Having a daughter scares me.
I grew up with a mother who struggled with body image. She was anorexic/bulimic and I had to call 911 multiple times for her passing out after not eating for weeks. I’ll never forget when she weighed 88 lbs at 5’7″ and would suck her stomach in until you could see her rib cage. It always terrified me. I was 7 and I probably weighed not much less than her. She would look in the mirror and call herself “fat” and “hideous” and “ugly”. She started complaining about wrinkles before one ever resided on her face. She still does it and I don’t know that she’ll ever know how beautiful she really is.
My father was chubby as a child but had a family who was very conscious of their health. They ate healthy, they exercised, and they urged their family to be thin. As long as I’ve known him he’s been thin. Chicken legs, flat butt, healthy physique. When my sister and I visited him for the summer, we were fed healthy food, made to exercise, and our weight was always an issue. My pants were always “too tight”. When I developed breasts and was unaware of them, I was made to feel disgusting when I accidentally brushed up against my dad with them. I’ll never forget being told that I “looked good now that I had lost weight” and that “135 had been too much weight for me”. The thing is that I weighed 135 when I was told that and had been taking laxatives to lose weight. I was a size 5, the smallest I’ve ever been, I looked sick and I felt sick.
I’m not knocking being healthy, eating right, or exercising.
I’m saying that having a daughter terrifies me.
I’m not tall and thin like either of my parents, I never have been. I’m 5’6″ and I look GOOD when I’m a size 10 or 12.
150 – 160 is a great weight for me. I’m athletically built and curvy no matter how I eat or exercise. I have a big, bubbly butt and a teenie, tiny waist. I have small boobs and chiseled arms. My thighs and calves are muscular and large and they rub together when I walk, even at my most “healthy”. I despise my knees; they look like elephant seals.
I’ve always said that if I could have ANY plastic surgery, that it wouldn’t be a nose job to correct my long, straight nose. It wouldn’t be a boob job because I LOVE my “B’s”. It wouldn’t be liposuction to correct my butt, hips, or thighs. It would be liposuction in my KNEES.
My curves have never been appreciated by my parents or by me. I’ve spent countless hours crying in front of mirrors, oogling myself in every window I pass, but never because I thought I looked good. Always to size myself up and complain about each curve, the bounciness of my bottom, the forward “bump” on my thigh. I never noticed the flat stomach, graceful curve of my waist, or strength of my athletic body.
I started dancing when I was 7 after years of gymnastics, but I’m not built like a dancer. I’m built like a softball player.
I always compared myself to the lithe dancers around me. I was always the most muscular and most developed, even from that young age. I grew up comparing myself to girls who had bodies that are completely different than mine, and instead of telling me that I was beautiful as I was, my family encouraged me to look like them. I was never good enough.
When I found out I was having a daughter, I freaked out internally. I didn’t share my anxiety with anyone because I didn’t want people to know how I felt about ME. But the truth is that I prayed daily for her to be tall and thin like her dad’s side of the family. I wanted her to never have to compare her body to a spoon. A pencil-thin body is what I wanted for her. I didn’t want her to ever stand in front of a mirror and size herself up, crying inside about her 24.5″ waist and 41″ hips. I didn’t want her to ever walk into the GAP to try on jeans and have an impossible time finding something that fit not only her waist, but her ample bottom and “thunder thighs”. I didn’t want her to compare herself to the thin girl next to her on the barre with thighs that don’t touch when she stands in 1st position. I never wanted her to hear me say to myself, “God I’m fat” when the truth is “God, I’m curvy”…and she shares my body.
But it didn’t happen that way. She has my figure. She is 18 months old and she has my figure. Short, muscular legs, a bubble butt that wraps around to cute little hips. Elephant seal knees. It’s undeniable and I’m not the only one who notices it. I just hope that everyone else who notices it doesn’t say “Summer, she has your figure” with pity in their voices, but with envy. Envy because she will grow up with natural curves and super athletic abilities. Her bottom and thighs will be round, not straight; she will love them. And she is beautiful. I need to stop talking badly about her figure too. When people say something about it, I’ve said, “I know, poor girl.” NO, not “poor girl”. “Beautiful girl”. She doesn’t have to be thin and curveless to be beautiful or to love her body.
I just have to learn that it starts with me. It starts at home with us telling her that she’s beautiful and teaching her to love her butt and muscular physique. And if you don’t like it, keep your mouth closed. The last thing she needs is someone telling her that she could lose a little here or there, or that her butt is “too big”. Because we’re doing what we can to feed her a well-balanced diet and teach her the importance of exercise and a healthy lifestyle. If she’s never long and lean despite her best efforts, I want her to rejoice in her hard-worked curves because they’re beautiful. She’s beautiful. And so am I.