Hoi. Tirzah here, for a change. My main character has graciously allowed me a guest post on my own blog.
“Hey, I would never have taken over if you’d had more to say,” Sy comments. Oh, suuuuuure, say I. His takeover was inevitable. He’s the take-overing sort.
Anyhow! Nothing by the Book once wrote a reasonably outraged post about the cultural insistence on the hoops that must be jumped through to be considered beautiful, and how they get crammed down girl’s throats starting at obscenely young ages.
The question that was raised, however, is–what’s a parent to do? Because society done gone and did what it’s doin’. How do you spare your daughters that self-critical eye to their bodies? The following is an expanded version of my reply to that post, which I would not be bothering to so reiterate, except that the response it got seemed to indicate that it might be worth saying twice.
This is a very interesting subject to mull over, as I have only lately exited an unschooled teenhood, myself–the teens years being notorious for self-hateyness.
I’m not sure there’s any avoiding self-crit, no matter the cultural influences. I took issue with my own body on several points–I wished I could be a little less stocky, I wished my face less round, I wished it would less easily grow red, I wished I were taller… the list goes on, but not for very long.
The most important things my mother did for me, I think, was to
1, Ingrain the idea that society has always been, is, and will always be rather stupid, and that weirdness is AWESOME. I even found a shirt with WEIRD emblazoned across the front, and it’s one of my faves. :3
and 2, point out that a person’s beauty largely rests in how they glow. “You know,” I remember her saying once of someone we’d been hanging out with, “I was surprised to look closer and see she’s actually a bit homely. There’s so much love and joy, it’s hard to see past it.”
Some of the most beautiful people I know are, when I consider them objectively, not especially estimable of face and body–are perhaps even plain or awkward. But I couldn’t have told you that without deliberately considering it. Because there is beauty, and then there’s beauty, and when someone glows with true beauty, a person’s mind just kind of assumes that they look beautiful, too.
I know I glow–Mom has told me, a number of people have told me–so I know that, even though would classify myself objectively to waver between “plain,” “cute,” and “lovely,” I know that I am beautiful, and that people will see that beauty in my face whether my face is beautiful or not.
And even if it’s not seen in an instant–well, I’ll let Amy Pond say it.
That–that is beauty.
Back to the smaller matters–my list of physical dissatisfaction was based on my personal aesthetics, my personal preferences, sense of rightness, and sense of symmetry. I decided my own ideal body weight by how I feel when I’m at various weights. I didn’t feel quite right at 130. I felt perfect at 120. I felt weak at 115. 120 it is, then!
Same with my clothing, which has rarely fit any social norm–I wear what I like, and people are free to like it or roll their eyes as they will. And there has been as much eye-rolling as liking. And I don’t care. Because, with body and clothes both, it’s been reinforced for me throughout my life that it doesn’t matter especially much.
Some of those things have changed. My face slimmed up, my body re-angled itself to more lithe than stocky. This has pleased me, and still pleases me, because it makes me think of otters and cats and elf warriors, all of which I like.
Some of these things haven’t changed. My face still grows much too red much too easily, but since I can’t change it, I shrug and say “There’s my Scottish ancestry showing. Go Scots!” Plus, my fiance and certain others think it’s adorable. I take some grumbling reassurance in that. (I only wish it didn’t mean he would seek to make me blush all the time. -_-)
I’m still no taller. I’d like to be, because Tolkien’s elves are tall, because Artemis Fowl’s Butler is tall, because my cop sister is tall, because the most badass chick in my fencing school was tall. But it’s not that big of a deal. And I know that. So I look in the mirror and sigh, now and again, wishing that I’d managed at least one last quarter of an inch. Five-foot-five. Or five-six, not too much to ask, is it?
That’d be nice. But you know what? Whatever.