“Mom, your belly is huge.”
My response was automatic.The stab of hurt reflexive. “That’s not a very nice thing to say.”
She shrugged, making no effort to take it back. And why should she? My belly is huge. Sure, it’s not as big as it could be. And there are many (some very good) reasons why it has gotten as large as it has. But there’s no denying the truth of its largeness.
So I had a decision to make.
I could dispense a lecture about how good manners dictate we don’t point out other people’s size to them. And about how hurtful it can be to say things like “huge” in reference to a person’s body parts (unless we’re talking about boobs or penises, but that’s another story for another day). And then, of course, I’d have to go on to explain why it’s hurtful.
Or I could let it go.
“Well,” I finally said. “That just makes me soft and squishy, which makes me a good pillow. And I know how you like to lay on me.”
She nodded and grinned, and that was the end of that. At least for her. For me? Not so much. I have to weigh every damn word I say.
I’m raising a girl in a hyper-sexualized world, where we’re all too aware of how our prettiness (or lack thereof) affects every goddamn part of our lives starting way too fucking early.
I’m trying to raise her to be proud of who and what she is, in every context. To feel beautiful in her skin, no matter how large, small, spotty or pristine that skin is. And to know that she is perfect just the way she is, no matter what the world says.
That’s what my feminist sisters tell me I need to do. And I’m glad to do it. Would do it, even if no one told me to.
But it’s fucking hard.
Why can’t we admit how fucking hard it is?
About 70 percent of the time, I’m really NOT thrilled with the body I’m currently saddled with. I hate the rolls on my stomach. The flab on my arms. The cellulite (moon craters) on my thighs. The deformed balloon that is my arthritic knee.
Sometimes the sight of it fills me with rage.
And I know, oh I know, that if I worked hard enough, I could be rid of it all. If I stuck to the vegan diet that I know works. If I went to the gym every day and sought the endorphin high that I love so much. If I gave up wine, and chocolate, and pretty much everything that tastes good.
If I did all that I could (maybe) be a size six again. Or hell, a 12. A 12 would be good.
But hey, guess what? I’m not allowed to talk about dieting. I’m not allowed to let my daughter know that I’m unhappy with my weight. Or why. If I mention it at all, I’m supposed to say, “yes, I’m eating better and and exercising hard, but only because I want to be healthier.”
In other words, I’m supposed to fucking lie. And she’s supposed to believe me.
Yep. That’ll work. Sure it will.
(surely none of us are that stupid, are we?)
But then, what am I saying to her when I don’t do those things consistently? What am I showing her when I skip the gym (for months at a time) to spend an extra 30 minutes on the couch with her (even if it’s just reading while she watches videos)? What about when I ask the hub to bring home takeout despite having a pantry stocked with beans? Or when I look in my closet, see her watching me, and admit, “there’s nothing here I want to wear today?”
I don’t know. I really don’t.
All I know is that being a girl is really fucking hard.
And raising a healthy one? Well, that’s even harder. Fucktastically hard, as a matter of fact.
And I’d really like it if we could all stop pretending it isn’t.
(and also, I’d like to say fuck one more time. I haven’t sworn this much in a blog post in years. it feels good.)