How a gross word made me feel sexy again

As a new mom, I'd started to feel invisible. Then, with four little letters, a college kid proved I wasn't

Topics: New Mom Confessions, Life stories, Motherhood,

How a gross word made me feel sexy again

Two old friends and I had converged on Chicago from the coasts, gleefully leaving behind four sneezy children and three apprehensive husbands for the weekend. Thanks to the children, we had colds, too, and had to take turns coaxing each other to head down to the hotel bar instead of tucking into bed early with a bag of lozenges to watch “Glee” on Hulu.

The three of us were never exactly partiers. We met in elementary school orchestra and solidified our friendship in the early ’90s in a high school club called “Students Against Intolerance and Discrimination.” We didn’t drink, we barely danced, and only one of us dated in high school — and by “dated,” I mean she began a serious relationship with a guy who would become her husband.

It was miraculous, really, that we were all awake at 10 p.m. on a Saturday night, dressed in not-too-badly-baby-stained clothing, drinking hot toddies and engaging in an ever-so-slight flirtation with the two college guys perched on the giant leatherette ottoman opposite ours.

As the mother of a toddler, I was in serious need of flirting — even the ever-so-slight variety. It had been forever since I’d been made to feel interesting and compelling, much less kind of sexy.

The bigger and burlier of the two guys regaled us with charming tales of high school football and taught us how to use Twitter so we could become his followers. The other guy — skinnier and more metrosexual-seeming — was more reticent. Perhaps hanging out with three married 35-year-old moms from out of town wasn’t the evening he’d had in mind when he’d donned his best form-fitting Banana Republic oxford and matching tie in an elegant shade of charcoal.

I’m not sure how it happened, but before long both my traveling companions had whipped out their cellphones and were showing the guys pictures of their kids.

Mortified, I hissed at them to stop. It wasn’t like I actually wanted to hook up with one of these guys. I just wanted — needed, even — to know that I could.

Who did I think I was kidding? It’s not like these guys weren’t going to notice our wedding rings or our postpartum belly flab or the sleep-deprivation circles under our eyes and instead were magically going to assume we were single, childless and a decade younger than we actually are. Why did I think that their finding out we had children would be the end of the flirtation?

Just in case the point hadn’t been clearly made, one of my friends said, “We’re oooooooold.”

The burly guy laughed while the skinnier one communed with his cellphone.

I started feeling bad for the guys. They were sweet and semi-engaging and clearly looking to get something else from their evening, but they were too Midwestern to say anything or to simply get up and leave.

“We should stop monopolizing your time,” I said, finally. “You have places to go, girls to chase!”

The skinnier guy seemed to perk up at the idea. The burly one smiled and said with utter conviction, “No way, man! You all are MILFs!”

We smiled back at him, and one of us — I won’t say which — might have leapt across the ottoman to give him a hug.

 I was surprised at how good that weird little acronym felt. For as long as I remember, I’ve considered myself a feminist. When I was a baby and my mom asked, “Are you my girl?” I apparently replied, “No. Woman!” And yet, here I was, with a baby of my own, and I loved being called a MILF.

 - – - – - – - – - – - – -

“That was so fun!” I gushed on the way back to our room.

“They were sweet,” said one friend.

“Yeah,” said the other. “I had such an urge to put a sweater on both of them!”

“Totally!” The other friend laughed.

A sweater? We weren’t that much older than them. Was I completely desperate for enjoying the tiniest hint of sexual tension?

“He called us MILFs!” I tried again.

“Yeah … That term grosses me out,” said the friend who had once spearheaded an effort to bring an anti-apartheid exhibit to our high school. She paused for a moment and thought about it. “Maybe because I didn’t want to sleep with the guy?”

Of course not! Neither did I! He was too young, too burly, too into football and Twitter. I wasn’t attracted to him in any way other than the fact that his attentions made me swoon. It was a revelation that a cute college student might want this slightly poochy body that housed a mind whose sexiest thought of the day for the past two years has been, “Mmmmm — bed!” I didn’t want to sleep with him, but man did it feel good that he might want to sleep with me.

Somewhere along the way I’d internalized the wildly sexist notion that moms are unsexy. Maybe I could be a hot 35-year-old married lady, but a hot 35-year-old married mom? Yes, moms get to be loving and cozy and forgiving, but damn is it nice — necessary, even — to be noticed and wanted for something other than a sippy cup or a spare sweater.

Back in our hotel room, my friends and I tucked ourselves into bed, surrounded by piles of kleenex and baggies of lozenges and numerous cups of water. We turned out the lights, pulled the blankets up under our chins, and dreamed about whatever it was that each of us was needing to dream about that night. 

Wilson Diehl has an MFA in creative nonfiction from the University of Iowa and teaches writing at Hugo House in Seattle. You can read more of her work at

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