Blogs Are Stupid

Doesn't anyone believe in Dear Diary anymore? What happened to the joy of putting actual pen to paper? And why does every ordinary Jane and John think they can write well enough to burden the world with their scribblings? It’s a mystery that badly needs solving. My first entry contains my thoughts about blogging and will set your expectations. The rest will probably be stream of consciousness garbage, much like you’ll find on any other blog. Perhaps we will both come away enlightened.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

The Skinny on Skinny

Yesterday, Diminutive One had his first meeting with his psychologist. I was prepared for resistance, but he was very open and forthcoming. It was really just a meet and greet between him and his doctor, so there was no real progress made. But they established a rapport and she addressed any questions or concerns he had about why he was there. It was very productive, and I am enormously relieved. Had Diminutive One decided he was not down with the whole psychotherapy thing, there would simply have been no point in persuing it.

We spoke briefly after their session, and she was very encouraging. Due to his receptiveness, she feels they will be able to make some positive changes in his behavior. He told me afterwards that she was "pretty nice". If you have an 8 year old boy, you know that a comment of that nature is downright effusive.

But that's not what really what I want to write about today.

Dr. A. is part of a fairly large practice. Two of the other doctors in this practice specialize in eating disorders, one of whom shares a wing and a waiting room with her.

As I sat leisurely thumbing through InStyle and sipping coffee in the warm and inviting waiting room, the door kitty corner to Dr. A's office opened and a young woman came out. She was horribly, painfully, frighteningly thin.

She was swathed in layer upon layer of clothing, but one could tell nevertheless that there was simply no meat on her bones. Her face was not merely was cadaverous. There were deep hollows around her eyes and aubergine shadows beneath them. Her cheekbones looked as if they might pierce the tender flesh stretched so tightly across them and her lips were thin and colorless. She couldn't have been more than 20, but she moved with the slow, deliberate shamble of an elderly woman. I was thoroughly taken aback, and I'm sure my shock registered on my face.

Despite the way her body had been ravaged by starvation, she was wearing jaunty hoop earrings, and beneath the heavy coat and sweater, she wore designer jeans. Her hair, though lanky and dull, was stylishly cut. It was incongruous and puzzling.

And then I realized with a bit of a jolt...she thinks she looks pretty.

I wanted to weep for her. I wanted to hug her, gingerly. I wanted to take her home and feed her hearty, filling foods. I wanted to tell her that she doesn't have to starve herself to be beautiful.

I don't know if she was there voluntarily, but her fastidiousness would suggest to me that she had not yet accepted that her appearance was frightening and disturbing.

And really, why would she?

All you have to do to find someone similar in appearance is pick up a magazine, where equally skeletal women are painted and adorned and draped in designer creations. All you have to do is to tune into one of the many programs that focus on celebrities and their lifestyles to see bony sternums, jutting hipbones, and dessicated thighs laid bare as waifish young starlets posture and pose on the red carpet.

As I sat there, hugely conscious of the more than ample flesh on my own bones, I felt two things.

First, I feel relieved that I have boys.

I don't know how on earth I would be able to raise a girl with a healthy self image in this day and age. I don't know how I would be able to make her believe that her worth does not lie in her appearance, when everything in our society promotes that ideal with relentless self-serving efficacy. I don't know how I could combat the powerful influences that dictate and uphold impossible standards of beauty and acceptability. I don't know how I could ever convince her that she is beautiful and smart and special enough without enslaving herself to these ridiculous and destructive ideals.

Second, I felt angry. Very angry.

Because these emaciated young starlets that prance and preen for the cameras are the reason for that. And because THEY are trying to live up to a standard that has been created by people who exploit their innocence and their appeal for financial gain.

In short, the media is killing our daughters, our sisters, our wives, and our mothers.

Now, I understand that eating disorders are often about more than appearance. I know there are deeper issues, I know there are secret fears and heartaches and disappointments. I know that these women feel lost, alone, powerless and worthless.

But when you combine all that hurt with those unrealistic and unattainable standards, no good can come of it. The seed of self-destruction may have already been planted, but then it is fed and watered by the media, society, stars and star-makers, who seduce them with promises of love and accpetance if only....if only they can look like this...everything will be better. Everything will be better if they are beautiful. They will be beautiful if they are thin.

So what can we do?

Well, I believe, for one thing, that these young ladies need to realize that when they court fame, or infamy, they become symbols, role models, icons of beauty and desirability. They need to take some responsibility for the ideals they are promoting. They need to understand that young girls will do anything to be like them.

But they won't, of course. The pursuit of celebrity is not an aspiration that inspires altruism or accountability. So where, then, does that leave us?

I don't know. But I do know that when an entire sub specialty of medicine has evolved to treat this problem, it's time to take a serious look at how to cure the disease, instead of just putting a band-aid over the wound. You can force feed an Anorectic, but can you ever really remove the self-loathing? Why not focus more of our energy and resources on preventing the seed from germinating in the first place?

We need to teach our girls that they are beautiful because of who they are. A Bookworm. A Brain. An Athlete or an Artist. Every gift is reason to celebrate. Every girl has worth.

And a face....a face is just a window to the world. It can't define, it can only reflect.

The young lady turned to leave, and as she did so, our eyes met. She smiled at me. And I found myself hoping, praying, wishing for her salvation. I hope that someday, her spirit will be restored and she can stop starving herself. I hope she will be happy.

Shortly after that, my round and dimpled Diminutive One exited Dr. A's office. He was so beautiful it nearly made my heart stop. I vowed right there never to say say another word to him about his little pot belly.

Dear God, if you are up there, please let him always know that he is special and beautiful. Let me say the right things. Let me be the right example. Don't let me screw this up. And thank you, Dear God, for having the wisdom to give my sister the girl child.


Footnote: Thanks to C2C for pointing out that young men are not immune to this disease. Currently only 1-5% of those who suffer with eating disorders are male. But that doesn't mean we can ignore the need to instill a healthy self-image in our boys. For males, weight is viewed in terms of strength or weakness; fat being weak, thin being strong. We need to avoid labelling boys who display less conventionally male attributes as effeminate, wussy, or weak. And just like our daughters, we need to teach our sons to love themselves no matter what shape or size they are.


  • At 6:37 AM, Blogger Chunky said…

    Hate to burst your bubble, but eating disorders are unfortunately now effecting young men as well...

    We HAVE to let them know they are loved and perfect, to us anyway!

  • At 7:50 AM, Blogger OhTheJoys said…

    I think this is why the Dove campaign is so amazing. I was at the YMCA in the locker room (which has TVs installed because GOD FORBID we should be away from the TV for one minute, but anyway) the new Dove ad was previewed on Good Morning America - the one where the woman is made up and then changed with the Photo Shop computer program - (PHOTOSHOPPED!!) By the end of the short ad, a locker room full of women, of all different shapes and sizes - and all different states of dress - were raising power fists at the television.

    I think most women desperately wish that the images in the media reflected our real beauty - in all its shapes, sizes and colors. I know I do.

  • At 8:07 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    That's why I don't buy those magazines. Don't get me wrong, I love to look at them, but they are beautiful glossy lies and they are not edifying.

  • At 9:58 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I heard on the news this morning that a 20 year old South American model died due to complications of anorexia. She was 88 lbs with a body mass of 13. Anything under 18 is considered malnourished. THAT is what needs to be on the cover of a magazine. Her face, her body, her death. I grapple daily with the weight/food issue for my daughter. Any time she doesn't eat I'm scared she's dieting. Then I have to remember she was never a huge eater! When she eats vegetables I have to remember that's a good thing, and not something to worry about, as long as there are other things on her plate. I will admit that once I smelled her breath to make sure she hadn't vomited. I don't even remember what prompted it - but then we had a little talk about bulimia --- and how if she ever thinks she ate too much and feels too full, too just remember that feeling for next time and stop a little sooner. I honestly don't think she is in severe jeopardy, but because our family has the "fat" gene, I think I am very sensitive to it - sometimes maybe too much so. Sorry to rant!

  • At 10:30 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    We are already dealing with this with Abby. A group of her and some friends spent 20 minutes of free play time running around the gym at school because they were fat. My child is in the 95th percentile for height and 60th for weight - she is tall and slim and very active. A small piece of me died when I found out.

    Everything with her is an uphill battle and she already suffers from low self esteem at the tender age of 8 - I have to be honest and say I am truly scared for what the future brings.

  • At 10:42 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Last night on my drive home, I heard and Entertainment Tonight commercial for the girl who plays Kallie on Grey's Anatomy talking about being a "plus sized girl on a set full of size zeros" and I thought, "PLUS SIZED? My ever-growing ass!" That girl is hott and here's an idea: she's NORMAL! She's not overweight, muffin-topped, or double-chinned. She doesn't look fat to me and she has some meat on her bones, good circulation, and really great skin. If you want my opinion, Meredith is the one with the weight problem. I couldn't believe they were calling Kallie plus sized!

    I am plus sized (and not proud of it) and recently went shopping for an outfit to wear to a wedding. The Lane Bryant store is in our mall, and I passed the Gap to get there, where they had giant wall-sized pictures of Ellen Pompeo (Meredith) and Patrick Dempsey (Dr. McDreamy) in Gap clothes. That girl needs a sandwich. I'm not kidding, his hand was on her hip and his fingers stretched nearly to the other hip, he waist is that tiny. Maybe she's naturally that skinny but I doubt it. But she's part of the reason people think being that skinny equals pretty. And that's all only on one show. I noticed while I was watching the show last night that Meredith has gotten a lot skinnier since the beginning. She used to have more of a chest, and now it's sort of shrunken. I wonder if she's falling victim to the same stereotypical thinking of what's skinny and pretty.

    Sorry to hijack your comments, especially mostly about a TV show, but I think it plays into what people think because of the media just as much as the magazines do.

  • At 2:32 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Anorexia is very much about control - something that teenage girls often feel they don't have, over themselves, their lives, their relationships. Along with emphasizing health and achievement, we need to help our daughters feel empowered as well.

  • At 4:44 PM, Blogger Ms. Smoochy said…

    Generally I just read your posts because they are awesome but I have to chime in here.

    Before I was married I had seriously dated 2 girls that had eating disorders. What I found out is that the the eating disorders we're just masks for other fundamental issues. I did my research and realized that this is the case most of the time (Not always).

    People blame society for many things. It is hard not to.

    Technology is connecting everyone and everything in a medium that allows us to personally disconnect from each other and reality.

    These things are not going to change. They will only get worse.

    I think the responsibility (I choose this word carefully over blame) lies with parents.

    Get involved with your children.
    Turn off the TV, hell cancel it.
    Limit internet time.
    Set the example for your children.

    These days we can not expect our children to learn the things we did when we were growing up. The playing field has changed. Just like it had when our parents were raising us.

    You cannot nor should you hide them from society or the future, but we can equipt them with the resources to succeed. No one else is going to.

    I'm really not on a soap box and hope this is not comming off arrogant because I do not have all the answers and I know i'll make my share of mistakes with my own. But damnit if they end up screwed up I want it to be because of me and not because I sent them out there unprepared or ill-equipped.


  • At 5:57 PM, Blogger ewe are here said…

    I saw the news about the model who died this morning as well: 5'7" (my height!) and 88 pounds. Apparently, she was living on a diet of apples and tomatos.

    I guess my question is, who kept hiring her for modeling jobs? And why? This is not attractive. It's not! And encouraging this behaviour is destroying the health of so many young women today.

  • At 12:20 PM, Blogger Chicky Chicky Baby said…

    I sat here for a long time thinking about this post. I don't believe that the young starlets and models of today should be held totally accountable for the image they portray. I think who should be accountable is the publishers of the magazines, the publicists, the studio heads, the paparazzi, and the readers of the magazines and viewers of the movies or television shows. I don't believe that Lindsay Lohan or Nicole Richie has a power of any child that an adult can't counter-act. And I don't believe a girl is going to develop an eating disorder just because she has a subscription to US weekly.

    Like others mentioned, anorexia is about control. Girls might want to be thinner, taller, prettier, blonder, but a girl with deeper problems is the one who falls prey to anorexia. And it's not all about the parents and their influence either. I know a woman (a good family friend) whose older daughter became anorexic when she was a teen. Her need to be thin stemmed from her ultra-competitive drive as a distance runner but it was probably even deeper than that. Her parents are amazing, supportive people but they could do little but try to get her the help she needed. They still battle it together to this day. It's been about 7 years.

    Sorry to hijack your comments. Great topic.

  • At 1:59 AM, Blogger Bobita said…

    What an amazing post about such a devastating disease.

    I have sooo much to say, that I am afraid of how much of a hijack I might actually perpetrate! So, my response will have to be a post of my own...I hope you won't mind if I link to this post.

    This was a truly inspirational, thought-provoking and eloquent post.

  • At 11:58 AM, Blogger Gina said…

    Have you heard of/seen the Dove "campaign for real beauty?"

    Even if it is sort of a marketing ploy, which it may be, I embrace it because they actually show women as their real selves. No aribrushing, people with boobs and hips, women of color. Now if everyone went out and bought every Dove product the could get their hands on, I wonder if the beauty industry would take notice.

    One can dream, right?

  • At 8:20 PM, Blogger joyce said…

    thank you for this post.
    Eating disorders are progressive, obsessive, destructive lies that wrap their skinny arms around your heart, whisper impossible promises to you, torture relentlessly.
    Control. Fear. Inadequasy.

    great post.

  • At 8:47 PM, Blogger Her Bad Mother said…

    My sister was anorexic/bulimic. She struggles, nearly twenty years later, with body image issues.

    It's a terrible, terrible thing, that is only made worse by our culture's obsession with thinness. But it is much more than that - my sister was always praised for her brain and her talent and grew up, with me, in a household that disdained fashion magazines and cable television. But we were (are) also a family with a history of clinical depression and a family that was, at the time, going through a number of traumas. So it's more than just our culture.

    That said - our 'culture' made it worse, exascerbated it, fanned the flames. So I'm with you, entirely.

  • At 12:36 PM, Blogger J said…

    Oh, god. How horrid. My daughter is 10, and NOT a skinny girl. Not fat, by any means, but not skinny. Thus far she seems to be normal in her self esteem, but it's scary nonetheless.

    So...I NEVER talk about my own body image in front of her. My frame is smaller than hers, and if she sees that I think I'm too big (my own problem, I know) then she'll think, god, I must be REALLY too big.

    I make sure she is involved in activities that help maintain self esteem. She's not interested in sports, so I don't force that, but she is involved in Girl Scouts and working toward a trip to NY for Model UN, and we try to make sure she has activities that she can control around her.

    I don't know if this is enough. I sure hope so.

  • At 5:08 PM, Blogger Trabinski said…

    Thanks for this post!

    There are 2 people in my circle of friends that struggle with this right now. They aren't young, adolescent girls. They are fully grown women. 30 somethings. Though they don't seem to be at the level the person in your story is at, it's so sad and I just don't ever know what my role is - knowing this information.

    I have a 6 year old daughter that I pray that same prayer about.

    Thoughtful post - thanks!

  • At 10:29 PM, Blogger Sharon L. Holland said…

    Based on my own history with this problem, I think there is a connection between the growing problem with obesity in this country and the obsession with extreme thinness. The two problems feed each other. Feeling despised because of weight leads to all sorts of eating issues, whether aneroxia or bulimia or compulsive eating.

    While I respect the insistence of other commenters on society's need to change the presentation and attitudes toward the female body, I think ultimately the freedom from these issues comes from freeing ourselves from what others think of us altogether.

    My knowledge of my own beauty and worth has to come from some place more permanent and foundational than the media, or even my family. I cannot recognize the admiration in my husband's eyes until I know it for myself first.


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