There is a photo of my mother taken in 1969 when she was 28. It was taken on a family vacation in Wildwood, NJ. She is standing in the ocean with my sister on her hip and me standing by her side and she is wearing a black one piece bathing suit and she looks amazing. She’s curvy and gorgeous and her head is tilted with her eyes staring right into the camera with this saucy look on her face. She’s an absolute stunner. Two children under the age of 5 and her body was slamming. I covet a body like that, anyone would covet a body like that.
Only I don’t remember this vacation nor do I ever remember my mother looking like that. The mother of my memory has a weight problem. Since I was old enough to understand what eating was my mother told me time and time again how awful it was being fat and how kids made fun of her and how if I was not careful it would happen to me. The really sad thing is now that I look at the photos of her as a child she was round but far from fat and the photos of her as a young adult before she met my father? To be rather indelicate my mother was built like a brick shit-house. Someone, somewhere in her past convinced her that she was fat and ugly. Maybe it was a voice in her head or maybe it was someone whose opinion she trusted. I don’t know and I probably will never know.
I wonder if I went back in time to 1959 or even to that summer at the Jersey Shore and told her that she was gorgeous would it have any effect upon her? Would she begin to see the beauty she possessed and even more importantly would she convey that acceptance of her body to my sister and I? I can not speak for my adorable sister but I know that I have struggle with body image nearly every day of my life. One of my earliest memories is my mother telling me, when I was 10 and fell in love with a white two-piece bathing suit bedecked with daisies, that white makes you look fat. I was 10 and looking back I was no where near “fat” but she may have been projecting or just repeating a vicious lie either way I haven’t worn white sense.
Now don’t get me wrong I am NOT blaming my mother for MY negative body image, though since turning 40 I’ve actually grown to enjoy the way I loo. However you still couldn’t pay me to wear white pants. I wonder if she hadn’t spent my childhood going on every fad diet that found it’s way through the neighborhood ladies on yellowed pieces of mimeographed paper like some secret family recipe or purchased insane “exercise” equipment that shook or electrocuted those unwanted pounds away maybe I’d be more accepting of the way I look. And MAYBE through that acceptance I’d feel more worthy of those intangible things that life has in store for us like, oh I don’t know, love?
The only thing I DO know is the negativity stops here. I too have two girls and I do not use terms like “fat” or “ugly” and to be quite frank “pretty” and “beautiful” don’t come up too often either . We’re strong, smart and neat; sometimes pretty and beautiful too but I want my daughters to be more than their appearances. Yes, appearances are important but they’re not everything and I want them to know that most of all.