Saturday, October 30, 2010

Lasting Impressions III

A friend of mine's daughter-in-law recently gave birth to a baby girl.  The mother, Sally, has decided that she doesn't want anyone to say anything to the child which has anything to do with how she looks.  Nothing.  Not, "Oh, what a pretty baby!"  "Aw, aren't you cute?!"  "What precious little hands!"  NOTHING.  I felt so put off when I heard that. I was surprised by the strength of my feelings so had to examine them carefully.  I realized that I felt like I couldn't say a thing to the baby without her mother jumping down my throat. But now I'm beginning to understand.  It is SO completely normal for us to comment on a child's looks that I can barely even think of anything else to say to a baby!  Now I appreciate Sally's desire to protect her child from all those judgments - even if they're positive - and to allow her the opportunity to develop her own self image around how she looks, free from the opinions of others.  I don't know if that's possible, but I can see aspiring to it.

Here are some of the comments which people on Facebook shared with me - comments which have stuck with them their entire lives.  Some are positive, some negative.  All, I hope, will help me remember to think before I speak and to notice the judgment inherent in even my most innocuous comment!

     * MIS: My mother told me I could never be happy if I was fat. She was wrong.
  • DS: Boarding school cadets yelling out "Thunder thighs" when I passed by the barracks to the mess hall. It was totally humiliating. It probably plays a role in why I don't like to wear shorts.

  • TE: ‎"I just don't want you to turn out like me."
  • EBS:  Don't smile so widely. Your teeth are too big.
  • SBG:  Your nose looks like you ran into a parked car.
  • DB: It is amazing to me that we only remember (for a LONG time) the negative comments. (Me too, btw.) Did we ever receive positive ones that we simply don't remember, or that we somehow discounted?
  • HV: ‎"Vaughan, you're a physical degenerate!" (Said by my 7th grade coach in front of the entire 7th grade.)
  • SBG: I remember lots of positive stuff.
  • BK:  Beauty runs deeper, who knows why one would say unkind words about anyone's body unless they are insecure about themselves. Here's a funny one: Junior yr. (only girl in the class) on the chalk board it said, "Bobbie belongs to the itty bitty titty committee." I said whoever wrote this might want to erase it before Mr. Hartman walks in or you'll be doing tour duty all weekend. In which it was promptly erased. As if that guy or anyone of em would have ever rocked my petite supple beautiful breasts.
  • One word sums it up confidence in your skin. Btw, the Man I married, my best friend had a childhood accident at the age of 5, 60% of his body was badly burned. I still feel in love!!!
  • BS: ‎(in an admiring tone, not crude,) "You have hips good enough to birth my children!" I was 17, dancing to the Rage at a house party, and didn't know until that moment that I was particularly "hippy"... and so the instant realization was accompanied by a surprising sensation of pride. I knew I lived in a culture that considered hips a negative, in the media, at least and so, I felt transformed and liberated.
  • KB: ‎"When you came down the stairs, you took my breath away." Said by the man I was smart enough to marry, one new years eve....uh...20 years ago.
  • HV: I my case, it took until I was about 45 and started ballroom dancing to realize that teacher/coach must have been rather bitter about himself and that he was wrong.

    Teachers say they want to change lives...

    ND: “You have the moves of a great dancer.”
     (Overheard)  “She’s built like a boy.” 
    ELM: In your mouth a few minutes, in your stomach a few hours and on your hips the rest of your life. AND You are going to end up being a middle aged fat woman gone to pot!

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