I’m in line at the movie store, waiting to check-out. A boy I really like is teasing me. It’s ok. We’re picking out a date night movie.
Kindergarten rule #101: Boys who like you, pick on you.
Well, this one must really like me, because he squeezes the soft baby fat underneath my chin. And then, to make sure I understand how much he digs me, pokes my waist and asks me how much I weigh.
In that moment, I become too pudgy for comfort.
I’m sixteen and a size 6.
I realize I want to be smaller.
. . .
I’m sitting in the library with a girlfriend, studying for an upcoming test. My friend has a wispy, ballerina look to her.
“You’re so healthy,” I say, commenting on the fruit she always eats.
She looks me dead in the eyes. “I used to just throw up, but the last time I did, my whole face became covered in blood vessels.”
I try to imagine what that must have felt like. To pull your face from the toilet and look in the mirror–only to see your secret screaming at you.
My friend is 21 years old and a size 4.
She still wants to be smaller.
. . .
I’m at church after service, talking to friends.
I’ve been sick for six months. I’ve lost 15 pounds and have no energy. Every day is a struggle.
Someone comes up and comments on my new size.
I know exactly where this is going. I explain the food intolerances I’ve been struggling with and how it’s affected my weight.
“Well, you look amazing!” this person says, encouragingly.
I smile, but I want to cry. People think I look my best when I’m at my worst.
I’m 32 years old and a size 2.
I don’t want to be this small.
. . .
What is this obsession with being skinny? And why do girls (and guys) think this is healthy? I look at my daughter, now in kindergarten, and hope she always embraces her sparkling beauty.
Because her heart is gold. Her mind is silver. And her spirit is diamond.
Today she sees herself as a beautiful princess, with powers to match Elsa and a voice to bring down American Idol, but how will she see herself in ten years, when she’s sixteen?
My own perception of weight and beauty became warped in an instant–that one fateful night in the movie store. In hindsight, it’s easy to see I should have stood up for myself or dropped that boy right then and there. But I didn’t realize his behavior wasn’t ok. That my weight wasn’t his business.
And sadly, I didn’t figure out how easily my self-concept could be manipulated.
Within weeks of movie night, I was eating like a bird and pushing myself to exercise as hard as I could. Some people thought I had become extra health-conscious, and I tried to embrace that lie. I was only being heathy, I told myself. But when you spend two hours in soccer practice only to go home and eat an apple for dinner–well, you are being anything but healthy.
Thank goodness for brave friends who told me I was getting too skinny. That I was looking–gross. The intervention worked and soon I wasn’t so thin. Then, after fat-grabber-boy and I stopped watching movies together, guess what happened? I gained even more weight back. Hmm.
I was lucky when I started dating Adam. He looked at me like I was the most beautiful girl in the world. And I felt like it when I was near him.
Then I made an incredibly smart decision. I married the boy who made me feel beautiful.
My hubby of ten years is awesome. He’s kind and smart, makes great weekend breakfasts, and lets me drag him to Nutcracker ballets. Not sure if him marrying me was the smartest decision. But seriously, one of the best gifts he has ever given me is this: he has never, ever, commented about my weight or made me feel self-conscious about my figure or size or anything “beauty related.” Well, except for that brown shawl of mine. He hated that thing . . .
I know. He’s amazing.
Kindergarten rule #101: Boys who like you, pick on you.
Kindergarten rule #101: Boys who love you for you, don’t pick on you.
And how’s this for romantic? A week after my daughter was born, I stumbled out of the nursery disheveled and sleep deprived. I was up 30 “baby love” pounds and still looked about 6 months pregnant (and yes, people kept congratulating me on being pregnant 3 months after my baby was born). I didn’t feel comfortable in my stretched-out, red-stitched, jiggle-hanging skin. But after pushing 3.5 hours and having an emergency c-section, I wasn’t starting an exercise program anytime soon.
“You know,” Adam began as I slumped on the couch, “you don’t have to lose any weight. I think you’re gorgeous right now.”
Do I have to say it again? Yes. I really do. My husband’s amazing.
He was my knight-in-shining-armor when I was 14, and he still is today.
Popular media and culture has completely twisted our perception on what a beautiful healthy woman looks like. Hint: if you can’t eat to feel satisfied, have to exercise like a crazy person, spend over ten minutes putting on make up and doing your hair, and have to wear the “right” clothes–then you’re not letting your healthy beauty shine through.
Before you yell at me for being a complete hypocrite (“We’ve seen your fancy blog picture. Don’t tell us you’re too holy to wear makeup or do your hair or . . .”)
You’re right. Full disclosure: I too need to fight this delusion.
Fact: I tend to put on my best clothes and take extra care with my makeup when I’m not feeling beautiful or confident. I take extra care with my looks when I’m feeling the most vulnerable about who I am and whether or not I’m good enough to do this, or be that, or fit in with them.
And this is not what I want for my daughter. I want her to throw on clothes and not worry about her hair or face. I especially don’t want her to worry about her weight. Of course, I want her to be healthy. I want her to eat her veggies and fruits, exercise, and have fun while doing it. But I never want her to think she has to lose another 10+ pounds because she thinks she will be more loved by a boy or by friends or by society.
I want her to know beauty and worth is not determined by her weight. Her size. Her shape.
And I hope she doesn’t chase all the extra beauty add-ons: the makeup, nails, clothes, and hair. I want her to spend ten minutes getting ready and take those extra 30 minutes (she could be using to beautify herself) to read a book, or clean her room, or take a run. Even better, I want her to take those thirty minutes, multiply it by 365 days a year, and multiply that again by 30 years and do something amazing with her extra 5,475 hours (or 228 days)–like paint a masterpiece.
I want her to understand her beauty will never be good enough until she feels good about herself.
So, to my beautiful daughter now in kindergarten, I say–
Eat your cookie. Cut your hair. Wear sweats. And feel beautiful. Because there’s a new playground rule hitting the blacktop:
Kindergarten rule #101: Boys who like you, pick on you. Kindergarten rule #101: Boys who love you for you, don’t pick on you.
Kindergarten rule #101: Girls who love themselves, are always beautiful. No matter what.