Last week, I had an anniversary of sorts.
It wasn't the anniversary of the day I got married, or became a homeowner, or had children.
It was the anniversary of when I finally reached a professional goal: to be published on The Huffington Post, with an article I had first published here on my blog (with little fanfare), called "Why I Want My Sons to See Me Naked."
It was the anniversary of a week when, every single day, perfect strangers sought out my email address to tell me that I was a terrible mother, that someone should call child protective services and take my kids away. The week when people in countless comment sections lambasted me as a pervert, a monster, a child molester, someone whose children were unsafe and unloved. The week when they said I was "turning my sons gay" and that I was "the reason society is crumbling." The week when an article was written about me by a "conservative news source" touting me as "the worst mother of 2014." The week when these opinions spread like wildfire, share after share after share, until I felt like the cowering target of some kind of horrible Internet witch hunt.
It probably wasn't that bad. After all, there were a lot of supportive comments mixed in. But when it's you people are talking about, and your family, the hate sticks out like a sore thumb. Those comments carry more weight somehow, even though you know they shouldn't.
As more and more people actually read the article instead of commenting based on the headline alone, they realized that - despite the inflammatory title - I wasn't being perverted or deranged. I was making a point about body image. And slowly, the tide shifted and the comments were overwhelmingly positive. And now, when the article is shared (because it still pops up somewhere every month or so - it actually went viral in India a few months ago), there's not nearly the amount of vitriol directed at me that there used to be. Thank goodness.
The title was my fault. I had been trying for months - months - to get HuffPost to publish something of mine, to no avail. I even offered them "Ten Boy-Mom Musts" just after it went crazy on my site. Piece after piece I submitted, with nothing from them but radio silence. It was frustrating. So one day, I decided to submit the piece I had originally (and boringly) entitled "The Naked Truth." Only I thought, Maybe if I change the title to something more provocative, they'll take notice. So I emailed them the newly-renamed "Why I Want My Sons to See Me Naked."
I had an acceptance response in less than an hour.
I was ecstatic, until the piece ran. And then I just felt like someone opened up the sky and took a Godzilla-sized dump on me. It was, like, this overwhelming deluge of WTF-ness that just kept unfolding.
HuffPost Live asked me to come on their show and explain my stance (watch it here; I still cringe). I was asked to call in to a radio show out of Detroit (I said I'd only do it if they weren't going to bash my parenting, and they never called me back). I was contacted by the producer of The Doctors TV show - but when I explained myself, that I wasn't some sort of crazy mother who forces my naked body upon my children (ick), they deemed it not controversial enough. It was all so surreal.
I wrote this post in an effort to further explain myself - my attempt at gasping for air in the midst of this giant shitstorm I had inadvertently created.
The madness eventually died down, of course. And I know it's cliche, but I did emerge on the other side of it with a much much thicker skin. It's funny what a trial by fire will do to a person.
Throughout the whole thing, I received one question more often than any other: so when are you going to stop letting your kids see you naked? I never had a specific answer, other than, "Whenever they start to feel uncomfortable with it, I guess." Or, you know, until they remember to freaking knock.
So last week - the one year anniversary of the post - I was getting ready to take a shower when my oldest son walked into my bathroom. He just turned ten in June. At that point I was still fully clothed, laying out my towel and my deodorant and stuff. He was blathering on about something computer-related, and I was doling out my usual "mm-hmmms" as I began to remove my shirt.
He yelped like I'd pinched him and ran out of the room.
"Colin?" I called after him, frowning. "What's wrong, buddy?"
"You're naked!" he shouted from the distance. "Ew!"
I couldn't help but laugh. To everybody who has ever asked me when it's going to stop ... there's your answer. The moment they think it's gross.
My boys are normal after all. Take that, haters.