The line to the bathroom at the brewpub was long. It was a Saturday night. I patiently waited my turn, my eyes staring through and past the tile floor. The doors of the two bathroom stalls rotated, opening, closing as women young and old cycled through. It was my turn. I closed and locked the door behind me. I heard two of the younger women talking as they washed their hands.
"I love your jeans."
"Ugh. Seriously? I hate how my ass looks in these. I hate my ass. I can't even look at myself in the mirror."
They left the bathroom, and I took their place at the sink, feeling the hot water wash over my hands. I stared at myself in the mirror. I felt sick and furious and wasn't sure even why. But I was outraged and the intensity was growing.
That girl hates herself because she hates her body, I thought.
I didn't know who she was, and I didn't notice what she looked like when our paths crossed in the bathroom. I only heard her voice and the words she spoke were stuck with me.
I walked out of the ladies room and took my seat at the table. There was this feeling that I couldn't shake. Those girls in the bathroom? They were wrong and I hated how much they thought they were right.
I have a daughter. She's sixteen months old. I watch her toddle around our house, so proud of everything she does, so proud of her body and so proud of the way her toes wiggle and the sound her little hands make when they drum on her bare tummy. She's generous and kind, and even as we stumble into the terrible twos, she loves. It's a real kind of love. She doesn't know the harsh world that surrounds her and the pressures outside of our home. She knows confidence and reassurance and a part of my heart aches for the time when she feels forced to evaluate her worth by the shape of her body.
I know the day will come where she'll change from being a self-confident little girl. One day, she'll ask me about something she overheard the boys say at school, or a commercial she saw while watching her favorite show. She'll wonder why her own shirt was fitting too tight and she'll start spending more time in front of the mirror and comparing herself to other girls, real and fake.
The next day, I was having lunch with some girlfriends. During that lunch, one of my own pointed at her own tummy, and commented on how much she hated her body. I realized that this mentality isn't just reserved for drunk bathroom conversations, but it happens in my own circle on a random afternoon. I'm proud to be part of a strong circle of girlfriends, but even we are not immune to these pressures and these feelings. Curiously and already knowing the answer, I asked her if she would point out my physical flaws to me. I wanted to know if she would be as mean and unapologetic to her best girlfriends as she was to herself. She was appalled, and of course, the answer was no.
As women, why are we so cruel to ourselves? Why does our physical appearance hold so much value? Why can't we be proud of our bodies, not because what they look like, but for what they do for us? How do we raise daughters to respect their bodies? I'm serious, and I think it's overdue for a serious conversation. It's for us, for our daughters, our sisters, our best friends and the young women in bar bathrooms.
Our flaws are fabulous.
Really, they are. Those arms that you wish were smaller? I bet they're really good at comforting your baby in the middle of the night, or carrying in heavy bags of groceries from the car. Your legs that you wish were thinner? They probably do a fine job carrying you from Point A to Point B, and if you've ever ran a race or cycled through a spin class or hiked a trail, I bet they did pretty well at that too. Our tummies and our tushies may not be of supermodel ilk, but they are part of our bodies and they help us live our lives. They allow us to make the best memories and get us through the hardest times in our lives and we do more than take that for granted. We fall into a cycle where we loathe our very own selves.
So you wish you had bigger/smaller (fill in the blank) because that's what we "should" have? Those are the things that attract a sexual partner, so that's what drives our desires to look a certain way? Well, here's something fabulous, too. Our bodies aren't designed solely for sex. So, ladies, let's start congratulating our bodies for all of those great things that we can do with them, regardless of size or shape. And let's not just do it for ourselves. We can and should self-talk ourselves up, but let's also get body-positive with our best friends. Let's not tolerate the kind of conversational assault that has been happening around brunch tables and behind bathroom doors.
Maybe you don't live in this camp - the camp where we focus on what we wish we looked like instead of being thankful for what we have. Most days, I don't live in this camp. But there are days I do. And like me, I bet you have a friend or two who have taken a permanent residency and it's time for us to serve an eviction notice. From now on, this camp is closed.
Let's not allow our daughters hear the way we've been talking about ourselves before today, and let's stop talking that way. Wouldn't we be embarrassed if they did? Let's show them that our bodies were built to run and jump and hike and mountain bike and let's go do those things and brag about how much fun we had after we do them. After all, our hands were made to protectively hold their hands, our legs to go on long walks together, our arms to envelop them in warm hugs. Bodies were made to accomplish, not to be judged, especially by our own selves.
I know this is something that weighed heavily on my own mom's mind when she watched her two daughters grow , and as the world changes and the pressures intensify, it's only getting more important.
I know I'm not perfect. I can recall moments where I turned to my husband and wished my post-baby body bounced back a little sooner. I've gotten frustrated at those jeans that suddenly became overly snug in all the wrong places and watching both my feet and my bra size fluctuate with the seasons of life. But it's in those moments where we need to be reminded just how incredible our bodies are. We have to remind ourselves.
Let's compliment our little girls on their abilities. Let's praise them for working really hard at acquiring a new skill or demonstrating an act of kindness all on their own. Let's start associating self-worth with adding value to our communities. Because that's the kind of world I want to live in, and the kind of world I want my daughter to get to know.