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Small Talk: Are you calling me a pear?

When chatting with my women friends, we always first settle the questions of how to eliminate foolish legislators, how to achieve world peace and how to save the rain forest.

But before the day is over, the conversation unfailingly will turn to a depressing scrutiny of our body shape. The lament of the female body is a universal one and varies only so far as body types and gene pools vary. I believe we insist on discussing it endlessly because we always wrap up by reassuring each other that, “You look fine! No, really!” But memories of that kindness vanish quickly when we make the foolish mistake of shopping for a swimsuit or thoughtlessly disrobe near a full-length mirror.

The discussion is usually launched when someone remarks, “I finally went through my closet and gave away those size-8 designer jeans I wore before the baby.”

Each mom will have a similar wardrobe story to contribute. It generally consists of describing the beautifully tailored, timeless, expensive pre-conception wardrobe she spent 10 years building but can no longer get into. Then we’ll note the three mismatched sweat suits we’re wearing right now.

Some hold on to the foolish belief that they will again wear those size 8s. They usually have just one child. The rest of us endlessly discuss the new wardrobe we will buy, just as soon as we win the lottery.

The real depression hits when we finally starve ourselves back down to our pre-maternity weight and our old pants still won’t button. If this happens just as a friend is approaching her 40th birthday, we quickly hand her the suicide prevention hot-line number.

I finally lost the last 10 pounds, spurred on by the approach of my 20th high school reunion. I still needed extra-strength tummy control panty hose.

And I frankly suspect that if I added up all the money I have spent on liquid diet powder over the past 10 years, it might well have purchased the complete Ann Klein II spring line – in a comfy size 12. Oh, of course there are those women who somehow regain those cast-iron stomachs and firm thighs within moments of childbirth and, unfortunately, most of them live right here in Southern California.

Still, those of us with the more typical female flab accumulation retain the majority clout. Should one of those slim women cross our line of vision, we simply muddy the question of their character by gently observing that she must have neglected some critical phase of mothering. I mean, honey, how else would one find the time to exercise? If that doesn’t work, we casually drop terms like anorexia.

When these inevitable conversations begin, I generally start fantasizing that I live in the French countryside where some adorable Frenchman coined my personal, all-time, least favorite term of endearment, “Mon petit anjou” (my little pear).

Now, that pear shape is truly beautiful while we are with child. We can even stretch the acceptability out for a good eight or nine months of nursing (when one really must not diet), but when you’re celebrating your second child’s third birthday, the anjou shape looks a bit, well, overripe.

I will continue to do my part to raise appreciation of the anjou-shaped body, but I have this hunch that its success in France relates directly to the fact that they drink wine with every meal.

Jean Gillette is a freelance writer who continues to happily slide on her one-size-up jeans. Contact her at [email protected].