Sunday, June 26, 2011

because i'm friends with a nine-year-old who thinks she's fat

I just read Sarah's letter to her girls about the lies we women hear/believe about beauty in this mixed-up world. I appreciate her thoughts--the perspective of a mother, which is different than mine and helpful to hear, but the perspective of a woman, which I identify with right away. I guess it hits close(r) to home because I've had some of these conversations with the girl of the family I nanny for--a beautiful, fun, quirky, energetic ten (almost eleven!) year-old, who has been thinking on these things for years already. The world is in front of her, so big and so ready, and she worries about her weight, how she looks, and (because it always follows) what people think of her. I'm not a mom--I'm not her mom--but I feel like it inside sometimes. Maybe I feel more like a protective older sister...

Andrea, I've gained weight this week (the girl is an absolute twig). Andrea, I've decided I'm not going to eat sweets anymore, so I don't get fat. I need to lose weight. Andrea, I just read this book about a girl with an eating disorder. Andrea, what's it called when a girl throws up her food?

You see, I have friends who have spent years wrestling with eating (not eating) and exercise addictions. Any pain I have experienced with and as a result has been in the praying for, witnessing, and living alongside some of these friends. I've never wrestled in some of the more "severe" physical ways with the lies but, let me tell you, I've lived with them and wrestled them mind, soul, spirit, emotion. I don't want this to be a sob post about "how hard it is to be a girl" or "how difficult the lies of the culture are to withstand." I know that men battle their own set of lies. Really, lies are lies and they all target the same thing: how we view and understand our inherent dignity, issues of worth, our invested value, and our identity. It's hard and painful and downright exhausting at times.

It is what it is in the sense that the lies aren't going away anytime soon. We can get paralyzed under the "weight" of it all or buck up a bit, chill out, accept the fact that this is how things are going to be, and learn to live different than they say, even when it's hard. I once talked with a friend about a similar subject and he said something about not wanting to live the way the world expects us to live. Exactly. I think that's called living under the recognition that God is redeeming things and provides a better, richer, more fulfilling way of living with and understanding ourselves (and the world). The world will continue to bombard us. Heck, the kids are worried younger and younger, aren't they? I don't remember when I first felt the "seriousness" of these lies about body image and beauty but it was not when I was nine/ten years old. Goodness gracious, I was bruise-shinned gallivanting through the mountains of Mexico, chasing donkeys with my brother, making forts in manzanilla bushes in Southern Arizona, and building fires in tin cans to cook food for our flight from the Nazi concentration camps. A better use of my time, if you ask me. But this has a lot to do with how and where I was raised, as well as a number of other factors that are for another time and conversation. The point is, kids face the lies early and it's been sad for me to see.

I get it. I know, the world will keep telling me that I need skinnier thighs and bigger boobs if I ever want to get a guy or feel truly valued. Sometimes the lies are loud and it is a sincere struggle not to believe them. Other days, I just think (probably immature but whatever), "F--- you, world, there is more to stand for and more to live by!" And I believe it, with all my heart. I believe it for S who is not fat and does not need to lose weight and who, I pray, will not buy into all that those gossip magazines tell her is important (even though she and her friends started a gossip girls club at school). Seriously. There is so much more to live for.

I don't really know why I'm writing all this out...I think because I've learned some hard things this year about what it means to be true to the beautiful things of life instead of getting sucked into what the world says is valuable. I've battled some pretty hard lies about money and beauty and success and purpose and value...etc., etc., etc. I suppose that's part of growing up and part of messing up and trying again. And I've seen this sweet, sweet girl growing up who I have come to love...and she is up against a world that doesn't want to celebrate her unique beauty. It wants to fit her into a mold and that is oh so detestable to me. How pathetic to take the wide and creative beauty of this world and cut, press, and push it into a mold--a box--that someone has said is "it." No, no. That's not where it is at. Look around you. We are all a fairly average group of people, eh? I would take the remarkably average ones over the cookie-cutter 'they've got it' ones any day.

There is, inherent in each of us (also the ones that succumb to the cookie-cutter image), a beauty that the world has failed to define. Because maybe we can't define it.

It's sort of like how i can't describe or define just why it is that i have to catch my breathe every time I am on the shores of Lake Superior looking out. Yeah, it's something like that. We need to catch a vision of that understanding of beauty and run with it. Our lives will be freer and richer, guaranteed.

1 comment:

the McGee family said...

This is good, too: