Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Inherited Insecurities

I was seated at the dining room table, having breakfast alone when my nine-year-old walked in the room. She was still wearing her nightgown, but of course, she had nothing on her feet. It was chilly in the dining room and she wanted to stay and chat with me, so I said to her, "Go upstairs and put something on your feet and your chicken legs." She feigned hurt feelings, drama queen that she is, as she sauntered up the steps to comply with my request.

While I sat there, alone again, I realized that though I didn't actually hurt her feelings, I may have made her self-conscious about having skinny legs. I may have thought of it as a harmless joke, but maybe it wasn't so harmless.

When I was a little girl, I was teased about my thin frame all the time. Chicken Legs, Olive Oyl, Skinny Minnie, I heard it all. And those were just the names my friends called me. If I put my hands on my hips, my mother would say, "Girl, get your hands off your imagination." You see, in my neighborhood, being "thick" was something to which one should aspire. Men and boys alike would drop their jaws at the sight of a woman with thick thighs, big hips, and a rotund backside. I didn't have any of those things, so while my feelings weren't exactly hurt by the skinny jokes, I didn't think I had the right kind of body. I wanted to have all the boys looking at me when I walked down the street. I wanted to be thick. (As an aside, I later received all that attention from boys when my boobs came in. I didn't like it. I still don't like it.)

Can you imagine wanting to gain weight? I spent years of my life eating excessively so I'd gain weight, and now I spend a large chunk of my time trying to stop eating excessively so I'll lose weight. Somewhere in the midst of all those skinny jokes, I received a message that my body wasn't good enough. How does a woman reprogram herself? When all the information you receive tells you that your "ideal" weight is 130 pounds and you are not even close to that, how do you feel good about the body you have?

When you find the answer to that one, let me know, will you?

I put forth a lot of effort trying to prevent my weight issues from becoming my daughter's. I've stopped calling myself fat. I threw away my scale. I try to make it seem as if weight and body size are no big deal. That's the way I want to feel. That's the way I want her to feel. Then I hear myself teasing her about her size and I realize that I'm doing the same thing to her that was done to me. I may not have the quick-fix for me, but I have a good idea of how to fix it for my daughter: stop it before it starts.

When she returned to the dining room, now clad in super skinnyBASIC Southpole Juniors Knit Skinny Denim Leggings, Khaki, 5 (yes, that's a cut of pants now) jeans and flip flops, I apologized to her. I explained to her how I was once her size and people teased me, which caused me to be obsessed with my weight. Now 30 years later, I'm obsessed with the opposite spectrum of my weight. I told her there is nothing wrong with being thin and that she is perfect just as she is.

Now if we could only get her mother to learn that lesson...


  1. It's sometimes much easier to teach a lesson to others than learn it ourselves. Funny how that works huh?

  2. as i get older i get it.

    the problem is understanding and putting into action are where it all falls apart...

    old habits die hard. but i also think the appology and the correction are what sticks with us.

    to this day i remember that my dad appolgized for stuff many times when i grew up, but i do not rememeber what he was appologizing for.

    i remember that he made mistakes and then owned up to them.

    and we all make mistakes.

    i try to focus on how i recover from my mistakes in child rearing than to harshly judge my f*ups..

    cuz god knows i am far from perfect...

    bruce johnson jadip
    stupid stuff i see and hear
    Bruce’s guy book
    the guy book
    Dreamodel Guy

  3. @ mskanorado- Oh, yes. I can tell others what they should do all day long, then I get to myself and draw a blank.

    @bruce- It is so important to recognize and attempt to correct your mistakes. My mother NEVER apologized even when she knew she was wrong. Adults didn't apologize to kids and that was that.

  4. Kids are very forgiving. The fact that you apologized is what's important. So often adults won't admit they made a mistake. I've apologized more times than I care to admit to my child, but I hope she learns that no one is infallible and that mistakes can be fixed.

  5. My parents are always telling me to fatten up. I just thought it was an Italian thing. And you're awesome for apologizing - most people wouldn't think to do that.

  6. Lolamouse- It's hard for me to admit when I'm wrong, but when you have kids, sometimes you'll have to do things that aren't easy. In fact, LOTS of times.

    Stainless- I got the same thing. They would say I looked 'poor' as in poverty-stricken. Unless your health is at risk, don't worry about your body size. I hope Project 365 is going well for you.

  7. Dang it! I left a comment but apparently blogger ate it!

  8. don't know why I never came over to the other side of you before. You and I are multi-dimensional: not just bitchy, but full of substance, too, damn it! I'll be back stalking around this blog of your's, too, from now on.


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