Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Body Image & Imagination

The other day something disturbing happened while we were at the pool. Not earthquake shattering (oh west coast, how do you do it?) disturbing but it bothered me enough to hang on to it for a few days.

While sitting with Abby at a picnic table, I noticed two girls sitting one table over. They were in their early teens and waiting patiently for break time to be over in the deep end so they could go for a swim. In true teen fashion, they chattered busily about a small group of boys just out of earshot. Then the lifeguard's whistle blew. One girl peeled off her tank to reveal a modest and rather tasteful (for a 13 year old) bikini. She threw her jean shorts to the ground and skittered off to meet the group of boys who were pretending to kick invisible dirt off the cement tiles.

The second girl stayed behind. She lingered painfully back and I could practically feel the tension emanating from her tall frame. She fittered with the fringe of her tank top. She smoothed her already straight shorts. I even caught a glimpse of her fixing an imaginary shoelace on her flip flops. She was stalling.

"Oh Honey," I wanted so badly to tell her, "don't worry so much."

Her friend called impatiently to her. The boys gave her a wave and she stood almost trembling at this point. She had no choice but to go in. She gave her hips a few pats as if she could physically push back in whatever she imagined to be out of place. My heart was breaking. This girl was not only beautiful by virtue of social norms but she was also anything but fat. She was lean, strong, and naturally toned. She was a lot taller and more athletic than her counterpart but I would bet my lunch money she was the girl that those boys were really waiting to see.

"I like your suit." I wanted to say. "If only I could look like you." I tried that one in my head too but it sounded old and pathetic and well, just creepy coming from a tired mom with her baby. Nothing short of telling her she was young and beautiful came to my mind to reassure her that there was truly nothing to worry about. But she wouldn't have believed me. Somewhere along her road of growing up someone made her feel less than worthy for being herself. It might have been all the One Tree Hills or new 90210s selling skinny and emaciated like it's a mandatory brand if you're under childbearing years. Who knows where the insecurities start but it broke my heart to watch this physically gorgeous little supermodel not know the measure of her worth- both inside and out- for whatever reason.

She did manage to make it over to the pool to meet up with her friends. But she also managed to keep her shirt on over her bathing suit as her safety blanket. She didn't need that safety blanket and I just wish I could've come up with a sisterly, or hell, motherly way of showing her that truth. It's obvious she doesn't appreciate what she has in youth and beauty alone and I want her to before having children (if she chooses that route) really will change her body. I want her to feel secure, happy, and lovely at this crucial time in her life when self confidence matter most. I know she sees things that aren't there, flaws that are manifested, and a sense of perfect that is just out of reach. I know this because I always wore the shirt too.


Crystal D said...

I just commented on another blog tonight that I love that my girls know how beautiful they are right now. And I fear the day they start doubting that certainty.
I know it isn't the same as your friends telling you, but this mom is going to keep telling her girls how smart and gorgeous they are every day of their lives.

One Sided Momma said...

your girls ARE beautiful and they are lucky to have such an equally beautiful mama and believe me, it means MORE when it comes from mom! :)

pajama mom said...

i always wore the shirt too.
still do.
wish i had that old/young
belly again.