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Posts Tagged ‘body image’

I turned my chair around, away from the table so it was facing the dance floor. I wanted a better view. There’s something so inherently entertaining about watching other people dance. Not professional dancers, not even particularly good dancers, just dancers.

Their limbs were loosened by a few rounds from the open bar and the bottles of wine placed on each table. Invigorated by the cheers of those around them, forgetting the limitations of their bodies. They would all be feeling it in the morning. The aching heads and tight muscles, the vague memories of an ill-advised attempt at the splits.

In university we coined the phrase “full points boy” to describe those who readily took to the dance floor, aware that what they lacked in skill, they made up for in enthusiasm. Their eyes would dart quickly across the crowd, making sure they weren’t doing anything too outlandish, too crazy, too much. Just enough to fit in, barely enough to get noticed. We gave them ‘full points’ for their effort, realizing even then that effort can make up for skill on so many levels. .

I sat in my chair, feet rebelling against the tights and heels that the occasion dictated. My dress, just a smidge too tight and my nails, freshly painted but already starting to chip on one finger.

A few hours earlier I stood in front of the mirror, trying to make room on the bathroom counter for my little makeup bag amongst the tiny toothbrushes and pink toothpaste smudges. One by one I took bits of makeup out of the bag, hoping they would work wonders on the pale skin, dark circles and dull eyes that looked back at me.

When I reached the bottom of the bag I sighed. No tricks left up my sleeve; this was as good as it was going to get. I thought briefly about the dozens of other women who, right in that moment, were doing the exact same thing. Wishing for the face that used to look back at them, wondering what happened to that girl. Choosing a hairstyle based on how much time was available before someone else needed in the bathroom, picking a dress dictated by which one you could get by without ironing, deciding on a lipstick because it was the only one you could find at the bottom of the duffle bag you refer to as a purse.

I sat in my chair, listening to the music and starting to smile. A man on the dance floor did a surprisingly-effective imitation of Gangnam Style. If only our kids could see us now; the room would be filled with hundreds of eyes simultaneously rolling.

The song ended and the next one started. I tapped my aching foot, adjusted my dress a bit to allow for a little more wiggle room and made my way to the dance floor.

It’s never going to be perfect; but I give myself full points for trying.

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When I look at you, I see my baby.  I see the person who made me a mother.  I see my past and my future, all rolled up in one little person.  I see hopes and dreams and wishes come true.  I see everything.  When I look at you I see beauty.

But slowly I’m beginning to realize that maybe you don’t see the same things.

You are so young and yet I see the look that sometimes crosses your face when you look in the mirror.  I know that look because it’s the look I always used to see when I looked a myself.  It is a look full of questions; full of judgements.  A look that confirms that the reality of what you see is not what you hoped.  And it makes me sad. It’s too soon, I think to myself.  You’re too young to think these thoughts and have these doubts.  You should still be running around, carefree, careless, confident in your own skin.

We are lucky enough to live in a place in the world where your future is endless, stretching out in front of you without pre-conceived boundaries set because you are girl.  You can go to the moon, you can be Prime Minister, you can find a cure for cancer or paint the most beautiful picture in the world; you can do all of that and more, whatever you set your heart to.  But I fear that although you can (and will) accomplish so much, you may still never be happy with the reflection you see in the mirror.

I remember being a young girl, wishing that I could change, critiquing every inch of myself, hoping I was different.  Wanting to look like the girl in the magazine, or the girl on tv, or the girl on the other side of the room.  Wanting to be anyone but who I was.  What I didn’t realize then is that each of those girls was also wishing for something else.  Wishing for someone else’s hair, someone else’s nose, someone else’s thighs.  Because that’s what we do, and more than anything, I wish I knew the words to tell you so you won’t spend your youth wishing for what you do not have.

Of all the things I want to teach you, that is the one I hope for the most; and yet it seems to remain out of my grasp.  I don’t know the words to say because I’m only just learning them myself.  I’m finally learning to appreciate and yes, even cherish, all the flaws that look back at me every morning.  All of the lines, the bumps, the scars, the lumps.  They are all a part of me, a part of my story, a part of what has made me who I am.

But it has taken me 35 years to get there.

I wish I could teach you all that I have learned so you can skip over the decades of self-doubt that lay ahead of you.  I wish I could just wrap you up in my arms and carry you as we skip over age 12, when your arms and legs will seem too big for your body, age 14 when so much of what is going on you won’t be able to understand, skip over braces, bad skin, bangs, clothes that never seem to fit properly.

But I know I can’t do that.  I know that without experiencing all of the bad, you will not be able to appreciate all of the good.  And I know you will make it through, I know you are strong enough and confident enough to make it through.  I’m really more worried about me; I’m not sure that I can live through you living through it.

I hope, for both of our sakes, that your path is short, and that I can be there to help you over the tallest bumps, to pull you out from the deepest holes.  I hope I can somehow find the words that will make it easier for you.  That some day when I say “you’re beautiful” that you will understand what I mean and that you will understand where the words come from; that I’m not just saying them because I’m you’re mother.

One day you will see what I see.

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