April 29, 2010 by 8junebugs
The greatest thing my mother ever did for me was something she didn’t do.
She never, ever, talked about dieting, being skinny, or working out.
Ever. At least, not to me and not that I heard about, and that’s good enough.
I mean, it was easy for her not to talk about it. Her metabolism didn’t appear to slow down until her late 40s. She ate like crap by the usual standards — she was the woman dieters hated, all full of burgers and chips, macaroni salad and light beer. She was an easy size 8 for a good portion of her adult life. (I can’t speak for her beauty pageant days…the pictures speak for themselves.)
She was active, in that she was always doing something. She worked long hours on her feet, she played softball and bowled on a ladies’ league, and she enjoyed yard work (our yard in Cornwall was not an easy mow). Averaged out over time, she swam far more laps than anyone else in our family because she loved being in the pool.
And then she got out of the pool and ate two egg salad sandwiches. On white bread. With a metric ton of Miracle Whip.
But she never, ever pushed me to be a certain size or be an athlete (she lettered in basketball in high school), or to make my hair do what other girls’ hair did. I was a dancer instead, and that was me pushing myself and Mom braiding my hair for recitals.
Her only commentary on my appearance was consistently this:
“Wow, you’re beautiful!”
(Occasionally: “Man, I wish I had some of your curves/curly hair!”)
(Or: “Thank god you got my nose and your father’s ears.”)
I didn’t always believe her — I was a teenager for a while, after all. But I always knew that I looked like me, and “me” was exactly who I was supposed to look like.
I didn’t understand the value of this until much later, when I found out how much pressure mothers can put on their daughters (and sometimes their sons, but mostly their daughters) to meet society’s beauty standards. I didn’t know how common that was because it wasn’t my experience, and I didn’t know until I was in junior high that the size of my…anything mattered to anyone.
Because of this, I’ve never been comfortable with dieting and working toward a particular size or weight — the numbers don’t have any intrinsic value for me (and I get REALLY testy when I see young adult lit harping on the “perfect” size — I’m looking at you, Sweet Valley High). When you hear about me running or cross-training or having smoothies for breakfast every damn day, it’s because I feel crappy and running makes me feel better (yay, endorphins!) and smoothies are tasty, tasty treats that don’t make my belly hurt in the morning.
It’s not in preparation for swimsuit season. That’s just not how I was raised.
I do know that it’s a compliment when someone notices and remarks on weight loss, and I try to take it as such. I don’t know it instinctively, because my mom never connected any dots between body size, effort to control body size, and personal worth.
For that, I’m more grateful than for anything else Mom did…or didn’t do.