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Revisiting Puberty

06.16.2008

diaries

I spent this morning working on the next page in my altered book, which meant I spent this morning looking through old diaries and photos. My old diaries were a treasure trove of pain, depression, and loathing of both everyone else and myself. What a nice trip down memory lane that was. (I also had to make an enormous mess unearthing the box in which these memories are held – double whammy!)

As for my old photos, I apparently hated myself so much during my tween years, that I disposed of any evidence that I was ever 11, 12, or 13 years old. I had hoped to use my middle school yearbook picture, but even my awful teal and purple yearbook from 1992 has been tossed. Oh well.

Day 5a This next page in my altered book is both the most personal and painful for me. I was raised to believe that people will like me better if I was thinner. In fact, I understood friends and thinness to be directly proportional. That is why I began my own “body project” which has been a twenty year battle with my tummy, hips, and thighs.

I was not a fat child. I was not a beanpole either. I had friends, but not many, and none was popular. I thought I was fat and unlovable. I still feel that way sometimes. It is sad.

I am horrified of the thought that my daughter may grow up seeing me scrutinize myself in the mirror as I frown. Day 5bThat is most definitely not the example I want to set for her. Even worse, I never want her to think that her weight affects her value as a person. Unfortunately, the idea that size influences personal worth, for men and women alike, can be found in the subtext of American billboards, magazines, television, and movies. I do not expect to shield my daughter from the society’s messages – I hope to arm her against them.

I want to raise my daughter to love herself and others and to respect her body. I cannot do that until I respect mine. Learning to do so is my new “body project.” That is why I have taken on this project in particular.

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6 Comments leave one →
  1. 06.17.2008 12:40 pm

    Accepting our bodies is so difficult, especially as when we start to accept thema s they are they have already changed into something else, somthing older even! 😉 Your pages looks great, as does you peaking out from behind your journals and through them!

  2. Katherine permalink
    06.17.2008 12:54 pm

    You are very brave, both to confront this for yourself and to help WO (wee one) arm herself rather than trying to shield her. I like the fact of you standing strong and defiant and beautiful exactly as you are.

  3. 06.17.2008 2:59 pm

    I’m amazed to learn this about you. One of the things I took from our first few meetings was your enviable self-confidence. You’ve always seemed comfortable in your own skin. If this is an acquired trait, it is indeed to be admired, and I love you all the more!

  4. yup, another sara permalink
    06.18.2008 8:41 pm

    This has been a lifelong battle for me as well (and is definitely one that I am still fighting). I grew up watching my mother’s battle with her own body and I learned so many early lessons about what it means to be a woman– unfortunately, many of these lessons were about deprivation and judgement and unhappiness. I definitely got the message that thinner was better, prettier, more desirable and I have spent years dieting, staving off disordered eating in a variety of ways, and just generally not being happy about who I am. I too want to arm any daughter that I may one day have, to end the cycle of self-doubt that my mother passed on to me despite her best intentions. I cannot wait to see this project. You are such an amazing mom.

  5. mplimasol permalink
    06.19.2008 9:22 am

    i was a normal kid who moved around a lot and, consequently, became a bit of a clown to make friends. but this worked for me, because i had always been a confident and outgoing kid, the type to approach someone on the first day of school, shake hands and say, “so what do you think about eating lunch with me?” those kinds of things were just easy for me.

    i gained some weight during puberty, as some girls do, but i don’t remember noticing that. it certainly didn’t have any affect on how i went about things. people didn’t really make “fat” comments either. in my mind, i was still the same person as i had always been.

    when i was about 12, i developed an overactive thyroid and i lost about twenty pounds in the period of a couple months. that’s when the comments came, but not the kind you’d expect. “wow, emily, you look skinnier. you look prettier.” i began to equate thinness with beauty in a way that i never had before. thus began the obsessive calorie counting, starvation, and compulsive exercising that darkened my adolescence.

    i remember the summer before i went to college i was apprehensive about going to college because of “the freshman fifteen,” so i lost a little more weight to feel okay if i ended up gaining a little bit of it back. but when i first got to college, i got the comment that i was “too thin.” eventually, college became so physically demanding that i had to eat. i swung all the way to the point of not caring, and i ended up gaining a ton of weight – perhaps 15-20 lbs from the beginning to the end of my freshman year.

    i’ve struggled with my weight and my size for at least half my life. just recently, it’s become apparent to me that i’m never going to be model-thin, that i do have hips and that there’s nothing i can do about that. there is an inherent shape to one’s body. my goal now is just to make sure that i’m healthy. instead of starving myself, i’ve been eating more naturally than i ever have in my life, i’ve been exercising smarter than i ever have in my life (don’t kill yourself, just stay active), and i really haven’t felt better. as a bonus, i’ve dropped a few pounds. but the main goal is that i have energy than i never had before.

    yet i’ve nearly lost friends in college to bulimia.

    if i ever find out that my daughter (assuming that i eventually have one) is counting calories, allotting 500-600 per day for herself like i was, i don’t know what i’m going to do. but i also don’t know how to avoid it. my parents raised me well, always gave me attention and praise and taught me to appreciate myself for who i was inside, but they could not prevent my peers from loading my head with the idea that being thin is being pretty. and they also could not convince me otherwise – my dad would get angry with me, but it wasn’t until i made the change in my thinking that being thin no longer became the focus. and given all the mary kates and the paris hiltons and nicole richies, how can you stop it? girls are inundated with the image of thin everywhere they go. it’s a wonder to me how some girls make it out completely unscathed. but good luck to you and your daughter – this bass-ackwards view of beauty in society has to start with one.

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