Tuesday, 5 May 2009

Beautiful Like Me

"I am not beautiful like you, I am beautiful like me"

There are a group of bloggers out there trying to write posts for the future generation to inspire them to be happy in their own skins, and to help them accept people who don't appear on magazine covers... This is sparked by one of the posts on the subject of "What features/qualities would we like today's children to see as beautiful?".

Milord is super critical of other people's appearance. Which is particularly unkind when you consider that he himself is a battered rugby survivor, balding and overweight. (I don't mind obviously - he was that way when I met him - his personality is what made me look twice and eventually cross the planet to be his wife.)

He mocks overweight people especially. I remember when one of his nieces hit 16 and suddenly discovered that food sticks to your thighs once you become a grownup. He was so rude, and to her face too! Like the poor girl didn't know she was chunking up, having her uncle point it out to her can't have helped her self image.

The other day we were driving along and passed a very pregnant woman (they are everywhere since I joined the club!). "Pregnant!" I said. "and Fat!" he said. What? I craned around in my seat - I hadn't thought she was fat. A little rounded in the bum area perhaps, but nothing major considering she's in her third trimester.

Obviously this makes me super self-conscious. Knowing that your husband thinks a normally plump pregnant woman looks grossly fat is not a good thing as you enter the major growth stage of your own pregnancy! At the one time in my life I am "allowed to be fat" I don't dare relax. Shitshitshit.

Actually I've been so very lucky. I am the poster girl for pregnancy. No sickness, glowing, no greasiness, all my weight gain has been bump, no mood swings. "You haven't changed at all!" he said to me last night. Apart from the lethargy and bump I suppose, but I know what he means. But it could have been sooooo different - I guess that makes him so very lucky too!

My sister said something that jarred a while ago. She apologised for nicknaming me "Fatty" when we were children, and commented that our family had always been so focused on being thin that I must have struggled with being the fat kid (it's true, I was a fat lazy kid who only hit her teen growth spurt at 16. There are no photos of me between the ages of 12 and 16 - I destroyed them all.) Funny, I'd forgotten that. For as long as I can remember (and still to this day) my Mom was dieting and my Dad was exercising. When I was 13 Mom would wake me early before school to join her for an aerobics video, and we'd do fad diets together. Dad would takes us running to and from the exercise park in the evening. I'd hide junk food under my bed and binge on it when no one was looking.

I had incredible issues with self-worth in my late teens and early twenties. I let myself be treated very badly by a series of idiotic boys because I felt I deserved nothing more. The silly thing is that by that point I was slender, gorgeous and high achieving, but I just didn't feel it. It took me many years to shake off the fat-girl self-image and stand tall and today my husband can't imagine me putting up with disrespect. There is still a little part of me that would like to tear the throat out of anyone who calls me fat, and that spills into the defence of other people...

One of these days I will be having a little girl. Milord is already saying things like "our child will never be fat!"

You know what? Maybe she will be fat. I was. All we can do is teach good nutrition and hope she likes sport, but you can't dictate anything. What we will not do is call her fat (even if I have to beat my husband to a pulp).

So back on topic - what would I like my child to find beautiful in themselves and others? I'd like her to be able to see past things like weight. I want her to know that there is a lot more to being worthy of respect than appearance, and that if she is on the heavy side she still deserves to be treated like a princess. And I, in turn, will do everything in my power to protect her from people who want to call her fat.


Tricia said...

Thanks for joining the project, and for your honesty. I think daughters create so much of their self worth from their fathers, and the idea of beauty and body image are often constructed by how our parents perceive themselves and each other. Good for you for already being aware of the pitfalls and traps so you can help.

Amy said...

Yeah for making changes! Thanks for joining in on the Beautiful Like Me Project, the more people we can touch the better! It sounds like you had it tough and overcame, your daughter will learn from that! Children see and hear everything -- so as parents we have to be so careful!

Momma Miller said...

YAY for you! Weight was always an issue in my house. Even today, when I visit home, one of the first things I'll hear is how "good" I'm looking with all eyes glancing down to my thinned out belly (from having had three children in the last 5 years) and my bottom. I so don't want my children to worry about weight. We are now eating mostly vegetarian foods and working diligently on leading a healthy lifestyle. I hope our focus will be on HEALTH not how we look. There's a big difference there.

Glad to see you've joined the project! I'll link you on my page, too!

~Shaye (Momma Miller)

Lisa said...

wow! This has inspired me to actually create a new blog page. I thought your comments were so relevant and growing up with you, I never thought you were fat. But I had my own horrible body issues and also spent much time pilfering food and eating in secret. I am passionate about creating a good body image in girls.

Laura said...

Hey, I love this post but I came here to comment because I just can't get over the part that OH MY GOSH YOU ARE PREGNANT!!!! I haven't read your blog in AGES (obviously, since I was unaware) and I'm so happy for you! Congratulations :)

greytonsal said...

As a child I was always aware of being 'heavy' and of having 'puppy fat'. This did not bother me too much as, possibly back then, people were not so focused on body image, though looking back at photos, the women had really small waists in the 20's, 30's and 40s. My mom always told me I would lose my puppy fat when I was a teenager and I did to a certain extent, though I would never say that I slender or thin! I am sorry that it was such an issue with you as you were growing up. I had always hoped that I been a buffer against any criticism levelled against you. I know I used to have arguments with your dad when he would criticise your weight and body structure when you were in your early teens. But then he always was over-critical about anyone who was not perfect in his eyes. I always maintained that you would lose your covering naturally as you grew up, which you did! Unfortunately, as we have seen over the years, you are so like me that I can relate to every battle that you have with your weight, though you have never been fat! We seem to always depend on how others perceive us and take it so to heart and this is so unnecessary. Why should another person dictate to us as to how we should look? As long as we are healthy and happy within ourselves, the fact that we have a bigger backside or a thicker waist than the skinny models in the magazines should not matter to anyone, least of all to ourselves. (Remember all the airbrushing that goes on with those photos to make them perfect!) But that is easy to say and inside we know all that, but that does not change anything and for some reason as soon as we carry what we perceive as'extra weight' our feelings of self-worth and self-esteem are damaged. Having said all that, this is not carte blanche to anyone to be so overweight that it is damaging their health and making life difficult for them. It is easy to say 'it is in my genes' and then carry on eating unhealthily and doing no exercise. All we can do is our best, make the most of what we have and be strong and happy with who we are. You have always been the most precious thing to me and I have always thought you are gorgeous and I always will. Now I am looking forward to meeting and loving your gorgeous child in a few months time. If he/she is anything like you, he/she will be lovely.