Tuesday, March 18, 2014

This Dance

I'd like to think that I'd be the perfect mother to a daughter. I would teach her to climb trees and appreciate fine literature. I would play Lego (not the pink kind) with her and I would read comic books with her while sitting under a tree at the park. I would teach her to love herself and her body as they were and help her understand that the opinions of others rarely matter. My daughter wouldn't suffer from bouts of depression, cutting, or suicidal thoughts - because I would teach her that she mattered more than any of that.

But I'm not the mother of a daughter and I won't ever be.

So I'm coming to you, dear internet, because we all know that the internet will never, ever steer us wrong.

Every day at the gym I see mothers doing the most awkward dance with their young daughters as they come from swimming lessons. The moms, they hold up a towel around their girls while they also help them peel off wet bathing suits, dry off and put on new clothes, all while still holding up that towel, in a secluded corner of the women's change room. The dance is floundering, both mother and daughter get frustrated as they try to learn the steps to something that clearly requires about 16 arms to pull off. At the end, the mother is usually using her "mom voice" to tell her girl to hurry up because they're late for dinner (dance class, music lessons, etc).

Earlier during the day I've most likely watched yet another video, read a blog or perused an infographic about how we need to teach our girls to love themselves.

And yet, at night, in the confines of a room exclusively for women, mothers and daughters dance this impossible dance.

I have sons. I have boys who love to parade around naked, inside and out. I have a son who looks forward to the weekends because I've told him he can go without underwear on the weekend if that's really what he prefers. Gross, I know, but it's what he likes. But I'm completely ignorant when it comes to girls. My mom didn't do a bad job raising us, not at all, but I also know that my sisters, nor I, have much in the way of self confidence. We're all self-conscious, even my gorgeous sisters who are both smart, successful, and incredibly beautiful, who both fit into negative number jeans and have the kind of giant tatas that women pay thousands of dollars for. They're both absolutely perfect, and they both have self-esteem issues.


So where does it start? By not letting your daughter spend 10 seconds naked in the women's change room, are you setting her up for a lifetime of being so insecure she can't look at her naked body in a mirror? Or does it start later than that? By showing girls that it's not okay to be naked for a minute in a room with other women are you placing your own body image issues onto her? Is insecurity something we can avoid with the right upbringing or are we all destined to feel poorly about our physical bodies at some point?

Years of going to the gym, it wasn't until after 30 that I felt comfortable dressing in the open of the change room instead of a bathroom stall. It's not my mother's fault, this I know, but I also wonder - if she had let me go free when I was 3, would it have taken me until I was 30 to take the chance of having another woman see my breasts?

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