“Do I look pretty?” she asked.
“You always look pretty,” I responded. “And that dress is pretty too.”
I had a realization this morning, these come all too often anymore. As I navigate healing and existing in this world, I continue to unravel the layers of how I live differently than I say and love.
It started about a year ago, when she’d ask if she looked pretty. I knew in that moment that I wanted her to know that clothes or what’s on your body doesn’t make you pretty. I could see this stumbling into the future as attractiveness, worthiness being linked to how she looks in clothes. A sneaky not so hidden bit of diet culture, fatphobia, sexism, racism, all tied up in there. So I made a point to respond to her and acknowledge her own beauty as a normal everyday. She spoke the above words a few more times and each time, I responded with precision that she was always beautiful, pretty, cute.
However, recently, I realized that despite these efforts and as much as I was speaking out loud, my social conditioning had not yet transformed. She picked out some new clothes and my head was screaming that she looked so adorable in these new pieces. One, a blue dress sprinkled with pineapples, not only looked perfect on her but also reminded me of good pineapple memories in childhood and beyond. I heard my head say, “you look so cute today.” I caught myself, with confusion and frustration of how tightly this society holds me, and changed the message to what I really wanted to mean.
“That dress is so cute,” I said to her.
I keep thinking that if I change my mindset to not link her body to the clothes and instead comment on the clothes as their own piece, it will separate the attachment to self. Maybe undo a tiny bit of the “isms” associated with women in clothing. Really to do this for me too. So she can see it’s possible.
Because today, I am struggling as I need to shift my wardrobe. As I delve into intuitive eating, my body is changing. It will continue to change. And the challenge is to first accept that this will happen, and also to accept that I will need to change clothes as these changes occur. I feel stuck as I still link my own clothes to self-loathing, attraction, sexiness, worthiness.
“You look terrible in this. What are you thinking? This makes you look fat.* You look horrible today. What did I eat to cause this body? I need to exercise. No treats today…” and on and on and on.
This morning I remembered the pineapple dress. It came to me like a gift, a reminder that I can live differently. I said to myself, “Your clothes do not define you. You define you. Clothes simply adorn the beautiful being that never changes even when your body might.”
Thank goodness for that cute pineapple dress.
*I want to acknowledge that this statement is fatphobic. And, it’s what I am still working on and feels important to leave it and be honest. Our criticism of our bodies – thin fat, straight fat, small fat, or otherwise non fat bodies in this ways is fatphobic. Simply put, if we can’t see ourselves as acceptable, we can’t possible see others who are fat as such. I’m working hard to understand this and to unpack my own fatphobia.