Saturday, 28 September 2013

On Raising A Daughter Part IV: You're Already Beautiful

I was sitting in the corner of the living room listening to the same ol' spiel I'd been hearing ever since both my sisters hit their growth spurts and grew up, up, up and away, while I...did not.

"Oh you should see them now. They could be models, in fact [x] did get approached by a modelling agency. They are both so tall and gorgeous and fashionable. I mean truly fashionable." And then, as if all of sudden remembering that mossy fungus in the corner was actually a person, me, the other sister, this person tried to save face with the following line: "And our Caitie is so smart."

Thanks a fucking lot.

***

Maybe this is where I'm supposed to insert some 'roar-roar-roar' prose about what a tough cookie I was and how I never looked in the mirror and rejected my reflection, but that would be a lie. Because I believed I was ugly. I was fat. I was less-than. That what I looked like on the outside had a degree more of worth than what was going on between my ears.

When family members ask you when you're going to lose weight, it's pretty hard not to go home that night and not feel like total, utter shit while looking in the mirror and wondering what fault they see in you that you didn't see before. 

When people ask you if 'you're really going to eat that?' or 'do you think you should be eating that?', it's sort of hard not to pause for a second and wonder why they care so much. Heart health? Nope. Waist health.

When you get stuck between two people--in countless photos--who are four inches taller than you and have a completely different physique, it can be hard not to see yourself as the short, dumpy one.

And please, this isn't meant to inspire any, "You're beautiful!' comments. Ugh. Spare me. I'm not fishing for compliments. I'm simply stating that I am an average person and therefore I know that I am not the only girl who spent time alone and lost in worry and tears, fretting that what I looked like from the outside didn't hold up against someone else's measuring stick of attractive.

I never once asked myself if I was enough for myself.

Not once.

And I reject this for my daughter.

***

Women's worth being tied up in how they look is epidemic, and I am categorically sick and tired of seeing smart, talented, loving, amazing, women spiral in personal tornadoes of hell because they don't feel beautiful. Thin. Special. That they are only 'enough' if they are able to be squeeze their legs into a certain size.

It's for this reason that I reject those ridiculous Dove beauty commercials. You know the ones: where they talk down to the consumer to remind her: "Hey look! The model is just photo shopped to look that way! You're the really beautiful one!" At first bite it's palatable, but when you start to chew it that's when you come up against the gristle because even though the commercial is telling us no one is as beautiful as the magazine cover--including the model--they are still reminding us about beauty.

That it's still important.

They are still selling something, Internet, and what they're selling is a product that's supposed to make you realize you are beautiful. So yes, basically, you still aren't enough on your own.

You still need something.

***

All over Facebook women are re-posting tips and recipes for 'getting fit' and 'eating healthy' and 'being active'. It's numbing. It's really and truly mind-numbing. It's not an exaggeration to say that this is what--based on wall posts alone--most of my FB friends are concerned with. No one is linking posts to truly excellent books they've read; musicians who've inspired them; charities they're passionate about; clubs they're interested in.

Fitness and health. 

Health and fitness.

An unhealthy obsession with being healthy.

This is the new language of thin.

Of beauty.

It just sounds more empowering than it really is.

***

The day I found out I was having a girl, I went home and lay on the couch for a solid hour and realised that I need to be better for her. I need to be the example I want for my daughter, because up to that point I was not a role-model I would want for her.

At that point, I was not enough for her.

***

LB is already beautiful.

I am already beautiful.

You are already beautiful.

Each in our own wonderful, weird, way.

It would be impossible to pretend physical beauty doesn't exist. To ignore it. I can't just tell her: being beautiful isn't important, just be smart! I can't do this because people who are never, ever told they're beautiful inevitably feel ugly.

God it's a black hole, isn't it?

But we can be intelligent about beauty. We can be savvy. We can be aware. We can look at a magazine and think, "Yeah, I don't look like that but I am still utterly fab." Lying on the couch that day I realised that if I want my daughter to be strong enough to not feel the pressure of a woman only being 'enough' if she meets a certain standard of beauty, I will need to teach her how to feel secure with herself.

I will need to teach her how to pay herself her own compliments so that if--as happened to her mother--a guy walks up to her and says, "You might be hot if you showed some cleavage," she can rally and tell this spineless prick he can "fuck-off and die" without then spending thirty minutes in the toilet having a quiet sob and feeling quite awful about herself.

His definition of beauty isn't hers.

Hers is hers and it's enough.

***

How am I going to do this?

Leading by example.

Firstly, I have already vowed that I will never criticise myself in front of LB or measure myself against anyone else, and thus far (thirteen months into this parenting gig) I am succeeding. I have also vowed that I will not be involved in mindless chatter about weight loss: wanting to lose ten pounds is vanity, and I will not sit around and listen to smart women worry about something so stupid. Wanting to lose fifty pounds because you have a health situation on your hands is a totally different discussion.

I am not going feed her society's new obsession with thin--thinly veiled as health--by preaching over and over again that it's important for our bodies to be fit and healthy. I'll just do it. I don't need her to become preoccupied by something that doesn't actually need to occupy as much grey matter as people are devoting to it.

I will show her that Mom likes clothes, has fun with clothes, but that style is different from materialism. Also, that it's totally cool to compliment people on their style, because it makes people feel all warm and fuzzy inside when someone tells them they're rockin'. Learning how to pay yourself your own compliment doesn't mean you are void of wanting a little affection from others.

We're human.

I want her to have an unshakable knowledge that she is interesting and original and exceptional, and the only way to do this is to talk to her. To engage her. To get her brain whirring on topics that are bigger than where our place is in the the line-up from fat to thin, because what I want to curate in LB is an inherent knowledge that the most interesting people in the world are the people who are creating beauty, not trying to follow it.

Mirror, mirror, on the wall, who's the fairest of them all? is a heavy question, and vanity is a fragile thing. 

I don't want her to break that easily.

Thursday, 12 September 2013

Observations

LB and I have been having a truly excellent visit home, and I've been meeting up with friends for park play dates, coffees, lunches, and going to the movies. I love being here. Canada is my home, end of story. Also, I'm not feeling that culture shock of, 'Whoa! Huge grocery store!' or 'Whoa! That's cheap!' that I have felt in past visits, and I think it's probably because we were just here in March/April. However, there's definitely two points that have made me stop and scratch my head.

Point 1

People of Kamloops/100 Mile House: what's with the pyjama bottoms in public?

LB and I were up in 100 Mile House last week visiting Dan's parents, and we were in the grocery store when I rounded the corner and came across a mom and her two kids who were just walking the aisles...in their jammies. THEY WERE IN PUBLIC IN THEIR PJ'S. A WHOLE FAMILY OF THEM. What the what?

(Also, this has nothing to do with anything, but we were eating dinner on the lawn at my in-law's place, and there were five deer grazing and chilling out by the chicken coop. I was totally terrified. Then my mother-in-law told me to get out of Switzerland if I was starting to be afraid of deer. Hahahaha!! Since she was born and raised there, raised her family there, her words struck me as especially funny.)

Alright, let's be serious, of course I know that some people have started to wear their pyjamas in public, but I've maybe only seen it twice since it became 'a thing'. These past two weeks? I've seen it over a dozen times. At what point did people decide that sweatpants were too fancy, and they were switching to pyjamas? I'm sorry, but I can't get on board with this 'trend' because it is a sign of being utterly lazy. There is no other word for it.

While here in Kamloops I paused to gape at the fact that there was a father in an insurance place with his wife/girlfriend and kid, and he was chatting about insurance with the agent while wearing his pyjama bottoms. Internet, let's be real: if you wear your pyjama pants into a place of business, do not expect anyone to take you seriously. At all. Ever.

Canada, you are better than this. You really are. Have some pride in your appearance and make the distinction that what you wear to bed is not something that you wear when out running errands.

Ever.

No matter what.

I'm not arguing this from a fashion point of view (though, let's be honest, they're hideous) it's about what this implies for the society as a whole. Would you take financial advise from an individual who shows up to work in their pyjamas? What about legal advise? A judge overseeing a trial in their pyjamas? What about a teacher who shows up to work in their pyjamas? You know, instinctively it's not right. But why?

Sure you could argue that what they're wearing doesn't impede their ability to work, but societies have standards and a person who can't even be bothered to get dressed, quite frankly, gives the impression they could care less about anything at all--including doing the job they are being paid to do.  

Point 2:

The penny is no longer a thing in Canada anymore, but did you know that businesses haven't adjusted their pricing accordingly?! This was the case in March when we were last here, but I didn't really pay it any mind. Today, however, I'm at the corner store buying LB her homogenised milk and the lady tells me I have to pay two cents more than the price on the cash register because 'we don't have pennies anymore, so we're rounding this up.' Then I looked at her like she must think I was born yesterday.

You want me to pay two cents more than the original price?

I explained I was 'out of the loop' about the penny and her response was, "Lots of countries don't have the penny," to which I acknowledged that I currently live in a country that doesn't have it, but I've never been asked to pay more at the till. Why haven't they adjusted their prices?

Internet, I was just asking. I wasn't angry about it, I wasn't being aggressive, but I wasn't about to accept this bullshit policy where they 'round up'. In my mind that's lemonade stand business, it's not developed-world business! Well, this employee was super defensive, angry about my question, and basically tensed up like I was about to crowd her personal space and try to convince her that Scientology was totally true.

But come on, it's a valid question don't you think? How much extra have people had to pay to 'round up?' Of course one could argue that by adjusting their pricing, they could adjust it so that when taxes, etc, are factored in, the price is more so aren't I just at a standstill?

My response? No.

It's totally baffling that prices haven't been adjusted when this coin was done away with, and it frankly embarrasses me to have a system in place (here in Kamloops, anyway) that is not consistent and changes from business-to-business, on the whim of the person handling the cash register.

If the penny is out of circulation, fix your prices.

End of story.

I even hear there are people in this world who are really good at math, and I bet they could totally help you with the price adjustment!

So get on it, because this current system, much like the pyjama people, is lazy.

Saturday, 7 September 2013

Where in the World...?

Guess where LB and I are?

Can you guess?

CANADA.

We flew in last Thursday as a surprise for my Nan's 80th birthday. The only thing my Nan wanted for her birthday was for all her children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren to be together, so the entire family planned to gather at my aunt and uncle's acreage (sheep! chickens! horses!). However, since we'd just been to visit in March--and we have a fairly major trip planned for November to attend a wedding--no one expected us to be there.

Surprises are the best and there's nothing like being grabbed in a huge bear hug by the people you love most, who grab your face in both hands then clap their hands over your arms and shoulders trying to feel if you're real. That they're not just dreaming you.

It was truly a happy, happy moment.

Last weekend I sat around the fire, under the bright expanse of the milky way, cracking jokes with my family, laughing loudly, feeling content to be privileged enough to sit with this group of people and know that they're mine and we were so lucky to all come together to celebrate our matriarch, who has celebrated all of us, individually, our whole lives. Dan wasn't there though, and that was the only stitch missing in an otherwise perfect quilt of togetherness.

Staring at all these faces who are so familiar but also changed, looking at the new faces and gasping with the realisation, "S/he looks just like...", well: these are the moments. These are the people. This is what life is all about. This is what matters.

My thirteen year old cousin, who I've known since the minute she was born, entering high school for the first time this week and feeling nervous about it. I give her a huge hug and tell her it will be fine, the first day is nerve wracking but everyone else is just as terrified as she is. Even the Grade 12's. New years are new beginnings and everyone feels the same. I remember how she was born when her parents were putting the finishing touches on the new house they were building, and how she slept in a laundry basket that first week (she rolls her eyes, "Another baby story"); we remember how I took her to the movies, instructed her to save the popcorn for when the lights went down, and how she wolfed the entire bag down and I didn't even realise it; we remember that time I locked my keys in the car in freezing cold February because yeah, "You did that a lot"; we remember how she'd sleep over at my place while her parents did Christmas shopping, and how we'd tell ghost stories and her seven-year-old tales were dead scary: scarier than mine.

She was the little kid who would jump into my arms whenever she saw me, and here she is today: one of the most capable, intelligent, independent thirteen year olds I've ever had the privilege to know.

How'd that happen?

Because...laundry basket...just yesterday...like, whoa.

"But you're a mom a now."

Holyshittimeflies,likewhoa.

It does. And it does not, as the adage goes, wait for anyone.

So I flew here to meet it, because sometimes you just do, and the hugs and stories on the other side are worth more than the cost of a plane ticket.