I'm beginning to wonder whether I'm all talk when it comes to body issues, whether all my words about "everybody's different and everybody's beautiful" are not being backed up by my deeds and what this could mean for my daughter's future sense of self.
My wife, daughter and I were in the bedroom the other day, talking about an upcoming trip. I was saying how much I looked forward to being on a lake and being able to swim and water ski every day.
"That sounds fun, daddy," my daughter said, "But I don't think mommy's really looking forward to it. Right, mommy?"
My wife and I exchanged a look.
"What do you mean?" Dana, my wife, asked.
Our girl took a moment, as if to find the right words.
"Well you know," she said, "Because you'll have to ... "
At this she leaned over and cupped her hand around her mouth, as if to whisper, but then continued on at her same impossibly loud 5-year-old volume.
"... shave daddy."
It reminded me of that time I took her to Target and denied her all manner of toys and goodies, thinking I was a great parent who set limits and knew what he was doing, while the whole time my daughter patiently plotted revenge. We got to the hair care aisle, and I searched around for razors in the crowded section.
"Now where are those razors?" I asked aloud.
My daughter waited for just the right moment when the whole aisle seemed to go quiet.
And then she asked, "For your back?"
And here I thought she hadn't even noticed, hadn't even been aware of my secret little shame. Around the house, we don't really remark on bodies we see on TV or in magazines or online. We don't talk about diets or "feeling fat." We're doing our best to convey the idea that everybody has a body, all bodies are different and what the hell does it matter what anyone has on the outside? It's what's on the inside that counts ... unless, apparently, you look like a gorilla on Rogaine and then all bets are off.
In the bedroom, I immediately felt like a hypocrite and my head swam with the stories about 5-year-olds on crash diets or teenagers looking for Botox. I may talk a good game, I thought, but are my deeds taking us down a different path?
Mike Adamick writes at Cry It Out!. He is a walking Kugelmass Episode.
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