No one sat on the metal bleachers. We huddled in small groups under blankets, jackets, umbrellas, under the canopy of low, grey clouds. Rain fell in spurts and gushes alternately. As soon as we thought we might be able to see something, the rain came again.
Our daughters ran on a vast green field striped with white lines, dotted with refs and flooded with feminine strength, confidence and competitive spirit. No matter the game outcome, the girls hugged, congratulated each other, strode with purpose to parents and cars.
Later, at lunch, they giggled. They teased. They took goofy photos and talked about books they’re reading. They played with each other’s hair and they slumped against each other with a natural kind of trust. Watching a Sporting Kansas City game, the girls identified the players in their positions, cheered with abandon, watched and understood the game they love.
A popular website, formerly my go-to for recipes and crafty ideas. A few minutes to kill before dinner. Instead of food porn, I got something else.
Barely clad women with incredible abs. Tiny t-shirts, fit, young bodies. The main “Everything” page was saturated with images of impossibly gorgeous female forms. Undeniably, the women—or their bodies, since a majority of the photos did not bother to show their heads—had amazing bodies. Six pack abs, perfectly round hineys. Slim waists, curvy hips. Barbies in real life.
Listen to the captions provided by pinterest users: “Beautiful girl. I have to follow this diet and workout plan.” Or another: “I would give anything to have these abs. I would never talk again if I looked like this.” Or, “I would never eat sugar again if I could have this body.”
What a striking juxtaposition. Unselfconscious girls playing soccer in the rain, using the gifts they’ve been given. Women ashamed of the very skin that wraps their bodies, willing to surrender their souls to look a certain way.
I struggle with body image as much as the next gal. I still feel like a liar when I tell people I’m a runner, because I weigh more than 100 pounds. I can sometimes identify parts of me that are clear signs of my deficiency as a human. But to focus on the little dot on the end of my nose or the bumps that only I can see is to overlook the parts that shine or to negate the sum.
And so. How did we get from there to here? I’m troubled that my daughters (and son) will hear body shaming as an acceptable form of language, where the way one looks is to establish one’s worth. Fitness, exercise and healthy choices are all good things.
Where is the line between fitness and obsession? What can we do for our daughters and sons so they continue to trust the bodies and abilities they have? How do we begin to change our language so that our perceived imperfections are not the standard of value?
I promised to shout out my buddies who helped me remember the word “deficient” since my brain was clearly in that shape as I wrote this. Thanks to Miles, Ray, Margaret, Suzie, Sooki, Anthony, Pilar and Sheri.