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Teflon Shield

June 14, 2012

Trigger warning: This post is about weight shaming.

Recently, something dramatic and hard to describe has crashed into my household.

An adolescent girl.

We aren’t really sure where she came from, as she’s clearly a replacement model for the child who bounded through life with an interest in everything and a tenacity that could bring great leaders to their knees. She was fantastic company, and a girl with a deep love for such things as animals, sports, the outdoors, music and us.

That old kid actually liked us.

Anyway, that courageous and irreverent child has been tossed in favor of this new version who is tentative, reluctant and saturated in messages that show her exactly what she should fear.

There are so many bumps and obstacles that crop up along a young girl’s way, but probably none more insidious and damaging than the obsession with their bodies.

I wish I could tell you that a solid foundation and a charmed childhood is all you need to help your daughters vault over this issue with little or no damage, but I think I’d probably be lying to you.

The amount of weight-centered conversation that goes on is astounding. Probably one of the most devastating things you can do to a classmate is to call them fat.

I really wish this weren’t the case and that it could be nullified by the thousand times you tried to counteract it or refuse to let that kind of talk in your house. But it’s pervasive and sneaky, so the conversation takes place elsewhere and the insults get flung on the playground instead of in your backyard.

It’s like stamping out small fires around your property only to be confronted with a two-mile wide raging inferno across the street.

Where do you start?

If only there was a way to coat them in kevlar and teflon, making them bulletproof with the ability to deflect negativity, leaving hurtful words and attitudes unable to stick to them.

Girls, especially, lose themselves quite a bit as they get older. Like a chisel chipping away at a once-solid foundation, the messages affect their ability to love their bodies, cracking and altering them in ways that last entire lifetimes. Taunts about their weight and overall appearance cause them harm that most people can’t see. But any observant parent will tell you how heartbreaking it is on the inside to know that the kid who used to raise a defiant middle finger is now more likely to internalize it and walk away.

Me, I’m keeping my fingers crossed that with a solid wall of body positive reinforcement and some extra love she’ll be okay. But if that doesn’t work I’m considering kicking the ass of the next jerk who tells her she’s fat.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. June 14, 2012 9:29 am

    You’re doing a great job, Duffy. I can tell you from personal experience that even when others drag you down and beat you up and make you feel like crap, there is still space in your heart for a mother’s reassuring words. Even if she dismisses you, even if she seems to ignore you, she can hear you and will reflect upon your words more than you will ever know.

    Although not weight-related, my self-esteem came under perpetual attack and although it took its toll on me, I weathered the storm because my mom reminded me often that it was them, not me, who had the problem. And although it did little to blunt the words of others, it did somewhat inoculate me from internalizing their negativity. Some of it definitely got in, but on the whole, I was able to deflect a lot of the criticism and remain true to myself.

    Every girl deserves a mother like you, who loves and cares for her daughter so much that it hurts. And in the end, she will be stronger for having endured all of this.

    Stay strong, mama, and just keep loving her. She, and you, will be just fine.


  2. June 14, 2012 3:34 pm

    Puberty/being a teenager can be awful. I wound up painfully shy with terrible self esteem which has taken me years to combat, and I’m not “normal” yet. My parents were and are very nice but, as per usual with teenagers, we rowed a lot. The person I would say helped the most without seeming to was my nana, because a grandparent’s love can be more unconditional than a mother’s, I’d say. What I mean is, whereas parents have to discipline, a grandmother can just be on your side. I always knew my nana thought I was great, and nothing I could do would change that.
    A mother’s love is fantastic and wonderful, and she can help her daughter (or son) a lot when it comes to standing up to bullies, being a strong woman, not letting others attack you – but for me, a grandmother is a brilliant blessing to have.
    I miss my nana.

  3. June 15, 2012 12:39 am

    Ugh. My Wednesday post was worried about just this thing! Good luck, and have fun with the ass-kicking if/when it comes down to it.

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