Thursday, February 18, 2010

Is It Really Getting Better Folks?

My, my, my. . . the Matron has been very interested in details at the Colony!

She read the Kevin Smith comments with a HIGH degree of interest. She chortled at Mrs. G’s temporary move from Switzerland to . . . well, at least Ireland.

But the outright vilification of flesh gave the Matron pause. Why? She’s thinking of our daughters. Yes, yes, the boys –and she has two of them—feel pressure to adhere to cultural ideals, yes, indeed. But she’s here to argue that there’s a unique condemnation of female flesh. Is there any male counterpoint to Oprah’s battle of the bulge? Starr Williams? Ricki Lake? She could go on and on and on. For every Jared, there’s a Jenny Craig, Valerie Bertinelli, Kirstey Alley and every celebrity who has ever given birth. The Matron would love to take every “how she got her body back after baby” article to kerosene and torch. That would be one big bonfire. She’d toss in a few pages on Jennifer Aniston’s abs, just to make that flame burn brighter.

Every few days, she’s reminded of how cellular these issues are to women, how this deep-tissue condemnation of female flesh is being passed along to our daughters. You see, the Matron has a good friend – a rail-thin woman who, not unlike the Matron, works toward that condition--- who cannot get her daughter to be thin enough. The daughter is not fat. Not thin. She is firmly in the middle, a 12 year old with new breasts, hips, and a little bit of tummy. The Matron’s friend, Jay we’ll say, is routinely saying things like this:

“I’m taking Kay for a walk tonight to make sure she burns some calories.”

“Do you pack carbs for Scarlett's lunch? I’m just leaving carbs out of Kay’s diet unless she asks for something like a cookie.”

“I know, I know, I’m worried about the weight. But it’s so much easier to be thin. Your life as a woman is easier.” (True)

“Kay? Do you really need to eat a whole hamburger or is half okay?”

“Girls? Can we skip a snack after school and save our appetites for dinner?”

The Matron is not condemning Jay but putting her on a spectrum, a spectrum in which the Matron herself, survivor of an eating disorder, is firmly situated. With three spindly young ones, the Matron hasn’t (yet) navigated the land of ‘watch what you eat.’ But she sees plenty of mothers, not just Jay, fretting about their daughters’ physiques.

Last week, Jay’s daughter, Kay, said this to Scarlett. The Matron overheard from her secret spot out in the open two feet away from the kitchen table:

Kay: “Scarlett, let’s go on a cleansing diet next week. No carbs, no wheat, no diary, no meat, no sugar. What do you think?”

Scarlett: “Sounds good! We can get healthy just like our Moms!”

Oh darlings. It is a little more complicated. Please don't emulate your mothers.

Move beyond us.


Suburban Correspondent said...

Hear, hear!

And mothers? Supply healthy food choices, don't keep junk in the house, and refrain from talking about weight. It doesn't help.

another eating-disorder survivor

Minnesota Matron said...

It's rough out here in daughter world. Scarlett caught me sucking in my stomach (critically) in the mirror the other day -- and there really is no stomach.

Okay, off to burp and scratch and let it all hang out in front of her : -). Good times at bed time!

smalltownmom said...

Mom of skinny yet big eater boys here...

but I'm thankful my mother in my teens thought I looked just right. Lets hear it for positive reinforcement!

Cecile said...

Hi !

Very good post, as usual. Like you, I think the issue is very real, and needs to be adressed.

My mum was a bit like your friend Jay. Except my mum was (is) fat. She thinks she's obese but she's not, just fat. She hates her body, she hates being fat, she has very poor self-esteem... And from the moment I was born she started worrying I'd get fat. Candy in the house ? Ha, not a chance. I used to gorge myself on chocolate when I was at a friend's house for snacks...

I was skinny up until puberty really hit. Then I became... curvy. Not fat, but definitely curvy. I too had to hear, everyday : "Are you sure you want to eat that ?" "You should exercice, you know... You don't want to become fat, do you ?" and other : "Ah, you've lost weight, haven't you ?"
(said in a pleased tone, for a change.)

It made my life hell, really. Food became a battle. I was convinced I was fat, and in my early twenties I flirted with an eating disorder. I say "flirt", because all I did was exercice compulsively and watch my food intake. Food was all I thought about. I became my thinnest ever, I felt great, I looked great... but I was always tired, and I definitely wasn't happy. Now I'm happy, and I'm curvy again. And you know what ? That's okay !

I'm sorry about the loooong post, and it's okay if you delete it (I won't come after you with an axe, for example...) I just had to get it off my chest. ;-)

I hope Merrick's doing alright, too.

MJ said...

The post and comments are so familiar except my family (mother) was at the other extreme. Mine was, "here, eat this extra potato cause I don't want leftovers"; carbs were plentiful &, in fact, if a child is hungry, give her bread or another carb. My mother was horrified that I intentionally did not purchase products with transfats for my children & would bring them to my house when she visited.

And then the extended family would comment, "You are getting a little fat" and/or whisper behind backs.

You can imagine how this evolved. One anorexic sister; 1 heavy sister; 1 obese sister & me a Weight Watcher lifer.

The games we play with our foods and heads.

jenn said...

If I could give my two daughters anything at all, it would be healthy body images. I've struggled with mine my whole life, no matter what my weight was.

"Move beyond us" - exactly. I can't think of a better was to say it.

Mary said...

Cecile--Far from deleting, that's exactly the kind of comment I'm looking for. I think there's a lot more struggle than we're overtly recognizing. I should start a body image blog! Seriously, it might be interesting to engage with this issue at a different level. Hmmmm. . . another project?

Anonymous said...

Fat mom with tiny skinny daughter here. It is so hard to encourage her to be healthy and yet not over-emphasize looks/small size. Sigh. But I was always big but did not fee fat until my 30s....

Green Girl in Wisconsin said...

Right now I think I'm going to give my sons a hug. And then I'm going to hug myself. The only person here with body image issues is Mr. D so I better hug him too.

Anonymous said...

Right around the time of moving from childhood to adolescence, my brothers (one older, one younger) started calling me "fat." I wasn't, yet. But for many years I heard their voices and I have become what they believed. They, of course, are not (although one has to work at it more than the other).
My father, who claims he never heard my brothers' teasing, is now the pot calling the kettle black in our weekly phone conversations. Aside from an occasional photo, he has only seen me once in the past 7 years. Frankly, he doesn't know what I weigh or really what I look like. I look like his mother.

I've tried to raise my boys to not equate food with comfort. This is one time when raising boys is definitely easier than raising girls.

Daisy said...

This worries me. Deeply, deeply worries me. A close friend is still going through hell as her daughter fights anorexia: a daughter who is lovely, healthy, intelligent, and has a severe eating disorder. The young woman, 21, was kicked out of her outpatient program for refusing to follow their advice. She began to heal only with inpatient treatment, and was still released with a dangerously low BMI.

Burp, scratch, let it all hang out - please.

Anonymous said...

My then-4 year old came home from day care, pinched the skin on her abdomen, and showed me her 'fat'.

I was split between damage control, finding who gave her that idea and killing them, and crying. Because I at least try to pretend I'm sane, I went w damage control and talked about skin, insulation, etc.