First, Girls trip is happening!
Second, It’s in Vegas ( In July…hot, hot, hot)
Third, OMG. I . CAN. NOT. WAIT.
Wait, I don’t gamble and haven’t had more than 5 sips of beer in almost a year. Why am I going to Vegas? Oh right, because the girls and I found super cheap air fare and a non smoking/no casino 5 star hotel for $400 for three nights (with a $100 food and beverage credit)! I mean, you can’t say no to that! That means pedicures, lounging by the pool, summer reads, maybe catch a show, yummy food and…wait… lounging by the pool????
Oh crap, I have to wear a bathing suit! Maybe I need to rethink this Vegas thing? Wearing a bathing suit might possibly be my least favorite thing to do in the entire world, that and wear shorts of ANY type. I have good German, Pacific Northwest legs. You know, strong, sturdy and glow in the dark white. Maybe because I have spent my whole career putting clothes on people (and working with very fit dancers), I prefer my body covered, creatively and eclectically covered, but covered nonetheless. It’s funny how I hated the “no shorts at school” rule when I was a kid and now you couldn’t pay me to wear them in public! When I lived in LA, I may have been the only one that lived in pants the entire year, for real. It was only a couple summers ago I made peace with my pasty white legs and learned to vaguely appreciate an above the knee dress (on me). I still hate the fact most of them don’t’ have pockets. While I love fashion, I love function just as much!
I have always been so jealous of those people that are so comfortable in their own skin, those people that rock whatever they want without giving a fig what people think. Well, except for those people that wear flesh colored leggings, workout gear 24/7, or pajamas in public. Why do you have to do that? But back to those peeps with the total body confidence, I am completely envious. I have never had that, not when I was a child, not when I was a teen, and certainly not when I lived in Los Angeles. I have always packed a few extra pounds, when I was a kid if my carefully curated outfit didn’t come from a garage sale or was a hand me down from a cousin than it was shopped in the Pretty Plus section of Sears. My high school years at the tail end of the 80s didn’t help my self-esteem any. Large floral prints with ruffles, padded shoulders, men’s XXL sweaters to my knees, ankle length skirts, high waisted pleated pants and BAD curly hair styled with LA Looks hair gel and sensible flats are not kind to us Scottish-German girls. (Listen up current fashion trends and learn from our mistakes). Undergrad brought on even more weight, (thanks for nothing limitless magic cookie bars made with sweetened condensed milk in the school cafeteria), and giant t-shirts emblazoned with some cause or another worn with heavy weight Peruvian sweaters. When I was in grad school, I successfully made it to a size 6 thanks to a steady diet of cigarettes, food with zero fat in it, gin and tonics and working out an hour a day, 7 days a week ( that Cindy Crawford workout video would kick my ass every time). I might have looked good but it was probably not the healthiest way to get there, luckily that “diet” went away as soon as grad school ended. In California, I again grew uncomfortable in my own skin, I was surrounded by size 0 blonde women who were impossibly chicer and tanner than me. In the year or so I was doing freelance work, I was once told by an A-list male celebrity that “God, you’re like a freaking giant”. Nice right? I mean I was wearing my fiercest 90s platform shoes but still just because he was a coked out 5’10” man didn’t mean he had to take out his insecurities on me! If only I was as brave then as I am now, I would have given him an earful. But I wasn’t and I really needed the money.
Fast forward a few years and I finally made relative peace with my strong body just like I had my unruly curls. It helped that I had snagged a hot hubby who never missed a day telling me how beautiful I was. It also helped that I finally figured out my personal style and how to dress my shape, was at a good space in my career and no longer lived in L.A amongst all the tiny people, and that my un-tanned skin was aging really well compared to many other mid 30’s women. Another few years went by and I became pregnant with Zoe. I was one of those lucky women who only put on 25 pounds and was able to drop it relatively quickly after she was born. But…only a few years later I was at my all time heaviest. I had spent much of the first three years of Zoe’s life sitting on the couch caring for her, not exercising, not sleeping, and snacking on whatever, whenever I could. Between that and the STRESS, I look back on those pictures of me In a bit of horror, but I also cut myself some slack given what we were dealing with. I then developed some allergy/ histamine issues and I had to cut out several food groups for a couple years; dairy. sugar, gluten, alcohol and many other actually good for you foods (avocados tomatoes and spinach). Needless to say, I dropped a lot of weight, almost 40 pounds and found myself in a size 8. I loved it, but not as much as I love cheese and so when all my allergies finally died down after a couple years, I added some dairy and sugar back in. Now I am happy where I am as long as I don’t have to wear a bathing suit!
But all this exposition really begs the questions, at what age do we start developing all these body issues and hang-ups and, more importantly, how do we not pass them on to our beautiful children? Is there a fine line between complimenting our children to build their self esteem and confidence and them starting to overvalue their physical looks and starting to judge others by theirs? How do we help them value their other lasting strengths more, but also realize that some physical self confidence will help them with their overall self-esteem when it comes to careers and love and becoming strong and kind women and men. Let’s face it, we can’t pretend physical looks don’t matter at least sometimes and that eventually it will be discussed amongst our children. It’s better we teach them how to talk about it respectfully and with an acceptance of themselves that will make them more accepting of others.
Zoe has the body type I always wished I had. Between her cardiac issues keeping her on the petite side and genetically taking after Jason’s side of the family, she has the no hips and skinny little legs I always dreamed of. But she also has things that don’t bother her now, but will they some day? She has more scars than any one person should, a curved right shoulder due to scoliosis, a central line in the middle of her chest and wears a pump 24/7. Obviously NONE of these things bother me and none of them remotely concern her right now, she has never once voiced ANY body issues and I want that to continue. I tell her everyday she is strong and brave and beautiful and kind and a fighter, that she is an inspiration to all she meets. And I believe that she believes EVERY single one of these words. But how do I make that confidence never go away? What happens when she starts noticing that girls in magazines look different than her, that she is tiny compared to other 10 year olds, that she has a giant scar across her belly, will this bother her? What happens when she wants to go to the beach with her girlfriends and she has to wrestle into that dry suit because she can’t get her pump wet. How do I help her not feel shame or embarrassment about that? Not talking about these things doesn’t make them not matter, but it will make for self consciousness and unanswered questions later.
Right now Zoe has zero body hang ups, she is proud of her strong body and proud of what she can physically do, rightfully so, she has worked hard to get there. She loves to wiggle her butt and shake her hips when she dances. She loves to strike a pose and ham it up for the camera. She has a better bevel than I ever could. I try to encourage this as much as I can so that she keeps being comfortable in her own skin and doesn’t develop self doubt later. I love that she cares what her hair looks like and that she loves to pretend to put on makeup. She balances that by helping in the garden and 4-wheeling with her cousins. We should all hope to be so well rounded! God, I hope she never loses that self confidence?
I’m sure there is a fine line between building up kids with false praise and false confidence or maybe more correctly superficial praise and self confidence. I certainly don’t want her to be vain or think that her only value is her gorgeous hair and long skinny legs, but kids, and especially girls, do need to know that beauty is all around us and comes in some many differ shapes, sizes and colors. We don’t have to all look like supermodels (do they even exist anymore)? I mean who doesn’t cry when you watch Queer Eye and see the life changing effect someone believing in you and telling you that you aren’t ugly and then proving it can have? Self- esteem matters!
This last week of her second grade year, Zoe and her class did the compliment project. This is where every child in the class wrote down a compliment about every other child. They were then compiled and laminated and sent home. This was the list compiled about Zoe:
Do you notice what is not on here? Nothing about her looks ( other than her cute clothes and pink hair of course, I mean, I am a costume designer, I have standards). And EVERYTHING about her kindness, her friendships, her confidence, her open-mindedness, her creativity, her hard work and her braveness. That is what truly matters! Out of 26 kids, not a peep about physical looks. Children are amazing and we as adults sometimes suck because we have forgotten that this is what truly matters deep down and we judge too much based on people’s outward appearance. But I also know that in 4 years if this list was done again, there would be comments on one of the girl’s lists about how pretty they are or how skinny they are and that other girls would feel sad that their list might not include those compliments because that stuff inevitably starts to matter when you are growing up. I know that from when I was a kid.
All of this to say and to remind myself daily that my every word and action is not going unnoticed by Zoe. Every time I bitch about how I look in a bathing suit and how big my thighs are and how my legs look like tree trunks, she is listening. I am not doing her or myself any favors by complaining about what I can not change and in fact, I could be planting self-doubt in her own mind. I am strong, brave, independent and loved. So is she and I, as her parent, need to be always aware of what damage words in passing, or for that matter, the lack of words, can have on a developing child.
So this trip, I will buy that two piece bathing suit, I will put it on and I will tell myself that I am beautiful and I will do my best to believe it. I will listen to my daughter when she tells me how pretty I am and how much she wants to look like Mama, and I will respond with a hug and say thank you. I will do my best to never add emotional scars to her already scarred physical body and I will ALWAYS tell her that while she is indeed gorgeous and amazing she is so much more than just that. She is powerful, strong, determined, brave, fierce, smart, kind, and yes indeed beautiful. Anyone that tells her different will have to deal with me.
P.S. When given a compliment, just say Thank You. This is TOUGH for many women, I’m still working on this one…