Body image blues


I was at Target and overheard a mother telling her daughter she couldn’t get the romper she wanted because it makes her “look fat.” This child was probably about six and looks like a normal six-year-old. The romper actually looked pretty adorable on her and I think she knew it. She asks her mom if she could “please have it? Because I really like it!” The mom sighed and sent a photo to grandma (she narrated what she was doing). Grandma immediately called and said, “no, she looks fat.” This poor child pouted as she went back into the fitting room.

She’s SIX. She shouldn’t be worried about whether or not she looks fat. She’s already being taught at this young age that her weight will hold her back (in this case from wearing the romper she so loved) and that her weight is something to be valued. Why is body-shaming starting at such a young age?!

In a society where wrinkle creams are being sold to barely twenty-somethings (seriously) and flat stomachs are the standard of beauty, why should this surprise me? Why, of all things in this world, would a mother telling her child she was fat be something that “grinds my gears,” so to speak?

Because it wasn’t true and was completely unnecessary.

There’s already an unbelievable standard of beauty that we all, men and women, face on a daily basis. Tina Fey explained it the best, “Now every girl is expected to have Caucasian blue eyes, full Spanish lips, a classic button nose, hairless Asian skin with a California tan, a Jamaican dance hall ass, long Swedish legs, small Japanese feet, the abs of a lesbian gym owner, the hips of a nine-year-old boy, the arms of Michelle Obama, and doll tits.” I will never be tan, with a size 24 waist, with no hips, killer legs, etc, etc, etc. And I’m fine with that. I’m also 27-years-old, so I’ve had essentially a lifetime to work on my self esteem and self worth. And let me assure you, it’s been a long time coming.

No, my parents never told me I was fat, or ugly, or anything else. They didn’t give me unrealistic expectations. They let me express myself the way I wanted to. When I was a kid my hair started growing and never stopped. I told my mom, at two, that I didn’t want a haircut. So for the next six years, every time she asked, I never wanted a haircut. When I was eight, my hair was past my knees. Yes, my friends, I decided I finally wanted a haircut. So my mother hands me the scissors and I chopped off my braid (and about three feet of hair). It was so liberating! I got to make the choice that I wanted, which was to grow and finally cut my hair.

It was in that moment that I began to feel empowered and in control over my own external looks. Sure, there were many moments where I doubted myself and was made fun of. At age 8, when I was in fourth grade, I was about 4’9″ and wore a women’s size nine shoe. The boys in my grade refused to believe me, going so far as to make me take off my shoes to prove it to them. Also in the same grade, I cut my hair to a new style for me, a bob haircut. I loved it. I’ll never forget the day I went to school and one of the popular boys didn’t recognize me. He walked straight toward me, going “hey, nice haircut!” When I turned and smiled, because I thought he was complimenting me, his face fell so fast and he quickly turned and walked away. My fourth-grade self was very impressionable and hurt by this.

When I was in my 20s, a former coworked used to make comments about what I was wearing every day. She made fun of my Halloween socks, my necklaces,pretty much everything. She told me that I was only worth 1 carat, while she was worth 5. Seriously. Those were words that came out of her mouth.

It has taken me nearly my entire life to be OK with myself, my body and my looks. Much like everyone else in the world, I am insecure and have things I dislike. But I’m working on it. Today, my hair looked good. That’s a step in the right direction.