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I'm the mother of four children who hopes to raise them to be productive, compassionate, humble citizens of our planet...who will also use their turn signals.

Tuesday, October 01, 2013

They called it frightening, I called it enlightening

Having a teenaged daughter means I get a front row seat to a lot of really wonderful things.   But along with the good things, come the realities of being a kid today.   And at the risk of sounding like Aunt Bea from Mayberry, bless their hearts.  Some of it makes me real sad.

I remembering being in the car with friends, one of our parents driving us somewhere and, as each girl would pile in, we'd talk nonstop, laugh hard, and sing loud.   Now as the driver, I grit my teeth as I hear  my daughter repeating the same question to her friend three times, while said friend has her head stuck in her phone.  If I wasn't a subscriber to the Zen Habits email, I'd swing my arm over the seat and start swatting, hoping to knock the phone from her clutches.  Hello!  Remember us?  We're ACTUAL PEOPLE!  Three-dimensional, animated beings!  We breathe!  We speak!  We pull cars over and make rude little brats walk!  

And what are they doing on their phones?  Well, there's texting, of course.  But then there's the NONSTOP checking of Vine, SnapChat, Instagram, Tumblr, and Twitter.  (Note that I didn't mention Facebook.  That's because, to this generation, Facebook has become a place for people who discuss politics, grandchildren, medical illnesses, and bus trips.)  I think that's what is different between growing up in 2013 versus growing up in the 19 (cough) 80s.  Yes, we had MTV, Seventeen magazine and Brooke Shields in her Calvins, but it wasn't incessant.  It wasn't ALWAYS in our face. 

The stories of what models do to be so scary-skinny have been around for awhile, but the latest revelation of models eating Kleenex to feel full is a new all-time low.  How does one even come up with that idea?   I mean, did one model have a cocktail party and serve up  neatly folded Kleenex skewered on toothpicks?   I can hear it now, "Oh, Sasha, you have GOT to try the Puffs Plus with Lotion.  THEY. ARE. DIVINE."  The only positive about this ritual (and clearly, I've given this way too much thought) is that it allows you to poop and wipe at the same time.

Sure, we had our "designer jeans" and Bermuda bags (with covers), add-a-bead necklackes and Polo shirts, but it just didn't seem as intense.  Or maybe I just didn't care?  (That's entirely possible.)  But now, not only do you have to be stylin' from head to toe, you've gotta bring your A-game when it comes to undergarments, too.  While girls today are sporting the newest thong from Victoria's Secret, my biggest worry in the swimming locker room was trying to put on my underwear without letting them touch the slimy floor.  (Ew.  Just typing that gave me the shivers.)

Add to it the pressure to be ready for your close up every single minute of your life.  Remember how we had an entire year to prepare to get our picture taken?   The friendly folks from Life Touch rolled up to school with their sponge-painted background and case of free black combs to capture us in our pubertal glory.  For double-the-fun, they had that run of "Reflection" shots.  Because we all know that if your braces and breakouts look good from the front, they are gonna be SLAMMIN' in the right lighting, from the side.   If you were like me, the picture usually sucked, but you drew a mustache on yourself in the yearbook and life went on.  You had no way of knowing if people "liked" your pic.  If someone drew a wart on your nose in their yearbook, you were none the wiser.  You didn't have to go back and read 325 comments from people, critiquing your look.  

So in an effort to inject a little bit of reason into the SHEER INSANITY of today's image machine, I decided to take action.  I shared with Olivia and Maddy a YouTube video from one of my favorite shows, BBC's "What Not To Wear."  Because this is the British version, they have no problem throwing around the terms "tits and ass" and showing women in various states of undress.  Oh, those cheeky Brits.  

In this episode, they were on a mission to get the women of the U.K. to wear a properly fitted bra.   While it may sound like a snorefest, what I found so gloriously refreshing was that the woman featured was 100 percent REAL.  She wasn't a 20-something, pushed up, silicone-enhanced, fan-a-blowin-through-her-extensions, Botoxed, spray tanned, 83 pound Abercrombie model.  She was what 98% of the women on this planet look like.  (While I've totally made up that figure, I think if I did a few years of research, I could totally back it up.)

So as the video progressed and the woman lifted up her arms and took off her shirt, this is the commentary that went on in my family room: 

Olivia:   Oh, no.
Maddy:  Oh, my gosh.  What the --
Olivia:   Oh, no, no, no, no, no.
Maddy:  I can't look.
Olivia:   Turn it off, Mom.  Seriously. 
Maddy:  I'm really scared.
Olivia:   Why do they look like THAT? 
Maddy:  This is SO wrong.  
Olivia:   No, really.  Why do they look like THAT?

Even with their heads buried their hands, peeking out between their fingers, victory was mine!   I was able to undo the damage caused by watching the last two seasons of "The Kardashians" with one click of the mouse.  

Don't get me wrong, I am not about tossing our razors and burning our bras.  We all want to be healthy and look and feel our best.  But this unrelenting focus on physical perfection is nuts.  And although I probably won't be ambushing the young ladies in my life with any more images of gravity-affected, middle-aged breasts, I will keep reminding them that the truly beautiful people aren't always displaying chiseled cheeks and six-pack abs.  It's those compassionate souls that draw you in with their sense of humor, their wisdom, their generosity and their kindness.  How about we start seeing some hashtags like that?

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