Thursday, October 16, 2008

Grandma's on a diet

We are sitting at the dinner table. She's eating rice with soy sauce. I've given up on forcing her to eat her vegetables; it's been a trying day and if the child eats some simple calories, i will feel justified in whisking her off to bed straight away. She pokes around at the gooey mess of too-cooked rice.

"Mom, I am fat."

Earlier she told me that her grandma was on a diet. Now apparently she feels she needs to be on one too. Is this an early-childhood trip about body image, or is this just her parroting what her grandma says?

I ask myself if any of the women in this girl's life are equipped to help her form a healthy self-esteem. If there are any of us out there who have one of those.

A friend and i were chatting about why so many women we know are out of their minds. Lost. Depressed. Non-functioning. I lamented on the fact that so many of them have come into my life -- i will often try to save them from their despair, all while i scratch at some delight for myself. I have often wondered why i am a magnet for these types of women. But then i realized that they're just everywhere.

Again, my friend and i ask why. I attribute it to an unrealistic vision of what women are supposed to be. It's everywhere; this unattainable body image that so few women in this world can hope to be born with. Yes, born with. Us milk maids will never be Heidi Klum, no matter how many hours we spend on the yoga mat, how much we deprive ourselves of. This unattainability is certainly found on t.v. shows and movies, commercials... but also in the more serious forms of journalism. In ads that grace the New York Times -- lovely women wearing fashions the average woman is not capable -- financially or physically -- of sporting.

There's also the supermom thing going on. In the 1950's, society deemed a woman's role was to stay at home, to do their husband's bidding and raise the kids. Now society tells us we can have it all -- we can raise the children, please our partners, have beautiful homes and gardens, party all night, and still bust ass in the boardroom. So there's that whole trip of feeling like we are never good enough, never able to thrive in having it all. We feel that we should, but something in us is making it not possible.

The thing is, it really is not possible. So what do we do? Do we do as many women i know -- drop out of the race, stop searching for the dream jobs, stop taking the morning jog, stop caring about mental health and resign yourself to being the depressive engenue, with the black-rimmed eyes and the sun-starved skin? I told my friend that i may suck at it all (o, that nagging self-doubt), but at least i try. I refuse to lay down and let someone else tell me i am not good enough, not pretty, smart, ambitious, talented, bold enough. I refuse to succumb to the sickness.

When i hear glimmers of the sickness from my daughter, i lament on it for days. I wonder if i am subjecting her to too many unrealistic images at such a young age (a la Hannah Montana). I read an article from our archive at the tv station today about how Kate Winslet refused to subject her young daughter to unrealistic images on television and magazines. This, ironically, from the beautiful and talented actress who, among harsher critics, is considered "fat." Or perhaps just "big." She knows it's ridiculous, and loves and honors herself. But as a "regular" sized woman -- aka -- not bone-thin, she gets that rap in Hollywood. But i wonder how well she does in her crusade to keep the images from her daughter. In my case, my daughter is hearing it from one of her matriarchs.

How do you stop the sickness, when it plagues you from within?

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