Size zero is for babies, not women

Sugar and spice and all things nice... is that what little girls are made of?

I WAS holding my daughter in the tub as she tried to stand on unsteady legs when I realised I was sizing her up.

I gave myself a mental slap. Please don’t think I’m a Beauty Pageant mum, far from it. But it did occur to me that I worry how her self-perception will affect her in years to come.

It’s bad enough that certain people have commented on the size of her legs, or called her a “chubby bubby” but I am committed to developing in her a healthy self-image.

So why then was I more conscious of her weight and size than was necessary?

I applauded when my son was found above average because, at seven weeks premature, it could have very easily have been the opposite.

My daughter is healthy. Full stop. I wouldn’t have her any other way. But we all know the world she is about to grow up in. A world where pre-teens are encouraged to exploit their sexuality before they even understand what that is. A world where skin and bones are more popular than curves, where no matter how healthy you are, you can start to feel “too” fat or “too” thin, “too” tall or “too short”.

I don’t want my daughter unprepared for the insanity. I want her to celebrate her skin, imperfections and all, when an Olay ad comes on and to enjoy her food while her high-school friends throw up in the toilet. I want her to know what is good and right for her no matter what is fashionable in the media or the on the school oval.

I never really had these concerns for my son despite the fact he could be just as susceptible to such pressures (and the way he picks up advertising jingles, perhaps I should work on his autonomy!).

The difference is, I guess, that I live in a woman’s body. It was “too skinny” in my youth, “too top-heavy” in my 20s and now it’s “too big” all round.

I know too well the self-defeated sigh that I’ll never look like Jennifer Aniston or the frustration of owning a closet full of clothes but have nothing to wear. I even succumb to the beast occasionally. I’ve owned an ab-roller, done a detox and used a crimper (the 80s equivalent of ceramic styling wands).

And while my breast reduction some years ago was in order to save my poor, overworked spine, I’d be lying if I didn’t admit a part of me fantasised about strapless tops and string bikinis (which, by the by, I still can’t bring myself to wear).

Now women are resilient creatures and I know my daughter will be too. I know she’ll not always pout at the state of her hair when a Pantene ad comes on. But every so often (and if she’s like her mum, once a month) she’ll be quite depressed by it all – not just the exhausting demand to keep in vogue (whether you follow it or not), but why her intellect isn’t more valued and why she is constantly ambushed by irresponsible sexual messages by the likes of Lady Gaga.

A UK study showed that young girls who suffered depression thought about their body image more often than men thought about sex – approximately every 15 minutes.

I hope my daughter doesn’t follow that worrying trend.

But my biggest worry at the moment is how do I instill these lessons? How do I combat commercials, MTV and magazine racks? My “sizing her up” and quick defence to perceived criticisms will only make her neurotic and defensive.

In my heart of hearts I know the key is to improve my own self-esteem. Not to mention my diet. If she has a good role model who eats well and loves the body God gave her, surely that message will rub off?

In any case, I don’t want her to start out with a complex over the size of her calves, courtesy of her very own mother. I hope when she’s older and is interested in reading her crazy mum’s ramblings, that she is surprised to read of my worry about her self-confidence. I hope her current determination to climb before she can crawl will not have changed over the years (in a sense) and that those strong, beautiful legs helped get her where she wants to go.


1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. marketingtomilk
    May 04, 2010 @ 17:05:42

    This is big reason why i was a bit pleased to have only had boys. I find this all so sad, so difficult, i don’t know where i would begin with a daughter.


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