If my daughter comes into this world with thick thighs and a belly that can’t be chalked up to baby fat and hips wider than all her friends, like I did, then so be it. I will not poison her mind with words like “unfortunately” and “inherited from me”. Her body will be a blessing, a gift, and it will be all her own. I will take ownership for making her but from the day she leaves my womb she will be all herself, whatever she wants to be. I will not tell her, when she notices, as she may, one day that she does not look like the girls on TV, that she is what she eats. “You are beautiful,” I will say, taking her into my own soft arms so she knows that the words come from a woman made of flesh, like her, and not of bone. “And you are real. Never believe what you see on TV, unless the TV is telling you that you are the most precious thing in the universe, built from the dust of stars and with a mind that will change the world. And honey, if the TV is telling you that, question that too, because nobody who runs the TV wants the public to believe that they are incredible. But you are, darling, beautiful and incredible and real.”
She will know from the day she is born that being real is a wonderful thing. But when she makes friends, and some of them look different from her, and they throw away the lunches their mothers made for them with love, with notes written inside marked with ‘xoxo Mom’, and she feels sad and guilty inside but does it too, I will know. I will tell her that I remember what it was like to be with those girls. To look at their curly hair and shiny teeth like sharks in the water and their flat stomachs and to wonder if the lump I felt in my throat was worth more or less calories than the turkey sandwich I just threw away. To feel shame, because we all have - to feel guilty after a meal because my belly is full, to lie awake at night feeling something I cannot name gnawing away at my confidence. I will lay next to her and she will ask me about her body. She will ask me if her tummy has grown or if her face looks rounder. But I will not answer those questions, because no good will come of it. Instead I will tell her if she wants to throw away my notes, that’s fine. What’s not fine, I’ll say, is denying yourself of the good stuff. Of the food of the earth that nourishes her little body - because it is little, no matter what she thinks, we are all little - and makes her strong. I will show her a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and go, look: this will make your muscles strong and your eyes bright. This glass of milk will keep your teeth from rotting away from how sweet your smile is. And even an oatmeal raisin cookie, I’ll say, will remind you of your grandmother’s house, of the good things in life. It will remind you that life is too short to throw away lunches. And she will go to school and eat defiantly in the face of people who want her to feel shame.
She will know from the day she is born that eating does not make her a leper, and that food does not equal guilt. She will know from the day she is born that she is perfect and beautiful, and whether she wants to be 100 pounds or 250, as long as she is healthy and happy, I will celebrate her gift of body with her, and tell her often, “Girl, you look good!”. She will know from the day she is born that when I compliment her appearance it is never condescending, it is never a surprise to me - she is stunning, always, no matter what. She will also know that if she ever turns to me for help, if suddenly her body or her mind turns against her for reasons she may never understand, I will give to her all the help I can and when my supply runs out I will dig the well myself and bring up buckets more. I will call forth all the troops I can to make my baby feel like the pearl of this world that she is again. I will never tell her that she is mistaken, that she does not know her own body or mind; instead I will hold her to me tightly and tell her that I understand, I will cry with her if she needs me to, and I will ask her what she needs. She will know from the day she is born that I am her mother, her best friend, and her ally; that I will go to war for her on a moment’s notice if that is what she needs to be safe and healthy.
I want my daughter to have to ask me what the word “fat” means, because she heard so-and-so say it and it has never been said in our house. And I will tell her that “fat” is a word full of hate, a bad word, a word that should taste bitter in her mouth. And she will ask me why, and I will tell her: “Because ‘fat’ is a word that people use when they see someone who looks different from them, maybe they wear bigger clothing or eat different foods. ‘Fat’ is a word that people use when they can’t understand their own desire for flesh, for people with more flesh to hug them and kiss them with, and how that makes them feel when they look at a gorgeous, full -figured woman or man. ‘Fat’ is a word that is supposed to make people feel badly about themselves, my darling, but those people couldn’t be more mistaken. You see, ‘fat’ is a word that beautiful souls get called by people who can’t see through skin. Never use ‘fat’, honey, because it is a hateful and ignorant word.” And she will be confused. She’ll ask me what to call people who are unhealthily large, who are a danger to their own lives, and I will tell her: “Call them unhealthy, but only because of the way that they eat or their lack of exercise, because that is indeed a dangerous way to live. Call them a doctor, because the loss of human life would be a terrible thing. Call them kind, and pretty or handsome, but never call them fat.” And she may not understand fully, but she will know from the day she is born that all sizes are beautiful, that healthy is more important than skinny, and that while bigger may not always mean better, bigger is still beautiful, and bigger people do not, do not ever, mean bad people.
My daughter will know from the day she is born that she is loved, no matter who she is or what she looks like. My daughter will know from the day she is born that her soul is what mommy and daddy see, not a number on the scale or a dress size. My daughter will know from the day she is born to respect herself and her body, and that any man or woman who doesn’t should hit the road, Jack. I will not put my own insecurities on my daughter. My daughter will learn from being in this world that people are cruel, that society is a fun house mirror, and that the media will try to take from her the confidence that makes her so brave, so beautiful. But she will also learn, from me, that people should be loved, that society is not always right, and that the media should take a long walk off a short pier. My daughter will be a body warrior, she will know from the day she is born that her body is hers, and hers alone, and that she should defend her right to keep it that way for as long as people keep brandishing pictures of supermodels and ‘ideal housewives’ at her.
My daughter will know from the day she is born that she is the most marvelous being in the world to me, and that her body is hers, to love, period.