I am going to tell you a harrowing tale. One that makes my blood run cold, and makes me wonder what we’re we making of our daughters?
Every Monday night my 20 year old son plays poker with friends. These are, for the most part, good kids (yeah, there’s a little pot, a little more beer, and a lotta bad language, but there’s no crack or handguns or plotting to overthrow the Man), they’re intelligent, respectful young men.
They always play in the same place: in the basement at Jeremy’s* house (*names changed to protect the innocent, or not so innocent–really, I’m only protecting myself, my son would kill me in my sleep if I revealed any real names). At 22 or 23 years old, Jeremy has managed to pull himself up by his boot straps (or in this case, by his keyboard) find work in an exciting, challenging career he excels at, and buy his own house, which he shares with his girlfriend. By most standards, it’s impressive for a 42 year old to excel at their career and buy a house, but at 22 it’s jaw-dropping.
Well, as I reclined after supper on Monday night, after a indulgent repast, patting my growing girth, it occurred to me that my son wasn’t performing his careful preparations for poker night (throwing on his favorite crumpled t-shirt from the bottom of a laundry basket and attempting to find at least one sock that didn’t expose his big toe). When I asked him why he wasn’t going to the game, he told me that the game was cancelled for the next couple of weeks. Why? I inquire. His answer shocked and saddened me:
“Well, Jeremy’s girlfriend is recovering from surgery.”
“Oh my God, is she okay?” I say, alarmed enough to sit up straight (which caused an immediate cramp).
“Yeah, she’s okay. She’s just recovering from her boob-job.”
“What? She had breast implants!! Why? How old is she?!” Let me tell you, I, who am not easily shocked, was shocked.
Evidently, Jeremy’s 20 year old girlfriend, Laura* (*names changed to protect the recently up-cupped) has been dreaming of breast implants for years. She worked through high school and full-time when she graduated, saving and saving, not for university or a trip abroad, but for bigger breasts.
“Why did she get breast implants? Were her boobs really small? Why would she do that?” I say, becoming increasingly agitated, to my increasingly uncomfortable son.
“Well, no,” he says, “she had nice boobs, you know, regular size. She’s a really pretty girl. She wasn’t flat-chested. Jeremy said she’s just always wanted bigger boobs.”
“How big did she go, like a C-cup, or something? And how does Jeremy feel about it?” I’m not naive, in fact, just the opposite, but this was something I was having trouble wrapping my head around.
“Well, actually, she went for a Double-D, and…”
“What!!!! What the hell!!! Holy shit!!!! Why would she do that? Why would she do that to herself!!!!?????” I rudely interrupt.
“I dunno. I guess she just wanted bigger boobs,” shrugs my son.
“Oh my God. What does Jeremy think?”
“Actually,” says my son, “He’s not very happy about it. He didn’t want her to do it. But it was her dream, and he loves her and he said he’d support her.”
“Yeah, your damn right he’s going to need to support her….him and WonderBra, for the rest of her back-pain filled life.”
As a woman and as a mother I’m saddened and confused. What are we telling our daughters about their worth? What are we telling them about their value as people? What kind of world is this where a beautiful, young woman is entirely motivated by bigger breasts? What kind of world does she need to feel safe enough, special enough, good enough, attractive enough? What kind of world makes it’s young women feel so imperfect? What kind of world are we making for our daughters?
And how did we come to a place that places more value on your waist to hip ratio then on your brain to stupidity ratio?
I feel mute. I’m so filled with rage and frustration that I’m unable to articulate how enraged I am. But the next moment, I’m so saddened that I feel weak.
I suppose, by the standards society sets, so consequently by our standards, it’s pretty simple for our daughters to figure out where they fit and where they belong. Their achievements, self-respect, and strength is sitting in their bras, their noses, their haircut and highlights, or the seat of their jeans.
I’m not wagging my finger at others. I’m not blameless. I’ve created the same atmosphere in my house, around my girls. I have and do constantly critique myself, my shape, my flaws. I was getting ready for work the other day and one of my daughters said, “You look nice mom.” I could have been graceful and accept the compliment. But I didn’t, and I wasn’t. My answer was, “Yeah, nice for a fat girl.” All she said was, “Ahhh, mom, you’re not fat. ” Then she walked away. And she’s right. I’m not fat. But I’m plagued with doubt about my 40 year old curves. I’m uncomfortable in my less than perfect frame. But it’s not me that I damaged with those 6 careless words (though I certainly didn’t do myself any favors). It was my bright, beautiful daughter.
How can she learn to grow into the kind of woman who’s confident in her self, her beauty, her intelligence, her capabilities, when she sees me, her role model, so unable to be comfortable in mine.
This is hard. And I don’t know how to fix it. I just know that I need to, at least in my world. I know sex sells, I know that attractive people get farther, faster. I know that there’s power in beauty. But I also know that that doesn’t have to be all. I know that I want more for my girls. I want their power to come from inside of them, rather than inside their bras. I want them to recognize how beautiful and smart they are. And for my sons? I want them to see women for everything they are, not for everything they show.
Maybe I can’t achieve this. Possibly, my daughters are contemplating implants. But when my son and his friends tell me they feel bad that Laura felt she needed breast implants, I can hope a little.