My son walks with a limp, not because his legs are injured or because his feet are pained by little shoes, though my wife was found once to keep the boy in too small sneakers for weeks beyond the day he should have been. No, his feet aren’t hurt. He walks with a limp because he’s learned to dip into his step while reaching to his backside in order to pull up his pants. He’s already turning challenges into new skills. He’s a genius. But I’d like him to have a waist. Which leads to my question: when will my boy grow hips?
I realize that this is an elementary question, but you’d be surprised how important hips are for effective social development. It’s plainly inappropriate for my son to meet a room full of kids, all of them jumping to Stevie Wonder, and for the boy to join in only for his pants to drop after his second jump. It impresses a memory upon the little could be friends but-the-cute-kid-is-a-little-weird-mommy-because-he-mooned-us. How many times can I explain to people that Bryce doesn’t simply like grabbing some part of himself (that will come soon enough) but that he’s attempting to be modest?
Everyday one of us is looking for a safety pin or a rubber band, since the kid’s pants have never fit the rest of him. We tell family members that his size in shirts is one thing, his pants another. They don’t laugh at my son, not out loud at least. But I imagine them, aunts and grandparents, friends and loved ones, shaking their heads at all those counters when passing their gifts across the bleeping scanners. They giggle that the boy’s body is awkward. They giggle, and I wonder.
I look at him and think back to when I had that 28 inch waist, the size that never went away. I think back to standing in my godfather’s attic-turned-department store, the way he shook his head whenever he asked if my size had changed. We’d rummage through never worn suits and jackets. I’d choose shirts and ties while he’d try to convince me that the pants, once altered, wouldn’t make me look like a nut, even if the pockets were too close together.
I can’t remember when those inches stretched. It was probably after I got married. I’ve been at a 34 inch waist for years. I’m proud of those six inches at or under my stomach. Now, instead of wondering around my small hips, I clench my teeth when pants don’t fit, I hear Dr. Oz saying I have no room along my waist before I enter into an area of concern for my long-term health, and I look around to see that my son has room to spare.
Bending my knees into lunges, I breathe deeply, and I secretly envy my son’s smallness. I sit behind that chest pad, eyeing the televisions overhead, seeing nothing at all except the imagine of my stomach. I crunch slowly, watching carefully that the plates don’t clink. I laugh at myself between rests. I call myself vane. I rehearse the benefits of living and not dying. Exercise wins the argument going on in my head, and I move to another machine. I think about cooking and eating.
Sometimes, after exercising, I come home and see my son’s clothes. I get amused because he has as many clothes in the laundry as I do, because, together, our clothes squeeze my wife’s garments into invisibility. I wash the clothes. I do this a lot. At times I wash because I’m a loving servant of a husband. But that’s not the predominant reason. I mostly wash because I run out of some things I need, some things essential like t-shirts. I can go without socks but not t-shirts.
So I wash. But there’s probably a part of me, some part far off under some layer of consciousness that washes to see my son’s little pants. That part of me, hidden from real view, probably likes that the bands at his pants are so slim. That part of me knows that the answer to the question of the week can only be affirmative. Some day his waist will expand. I think of my relatives and our proclivity to pear shaped bodies. I say yes out loud. And then, with gratitude and to the tune of our romping washer spitting and shifting water, I go and cook something to feed my wife and my little waistless child.