All the things they said
“Oh you have such skinny arms. Such little skinny arms.”
It was an off-handed comment to my daughter, while a lab tech was putting a blood pressure cuff on her arm. “Mommy, look how skinny my arms are! They’re weak and skinny.”
Story is seven years old, and has asked me what it really means to be skinny and fat, and which is better, and why do people talk about it so much and why is it not nice to call someone fat? She wanted to read through some piece of trash publication in the Shopper’s Drug Mart line up the other day that was all about losing massive amounts of weight in time for bathing suit season and I wanted to tear my hair out. We try hard to keep these kinds of messages out of our dialogue with the kids but it’s getting harder now that she can read, and has friends at school who, in grade two, already concern themselves with body image. It’s relentless. We don’t even have cable tv or print publications that discuss this kind of thing in our house. I can’t imagine how hard it is to shield them from those messages in addition to all the rest.
And I remember those times when I was that age. I remember all the things people said to me that shaped the way I see myself today.
I have legs like a rugby player.
I have the hairiest legs he’s ever seen.
Why do my feet look like that?
I’ve got one big, beautiful ass.
My hair is crazy.
My lips are so thin!
My hair is so thick.
My hands look like a skeleton’s.
I have perfect nails.
I have beautiful eyes.
What happened to my eyebrows?
I’m not fat, I’m chubby.
I have Fred Flintstone feet.
Oh my god, I have thick ankles, that’s hilarious.
Have I considered getting my teeth fixed?
I could go on, and on… every comment was filed securely in my mind, brought out to use against myself when I feel particularly mopey. The bad outweighing the good. These are just the things I heard directly, never mind all the media messages.
Smaller here, larger there.
I don’t want my children experiencing these things. Who does? How do we combat the messaging our kids are bombarded with day in and day out?
Already in grade two my daughter’s friends stage weddings to other kids in class, and discuss how boys can’t marry boys and girls can’t marry girls. My daughter says, “Yes they can!” and they ask if she’s going to marry a girl in an accusatory tone. Why does it matter? Why does she have to listen to them tell her her legs are hairy? Why is she concerned about her skinny little arms? Why does she have to be thinking about these things at only seven years old?
It feels like a full time job ninja-fighting off the world of negativity, but I’ll never give up this fight. I want to instil in my children the confidence that they are exactly as they ought to be, as is every other body.
But it’s so hard when all the things people have said to me still echo through my mind.
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