‘weighty’ women & “little petty places”

Maggiegoesonadiet.jpg

In the U.S., childhood obesity keeps rising precipitously and many parents seem at a loss about what to do except let kids play outside, stop feeding them sugar & processed food at meals and “rewarding” them with treats, spend time with them actually cooking (not heating or microwaving) and sitting down to family meals of both corporeal and cerebral nourishment, empower them with kid-sized life choices and/or make them feel valued & essential to the planet. Barring those, what better way to handle fat than to discuss dieting to little kids. Next stop, eating disorders.

Last year, a book—written by a man—targeted to 4-8 year-olds and entitled, Maggie Goes on a Diet, tells the story of 14-year-old Maggie who bullied about her weight decides to do something about it. Well, we all know boys won’t be reading this book, not with a fat female protagonist. Cathleen Connors, author of HerBadMother.com astutely commented, “It’s so interesting that he didn’t write it about a boy, and that he uses girl-body-image stereotypes to make his point—young girl dreaming about fitting into nice jeans, etc.”

Yes. Even as a life-long thin woman, I can feel the pressure. Telling girls that in order to succeed, be considered healthy or beautiful and—pathetically—even smart, losing that extra weight is the remedy constitutes a dangerous poison that lasts a lifetime.

  • Four out of five U.S. women are dissatisfied with their appearance.
  • 81% of ten year old girls are afraid of being fat.

First, there’s more than one reason people put on weight and no enchanted pill, trendy diet or exercise program is going to melt all those reasons (or the fat) away—be you female or male, BTW.

Second, imagine what women could gift the world if they didn’t waste their life force “managing” their weight. Don’t hold your horses waiting for this to change. An abundance of this pressure is internalized, passes from mom to daughter, woman to woman and is constantly reinforced by a male-driven media that traffics in women’s bodies not because they care to create an ideal as much they want to exploit fantasy and fear to make big money.

On the male side: porn, driven by daydream bodies that most guys could never touch even if women really existed like that. ($$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$) For females: an unrealistic weight-loss-fantasy-physique that’s about 25% under the BMI. ($33,000,000,000,000+)

Many men I know like “woman-sized” figures—not skinny boy-bodies, not obese bodies. They like to squeeze a woman with actual breasts and hips and thighs. Countless women have real-life dreams that lie dead or dormant before the altar of “thin.”

To celebrate women of all ages and shapes, here’s Lucille Clifton’s 1987 poem:

Homage to my Hips

these hips are big hips.
they need space to
move around in.
they don’t fit into little
petty places. these hips
are free hips.
they don’t like to be held back.
these hips have never been enslaved,
they go where they want to go
they do what they want to do.
these hips are mighty hips.
these hips are magic hips.
i have known them
to put a spell on a man and
spin him like a top

the trouble with having kids is that they grow up to be “people”

And…hell is other people, so says Sartre.*

The stresses of having children are not only when they’re young and you’re raising them but also as adults when they’ve developed into “other people.” That “other” is often not what we imagined when our new squirming bundle of possibility was initially cradled.

Many people think kids are born as a clean slate. Not true. They’re their own beings right from the start. They are more fluid as children—sure—and our influences do matter. As parents you can encourage or thwart, but you can’t fundamentally change.

My two adult kids are jewels; each unique with gorgeous facets which shine in their own exquisite ways—different than me. They have, do and will put themselves into “settings” I wouldn’t choose. Still lovely, just not a “bracelet” I’d buy.

When your kids are little, they don’t see you as a person in your own right, with fears and feelings; you’re an extension of them. When I work with teenagers, I deal with their parents too. My teen clients have no idea how over-anxious their parents are watching their “babies” roam away from family life into the world, but usually seeing them as adults blocking their way. The inverse is true: the parents don’t see teenagers as “real” people either. They’re just kids.

IMHO, the goal of parenting is to make yourself nonessential, but not necessarily unwanted.

Your children are helpless beings at birth. You temporarily hold all the keys and all the power. Your job is to give each key back day by day, age by age until they reclaim their passkey of power.

Support yes; control no. You have to become a “person” and relinquish “parent” even if they don’t want you to. You’ve got to trust you gave them working, functional keys and then let them use them. By themselves. Without commentary, unless asked. Your time for major influence is over. [See: parenting grown-ups]

In Sartre’s play, No Exit, three dead characters find out that the afterlife is not fire & brimstone, but being locked together in a room for eternity. Once you have kids, there’s no escape from the room you entered when you birthed them, even when they’re grown up. And that’s not bad. It’s just that you don’t get to say anything.

*not to be interpreted that I don’t admire my adult kids or their choices

Fiber art: “Alchemy-Fire” by Aimee Reid-Rice

parenting grown-ups

me

I listen to people who live with kids complain about how hard it is to be parents, how stressful it is when the newborn never sleeps or the “terrible two” has a tantrum or those “formidable fours” and the most constantly maligned age of all: teen hood. [see how to cook a teenager] IMHO, these are mostly if-all-you-have-is-a-hammer-all-problems-are-seen-as-nails myths.

If parents didn’t try to control—whatever the age—but instead attempted to inspire, these “trials” of age related issues might go much smoother. I mean who hasn’t had the circling 23s, tired 30s, angry 44s, bitchy 50s, right? But most people don’t label me by my age when I’m having a “mood” or a bad day.

I believe the hardest parenting time may be when your kids are adults. You’ll have little to no influence, and the mistakes you may have made with them might come back to haunt you:

The relatively benign: you don’t like who they’re dating/married to, the in-laws are asses, they chose the “wrong” career, don’t exercise, smoke/drink too much, feed their kids crap food, they’re atheists if you’re religious, religious if you’re pagan…  The middle-awful ground: your kids hit/spank their kids when you didn’t, give them Ritalin, shoplift, suffer a sad marriage…  The horrors: become drug addicted street people, have married twice with abusive mates, are thugs, have fucked-up kids, won’t let you see the grandchildren, attempt suicide…  Not much of this has happened to me—touch wood—but I’ve sure heard about it through clients and friends.

Moral:

  • Respect your kids as people right now—when they’re little—because they are.
  • Inspire your kids; don’t control them.
  • Do small workaday things with them.
  • Try not to separate work & play; each is fun, each takes energy.
  • Give kids chores that matter.
  • Work & play together.
  • Eliminate labels and look with soft eyes.

*photo of me above with my mamma, us both having soft eyes