I’m not going to read The Heavy/A Mother, A Daughter, A Diet–A Memoir. It scares me; it makes me too sad just to read the title. (Said the author of Drunk Mom… yeah.) (But still.) I’m sure it’s very good and I’m sure if I read it I would find sympathy for both the mom and the daughter. Because I was once a little girl.
I was never a big girl but I distinctively remember deciding that my legs were “fat.” We were on Winter holidays, my family and I, and I was about 9. My mother said, distractedly, “You think? Well, just do some exercises.” She didn’t say, “No, your legs aren’t fat.” She told me to exercise. Why would my mother do that? My mother did that because she herself spent her entire life being concerned with her own appearance and she didn’t know how else to “help” me. It never occurred to her that what I might’ve needed was her rolling her eyes and telling me I was being silly. Or she didn’t think it was a big deal that a girl was asking about her body. After all, she was always revered for her beauty all her life. What she knew to be the truth was that for girls/ women validation came via appearance. So she helped me in the way she knew how. Was this sort of thinking something passed on to her from my grandmother? Maybe. Who knows. Probably. Women have been judged on their appearance since biology first began.
My mom is only human – amazing and not so amazing – and now that I’m older I understand so many more things about her, about her motivations and where she was coming from. And now that I am a mom myself I know how impossible is not to damage your children.
I am a mother of a boy. I am going to have many challenges that have to do with my boy growing up to be a teenager in a fucked up modern world, I’m sure of it. But, most likely, I will never be asked if his legs are “fat.” Is it terrible to say that I’m tiny bit and heartbreakingly relieved that I have a boy and not a girl? Though I love the idea of having a daughter and fantasize about it sometimes – but I would be so, so terrified to break her, being a woman who was once a girl who decided her legs were “fat.”