I read a blog today in which a mom was offering advice on how to talk to your daughter about her body. The advice was, don’t, except to tell her how it works.
And I sooo get the point of the advice, because my body is still a central point of conversation in any gathering with my parents, which sucks ass, for numerous previously discussed reasons.
Still I couldn’t help thinking that talking around my daughter’s body….Talking about how healthy she is! And how strong! And how that arm helps her paint! Simply wasn’t going to cut it when her friends at school have been talking about bodies since kindergarten.
You see, in kindergarten, my daughter’s buddy sat her down at lunch and taught her how to count calories. At the time, my daughter brought her own soy milk, because she’s allergic to dairy. Her milk was deemed “fattening,” and she was informed she shouldn’t be drinking it. By a kindergartner.
In the first grade, a different buddy of my daughter’s began a weekly ritual of measuring thigh size. With her hands, she would measure the size of the thigh of the girls in their friendship circle. The little girl doing the measuring was a tall thin child, and she told the others her thigh was the standard by which they would be measured. I wish I was making this up, because my husband and I have battled to reverse the effects of this unhealthy competition for years.
And I don’t think situations like these are uncommon.
And I know the source of these problems is likely parent-child body conversation (or overheard conversations) that went beyond how bodies work, which would seem to support not talking about bodies with your daughter…or maybe not. Do we honestly think girls don’t absorb society’s fascination with thin?
I just don’t think not talking about bodies is the remedy…for our family. At this point.
I mean. Does not talking about sex work? Does it properly prepare my child for what he/she will hear and learn from friends? If I just keep saying “Sex is natural for adults.” Does that communicate that we can talk about it, and I welcome any questions or concerns that arise?
That’s where I’m at with BODIES.
You see, I can’t not talk to my child frankly about bodies when other people are teaching their daughters to count calories, and schools send home obesity reports, and we as a society are so obsessed with mythical perfect bodies.
Right or wrong, I have to get real with my daughter. I have to say, “everyone is worried about their bodies being different, but the truth is everybody’s body is different. That girl is short, that one’s tall, that one’s lithe, and that one’s curvy. Do you see any two people in this room who look alike? Do you see one who fits this idea of perfection?” (Impossible without Photoshop.)
I have to be frank. I have to point out Alicia Keys’ gorgeous thick thighs, and say, “Do you think she could wrap her hands around her thighs? Does it seem like that holds her back?” (The answer is no and no, by the way, and Alicia Keys is the bomb.)
I have to point out my daughter’s genetic and ethnic roots and say, “We all come in different shapes and sizes. There’s no value in comparing yourself to others to find your worth or where you belong. Especially when you’re not a 6′ 2″, 110 lbs., White female.”
Because that’s what my daughter thought she should aspire to look like. I found that out through a frank conversation with her about bodies, which gave me an opportunity to say, “You’re Latina. You’re never going to be a tall blond Dutch model.” Light bulb moment. “Oh ya, mom. I didn’t think of that!” I wonder why not.
Thinking back, I’ve only known one woman in my entire life who fit the typcial “super model” description. ONE.
I’m White, and I’m 5′ 2″, 220 lbs. My daughter’s a beautiful German Latina hybrid. Though I hope it changes, neither one of us can look to mainstream media and see ourselves and the diversity of women reflected back to us as a norm.
No, we have to expose media’s norm for the fiction it is. We have to expose the lies we embrace and tell ourselves. We have to embrace our bodies from within. And in order to do that, we have to have to talk about it.