All The Subtle Messages

It’s that voice in my head, my personal party line from long ago, the insistence on low weight, straight hair, blond, and blue eyes, as if we have total control over our very being. As if how much I weigh will in any way determine the kind of person I am.

The other day, my daughter said she won’t wear glasses, even though she has trouble seeing in the distance. Why? “Because I won’t look good in glasses,” my 5-year-old princess proclaimed. She is beautiful. Nothing will change that – which is what I said to her, but somehow she has already at this young age inculcated into her being that exterior factors will somehow change how she is perceived by the world.

My message is still with me. My parents’ insistence that ultra-thin is the goal to strive for, that straight hair trumps curly. My mother has spent 30 years asking for her restaurant food to be grilled “dry,” sauces “on the side,” and melting fat-free cheese slices (which do not melt) on a slice of bread for breakfast. She does not enjoy her food but my father proclaims to all who listen what a great figure Mom has “for her age.”

I say all this with the caveat that I love my family. Truly I do. But when I am away from them, I am comfortable in my skin. With my curls. With the curves of my stomach and hips. I have no desire to suck away under doctor’s lights the evidence of my 38 years and I do not want to eliminate taste and pleasure from my food.

The words we hear from early on shape us forever more. Pave our paths for years to come. One of my supreme challenges of motherhood is to measure my words and carefully carve my children’s self-images so that they stand tall, forward-facing.

Daughter, you are lovely. Flaws are inevitable and, frankly, lovable.

From Fast Company’s July/August issue:

Nature’s Simple Rules for Survival (which can be extrapolated across mediums)

1. Diversify across generations.
2. Adapt to the changing environment.
3. Celebrate transparency.
4. Plan and execute systematically, not compartmentally.
5. Form groups and protect the young.
6. Integrate metrics.
7. Improve with each cycle. Evolution is essential for long-term survival.
8. Right-size regularly, rather than downsize occasionally.
9. Foster longevity, not immediate gratification.
10. Waste nothing – recycle everything.

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