Yesterday I went to the gym. Yessiree. It had been a while, what with the sick kids and exhaustion that has overtaken my body, but I did it. Charged iPod in hand, I entered the almost forgotten world of treadmills, ellipticals, stairmasters and free weights. I chose my elliptical machine, spent about 20 minutes untangling my earphones (a sure sign of having spent too much time away from the gym), chose my invigorating playlist and started moving to the beat. I usually just watch the mouths move on the muted TV in front of me as I work away, but yesterday, the notorious and addicting show, The Real Housewives of the OC, was on. I’d never seen it, as much as I’d heard about it. I watched for a few minutes in silence having no idea what was going on, and then caved. I had to know. I was full of Wonder. Who/What/Why/When/Where…. I needed to know.
Within minutes, I was hooked. I was annoyed during the commercials, aggravated when my phone rang. And then it all came to a screeching halt when there was a scene that made me want to climb off the machine and cry. I don’t want to go through a whole synopsis of the show (I’m sure there are plenty of other blogs for that) but what I will say is that the Housewives made me stop and think about the ins and outs of parenting girls.
One of the Housewives (Lynne) had a mother/daughter outing to the plastic surgeon with her daughter. The daughter is 16. She’s beautiful. They entered the plastic surgeons office giddy with exciement. Lynne was there for a consultation for a facelift and her daughter for a nose job consult. How cute. What struck me was the way in which Lynne described her daughter’s self image, and her belief that this surgery will solve all of her daughter’s 16 year old problems.
What is debatable here is why she has the self image problem in the first place. Here is this 16 year old stunning girl living in an environment where her mom is OBSESSED with her looks. She works out constantly, dresses provocatively to flaunt the many surgeries she’s had, and has friends gathering in her home daily who also rank looks as their number one priority. Lynne blames Orange County for this way of life. Looks matter there she explains. And if you don’t have the “right” look, you just don’t fit in. (Shit am I glad I don’t live there). Her daughter is paying the price. She is not even being given the chance to feel confident with what she has. I’m not even sure she was given the chance to DISLIKE her nose. She’s been told, by her mom, by her society that she’s not good enough. BUT, there’s an easy fix. Just change what she was given. Everyone else does.
There are examples that I have witnessed in my personal life where a person believes they have such a flaw in their appearance that they won’t allow themselves to “be”. I had a friend whose bump on her nose prevented her from EVER feeling comfortable in her own skin. Was it her parent’s job to continue telling her she is beautiful as she is and “it’s what is on the inside that counts”? Or was it up to her parents to tell her she had an option. A choice to have a surgery and “buy” the nose she’d be happier with. Hand her a new opportunity to believe she is pretty. My friend got the nose job and it honestly did WONDERS for her self esteem. I remember suddenly noticing her smile. I remember her stepping out from the shadows and living a life I guess she was afraid to live. Because of her nose.
I’m not sure what happened behind closed doors with my friend. If she held her moms hand for nights on end, crying that she was sad with how she looked and felt her moms arms wrapped around her telling her she was beautiful. That she was strong and smart and loved by so many friends. I know that’s what I’d do if Hannah came to me one day sad with any part of her existence. I’d try to explain how small this ‘thing’ is in the scheme of life. How her personality and brains are so much loftier. I’d try to figure out what “really” was at the root of her insecurities. I don’t know the extent of my friends conversations or how she ended up deciding to do the quick fix. Did her parents throw their hands up in the air and say, “fine, do what you want?” or did she convince them that really, this fix was all she needed to be happy? In her case, it seemed it was. It got her moving in the right direction. It was the push she needed to see life the way she “should” have been seeing it all along.
I’m pretty sure Lynne’s daughter’s case is quite the contrary. This nose job was most likely at the bottom of a pile of issues she was going to encounter. Issues that were being handed to her by her mom. The one that is supposed to be her biggest supporter and helping her choose the path down which she’ll walk. But as a “support system” are parents supposed to accept and detract attention from their children’s flaws or help them find ways to change them?
I’m not ready to give my answer to this yet. It’s just something I’m thinking about with my 5 year old daughter sleeping down the hall. A daughter who all I can dream of, is having her feel self confident and proud of WHO and WHAT she is. I will do everything in my power to ensure she is. And I’ll do that by stressing what I think is important in this world. And by not letting her see my insecurities I have in myself that probably shouldn’t matter. And that’s what made me want to cry (well not really cry, but maybe scream) on the treadmill yesterday. How unfair for Lynne’s daughter. It’s all she knows… this “don’t like it, then fix it” philosophy. And she’s probably never even going to be given the chance to love herself for anything else. Hopefully she’ll be happy.
At least she’ll have a cute button nose and a mom who looks like her sister to show for it.