I was shopping with my preteen daughter in LuLuLemon. I was tired and not in the best mood but she wanted to show me this jacket she liked, a trim fit, hot pink zip up. The saleslady stood outside the dressing room as she tried it on. She zipped it up and I immediately noticed her slight outward curve in the middle.
She doesn’t look perfect. What do I say to her?
“I think she needs a bigger size.” I told the saleslady.
“Can I come in?” she responded.
The saleslady opens the door and I see an expression of hurt and confusion slide across my daughter’s face.
“No,” the saleslady said to me, “this fits her perfectly everywhere, in the shoulders, arms, length. She definitely does not need a bigger size”
Did I just do it? Did I just do what I always said I would never do? Body shame my daughter?
I remember my good friend on the soccer field referring to her 5 year old as, “The fatty who can’t keep up running with the other girls.”
Or my friend from pilates class who told us, “My daughter came downstairs with an outfit on and I told her, “You look like a whore! Go take that off.”
I’m not going to be that mom. I’m not going to perpetuate the unattainable perfect body image for my daughters. Or shame them with how they dress, or how they look.
I wondered if my friend or pilates’ classmate realized how damaging their words could be. Does a teenager protected her whole life from helicopter parents understand what a whore really means? Is it a 5 year old’s fault what her body looks like?
I don’t get mean moms, I never have. I was lucky. I really can’t remember a time when my mother intentionally said something mean to me. She was not perfect, and I was no saint of a daughter. But to be purposefully mean, to demoralize, deflate, or shame me? No, that was not my mother.
And I won’t either, I promise.
And here I am doing just that to my daughter at a tender young age. Making her feel like the jacket doesn’t fit just because she has a little tummy.
“Do you like it?” I say to my daughter.
“Yes!” she answers.
I try to discreetly give my daughter a quick look up and down without her seeing. And then it hit me. I was projecting my own body shame onto her.
My question to the saleslady came from my self imposed imperfection. I see a thicker waistline as something to be ashamed of, something to hide with looser fitting clothes. A lesson I learned standing in a dressing room at the same age as my daughter. When I realized my apple shaped body was not the 70’s version of the perfect body.
The saleslady’s reaction and answer were spot on. She was giving my daughter the OK to feel good about herself. Something I should have been doing.
“Do you feel comfortable in it?” I asked my daughter.
“It’s a beautiful color and you look adorable in it.” I smiled at her, “Do you love it?” She shyly smiled back and nodded her head.
“So do I, we’ll take it” I said, handing the jacket to the saleslady.