and her mini Afro squished into the shape of a box by her car seat. If we’ve made a morning grocery run and I’ve got bags to take in, I take a deep breath and thank God I put the half cow back on the shelf at the last minute.
I won’t give you all the details until I talk to Norm, but I will tell you that after I load Tophs and the groceries into the stroller, I carry Eliot in my right arm while steering and pushing the stroller uphill with the left while thinking how creepy it is that Elie sleeps with her eyes open and that I signed up for this job and call me Army Mom and surely there will be less cellulite on the beach this summer as long as I’m there because this ramp is squeezing the dimples right out of me.
By the time I reach our door, I need to do two things: 1) Pull up my pants, and 2) Find a nun to punch. I do neither.
Instead, I let Jillian’s deeply moving words from the fifteenth minute of the Week 3 Workout wash over me: “Skinny jeans, people. That’s all I’m thinkin’ about.”
Update: As of the morning I finished writing this column, I had one-and-a-half more pounds to lose. That put my body mass index somewhere between Cindy Crawford’s and ALF’s.
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