Every now and then I read a book and I cannot put it down. It hit close to home. Way too close. This was the case with Dara Chadwick’s, “You’d Be So Pretty If…Teaching Our Daughters To Love Their Bodies Even When We Don’t Love Our Own.”
I grew up with a mother who had a mastectomy at the age of 32. I was 3.5 years old and remember waving to her at her hospital bed from outside the hospital. She never talked about her own body and never discussed her mastectomy with me–Never.
However, my mother’s message to me about appearance, weight and being thin was always loud and clear. It’s not enough. You are not enough. Try harder. Diet. Starve if you have to. Boys won’t like you unless you are thin. Some of our worst, most painful mother-daughter moments was hearing her say, “You do not need to eat one more thing. Do not put that in your mouth.” It was said in a loud, stern voice across a crowded room as I was putting something, cannot remember what, in my mouth. I was mortified.
When I had gained a few pounds (ok,20 pounds) between my Junior and Senior year in college and saw my parents for the first time that summer, she said, with my fiancee, (now my husband) right there, “What did you do to yourself. You blew up.” Again, I was mortified. The whole ride on the way back home was all about how we were going to change my image and be a new me in the Fall of my Senior year.
And, while she was on her death bed, one of the last sentences she said to me before she went into a coma was, “You’ve gained weight and you are getting bigger.” Great.
What a waste of energy and precious time. I want to believe her intentions were good. Her method was just so very awfully, horribly, wrong. I never had children. (For many reasons) But, the child back then and the adult now wishes we could do those scenarios all over.
I was never petite, tiny, or thin no matter how much I dieted. What I was/am—I was/am strong, assured, and self-confident. I take pride in my appearance and do my best to look good and feel good. I am not always at 100% but that is the goal–to strive for 100% in everything I do. I go after what I want and get it. I owe most of that drive and determination to her. But those comments, her comments, remain in the air like stale smoke, still here after all these years.
So, when I read Dara’s book, I immediately got in touch with her. Here was a mother who did not want to repeat the cycle. Maybe I could gain more insight into the mother that is no longer here to ask. (She died when I was 22, never saw me get married, was never there for the triumphs and sadly, what I remember the most about her are those judgmental comments).
“As mothers, how we feel about and relate to our own bodies–and the conscious or unconscious expression of that relationship—creates a “body image blueprint” for our daughters. Our girls may grow up to look different from the way we look, but the foundation for how they relate to their bodies as adults is one that we help build, brick by brick, through our own behavior toward our own bodies and toward theirs… Body image matters not because we all need to look like gorgeous supermodels to be happy. It matters because if we don’t feel good about what we look like and the body we live in, we’re less inclined to show the world who we are.”
There ya’ go!
We can break a cycle. Wednesday, December 9, 2009 at 3:00 pm EST on Black Cat Plus Radio. We begin.
More as it happens. Jodell