The first time I noticed it my daughter was 16 and going to the prom. In the photos we had taken of the prom group, the girls all had one thing in common. It wasn’t a hair style or a dress length, high heels or flats. No. It was their arms.
Almost, without exception all of those beautiful high school girls were posing with what I would describe as “teapot arms.” Do you remember the old nursery rhyme we sang as children?
“I’m a little teapot short and stout. Here is my handle, here is my spout.”
As we sang about the teapot’s handle we put our hand on our hip to make a right angle.
So why, in all their prom finery were the girls doing that with their arms?
It’s not a pose limited to my small Midwestern town. When I saw photos of other girls in other towns I saw them posing in the same way. And lately I have noticed women of a certain age (namely mine) posing in the same way as well. Arm bent, leaning out, what was going on? I asked my self when did smile for the camera also involve bending your arm in an artificial pose?
Finally I was so curious by this phenomenon that I asked my daughter. “What gives with the teapot arms?” “This is not a pose that happens naturally.” So she told me. “It makes you look skinny.”
What! All those beautiful, fresh faced young women, many of them athletes, concerned enough about the size of their silhouette to strike a pose looking so forced? I was one part stunned and two parts disappointed. All the work we had done as mothers trying to instill confidence, to negate body shaming and we had daughters with teapot arms?
Being a parent is fraught with guilt and the fear that we are making mistakes every day.
“Was I home enough ?”
“Did I listen enough?”
“Was I too strict?”
“Was I too permissive?”
“Did I teach her that good health was more important than any idealized thin size?”
We hold ourselves to standards that move continually farther away from us.
Happily our children grow up and for the most part succeed. They may do so not on our preferred schedule, but they do fine. They learn to take care of themselves, They work, they contribute. They say please and thank you. They volunteer in their communities. We see all this and hope we did right by the motherhood thing.
My daughter did look lovely for the prom. She finished high school. Went on to graduate from college and yes find a job. That Christmas we were all together posing for the usual family photos, the two of us in front of the tree. “Smile for the picture,” someone said.
And then she did something with her arms.
She put them around me. And we both smiled for the the picture. All of my teapot arm concerns fell away in her embrace. Finally, a pose I could love.
I’m just say’n.