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The Permanent Pregnant Pause

May 07, 1999|BARBARA THOMAS | TIMES STAFF WRITER

My daughter is 2 years old and must change her dress if she gets one drop of juice on it. She plunges into my makeup drawer and tries to put on eye shadow and lipstick. I've had to hide all the tweezers because she seems determined to arch her brows.

She will not wear a dress she does not like. She already says, "No, I hate dat one."

She must have inherited a recessive gene from my mother, who modeled briefly before she married and had children. See, you can still blame your mother for problems in life.

I am much more haphazard about my looks.

During my first pregnancy, I felt serene and bountiful. I loved my body as it changed so many different times and ways. I assumed, blithely, that I would go back to my size 6 three to four days after childbirth.

After all, chirpy Katie Couric and Kathie Lee Gifford went back to their original sizes right after returning from maternity leave.

Every mother knows the punch line: The three or four days turn into years.

My once-taut body continued to taunt me with its abundance. It laughed hysterically as it showed off its full breasts, rounded stomach, even flabby upper arms.

I wasn't alone in my dismay, sharing regular kid play dates with a size 4, who wore oversized T-shirts and leggings because she was no longer a size 2.

Few of us expect motherhood to assault our beauty regimen and thus our own sense of beauty.

There's little time for shopping at leisure. Haircuts require a baby-sitter. Manicures seem too self-indulgent.

There are other style detractors. We do not expect to go to preschool in ripped tights and with messy hair.

We do not think that we will ever dip into the frozen macaroni and cheese, much less serve it as a main course. We do not expect to be thrown up upon on a regular basis.

Ironically, motherhood has taught me more about being beautiful than any other experience in my life.

*

To my grave, I will take these rules motherhood has taught me:

* Listen to my mother: Take care of your skin and teeth.

* It may seem like going overboard, but actually comb your hair.

* Always get a good haircut.

* Since there's no time for manicures, dig the dirt out of your fingernails twice a week.

* Do not try to be so sensible that you undermine your sex appeal. Throw some money at Italian perfume and pretty lingerie to wear under your sweatsuit.

* If your bra has a safety pin holding it together, throw it out.

* Take your tiny jeans to the Goodwill. If you ever fit into that size again, blow $30 on a new pair.

* Shop for clothes. Do not be ashamed of your size or your body. It has given you and your child life and health.

* Smile for photographs. There is nothing more beautiful than a warm smile and soft wrinkly eyes.

* Follow that esteemed philosopher Stuart Smiley and repeat after me: "I am beautiful. I am worthwhile. I am a mother."

If all else fails, take a tip from my daughter and put on some lipstick--but not on your forehead.

Barbara Thomas can be reached by e-mail at barbara.thomas@latimes.com.

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