Eight years ago, I was standing on a street corner waiting for the light to change. My 9-month-old daughter was sitting in her stroller clutching her beloved Elmo stuffie. A beat-up car slowed in front of us, and a scruffy young man yelled out the passenger side window, “MILK!” At least, this is what it sounded like. It all happened so fast. InstantIy, I thought: He must know I’m breastfeeding, so he yelled out ‘milk’ as a supportive shout-out to nursing and how beneficial it is for both mother and baby? But how could he possibly tell that I—OH MY GOSH HE SAID MILF.
I am not going to spell out MILF, because we all know what it means. You may be thinking, that is so sexist, what a misogynist, so not woke, etc. At the very least, it is offensive. I was, however, completely flattered--I was 39 years old. Thanks, anonymous dude most likely high on mushrooms! You made my decade.
Today, at the age of 46, I venture to describe myself as a “Mother I’d Like to Have Coffee With.” MILHCW doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue, but so what? As I approach 50, I’ll take what I can get. I have always been insecure about my physical appearance, and aging does not exactly boost one’s confidence in this area.
It didn't help that my well-meaning mother referred to my legs as “columnar” during my teenage years. Gee, thanks: 15-year-old girls love having their appendages likened to Greek architecture. She reassured me that this was a compliment! Who wants skinny legs, anyway? Um, me, and also every other woman on the planet. Since then, I have begrudgingly accepted my columns. After all, exercise and diet have rendered them more Ionian as opposed to Doric or Corinthian, which I can live with.
However, recently she called me a “handsome woman.” Again, this was not intended to disparage. Evidently, after the age of 45, I have unknowingly departed the “pretty” zone and ventured into the land of the handsome. This is a slight that simply will not stand. In 1783, John Trusler wrote: “By a handsome woman, we understand one that is tall, graceful, and well-shaped, with a regular disposition of features; by a pretty, we mean one that is delicately made, and whole features are so formed as to please; by a beautiful, a union of both." Not content to leave it at that, Trusler delivers a final blow: "A beautiful woman is an object of curiosity; a handsome woman, of admiration; and a pretty one, of love." (excerpted from The Distinction Between Words Esteemed Synonymous in the English Language, via stuffmomnevertoldyou.com).
I suspect that Trusler wrote his Distinction in response to a girl he wanted to let down easy. “See, you’re handsome, and I totally admire you for that. I mean, your nose is in the right place and all, but I’m into beautiful and pretty ladies right now…so, take a hike.” I for one don’t want to be admired; I want to evoke mystery! Inspire love! Look at my columnar legs, consarnit, they are both practical and strong! If I take care of my handsome self, I could live approximately 40 more years. Now THAT is something to admire.