An Open Letter to my Daughter about Her Body
Saturday, June 22, 2013
You will spend much of your life receiving mixed messages about how you should feel about your own body. They'll try to get you to walk the line between being 'too skinny' and 'proud of your curves' and having muscles - but not too many. They'll try to convince you that your skin is too light or your skin is too dark; your hair too flat or it needs tamed. That you should use more make-up or that au natural is what looks best. That looking older when you are young and younger when you are old is vital to beauty.
But my girl, please hear this; the only suggestion about the way that you look that should ever matter will come from your own body.
Your body will find a way to tell you that you should slow down because of the discomfort in your knees or back. And you'll start to remember that you need to pick up exercising again when your favorite jeans feel snug. When you realize you just cannot brush those tangles out of your long hair another day - cut it. When something feels off - go get it checked. I spent my entire first pregnancy trying to fight my body on its limitations and changes instead of working with it and accepting the experience - it was one of the most frustrating periods of my life. When it has something to say, your body will tell you; listen to it.
Your body is one of the only things that solely belongs to you in this life. There is no escaping it, it spends every single day with you on this Earth. It will remember the movements that you make a habit of doing and surprise you when you realize that your body knows how to do things all on its own. Like the way it remembers how to flip tshirts into folding because that was your childhood chore. And it remembers years later how to stay balanced on a bicycle and serve a volleyball. Sometimes it holds memories in scars like your aunt's at the top of her nose from falling down the stairs in her walker as a baby. It holds the tingling memory in your lips of your first kiss with your first love. And the memory of the steady grip of your grandma when she used to hold your wrist instead of your hand when you crossed the street. The recognition of the weight of your babies in its arms, that little bounce it does automatically when it hears good music, the way it feels like childhood to have someone brush your hair back from your face. These are the stories that you and your body share together; that only you and your body know for certain.
Keep in mind, my child, that it is the only body that you are ever going to get. So it would be in your best interest to try to take care of it. Using sunscreen and moisturizer and filling it up with good food are some examples. When you are good to your body it will work like you expect it to when you are going about your day. When your body is functioning normally - you'll think little about it which will allow you to spend time thinking about and learning other things. But if your body is behaving unpredictably, you will feel frustrated and distracted from the rest of your day. Take care of it and listen to it so you and your body can work together efficiently.
If you ever decide to alter your body in some way - [note: when you are old enough to make these decisions] - I only ask that you do so with confidence. No one can tell you getting a tattoo or piercing or plastic surgery is what is best or not best for you. That is between you and your body - but if you are going to do it, be confident in your decision because it will stay between you and your body forever.
As it only belongs to you, my beautiful girl, I want you to also know that it is one of your greatest gifts to give. So when you feel like someone else deserves it - know that you are sharing something of the greatest of value. The person receiving this gift should be someone who recognizes this honor; someone who is worth it. Don't ever think you can't come talk to me about this sort of stuff, please, please do, my girl. But if you feel you can't, please go speak to your aunts - they are like me but also a friend. This is the sort of stuff that you need other women to talk to about and you are surrounded by women that can answer your questions and listen without judgement.
Know that only you can give this gift away, so if anyone attempts to take this gift from you without your consent - do not be afraid to tell someone. Heaven help the person who has taken it, my darling, as there are people in your life that will have their eyes aglow with justice. And although it is an awful truth in our world that this tragedy exists, no one ever, ever deserves for it to happen, and I promise you that with time and support, you will learn to heal and trust again.
My girl, know that the people who love you; the people who matter, will look at you and just see YOU. They won't see the lines on your face or the zit that has taken up residence on your chin. They won't notice that you put on three pounds this weekend from enjoying the festival food in town or that your hair has a strand out of place. When they see you, when I see you, we just see you. Gemma.
If you need proof of this - of this love - look at pictures of us when you were young. We look at those pictures very differently- you and I. I see me who could have used to lose a few and really should have remembered to throw some mascara on. But you just see your Mom. I know this because I feel the same way about my Mom. I know there are things on her own personal frustration list - but I never notice any of those things about her. Because she just looks like my Mum and that is what makes her endlessly beautiful.
Its the same way that Dad looks at me too - when I've had extra weight on, when I've dyed my hair, when I've cut all my hair off, when I was as skinny as I've ever been; it was always the same with Dad - he just sees the girl he loves. He has always made me feel beautiful and sexy regardless if I was eight months pregnant or wearing sweatpants with bedhead. I can feel in my heart of hearts that he just sees Me - and because of that you've grown up with a Mum that spends more time worrying about the things that I don't like about my mind than I spend preoccupied with the things that I don't like about my body. Please thank your Dad for that, as it is one of thousands of ways that he has contributed to making me the best Mom I can be for you.
So my sweet girl, it would be pretty hypocritical of me to try to tell you to love your body; to be grateful and proud of everything about it. Because I know that's not the way we, women, work; its not the way our world works.
But I will ask this of you: Make peace with your body.
Maybe you'll get my thick thighs, or your Abba's boot-unfriendly calves, or Gigi's unruly hair, or Aunt Kitty's sweat glands, or Aunt Uch's tiny butt. Or maybe you'll get my straight teeth, or Abba's thin waist, or Gigi's long legs, or Aunt Kitty's perfect arms, or Aunt Uch's button nose. In any case, you will probably never look in the mirror and love every single thing about yourself.
But angel, when you look in the mirror I hope you can recognize a friend.
If you can do that and make peace with yourself - you will hold one of the keys to happiness. And that's what we want for you. Never perfection, my darling, but Happiness.
Love you forever and ever,
If you or someone you know needs support or has questions about sexual abuse, please see these sites:
Sexual Assault Support Services