Body Guard

I don’t remember where I got this message from, but it tells you how to talk to your daughter about her body. Basically, the message is — don’t 🙂

I get where this message is coming from. In a culture that worships bodies and will encourage people, especially impressionable young women, to do absolutely anything to attain that perfect body, it makes a lot of sense.

Growing up, we never had any illusions about what a perfect body should look like, or expectations that we were supposed to attain that. Compliments were not thrown around like loose change, you had to really earn them. And most of the time, it was brilliance at something that earned you the respect. Whether it was singing or dancing or maths or studies, if you did something extraordinarily well, you could get a “Bhesh” (pat on the back) at best.

The only physical things that were complimented on, as far as I remember, were colour (as in, Volle colour; meaning good colour, mostly meaning fair), and hair (Udha kudlu; meaning long hair).

I began complimenting people on their physical attributes rather late in life. At the beginning of my career, I remember telling one of my colleagues, a middle-aged woman with thinning hair that she had the most beautiful eyelashes I had ever seen.

Similarly, I love Lil D’s hair and her shoulders. And I don’t hesitate to tell her that. I love her smile too, and love to pinch her cheeks when she smiles. I tell her to take care of her body because it is the only body she will ever have, and it is in her own interest to keep that body in good condition.

So, I’m a bit confused by this message about “Don’t talk to your daughter about her body, except to teach her how it works.” If I like something about her body, why shouldn’t I say it? I can understand that the message is not to focus on the body alone, but surely a more balanced approach can be used rather than studiously not mention the body at all. Isn’t it rather unnatural, swinging all the way to the other side?

For me, balance is the key. If my daughter feels happy playing dress up or wearing make-up, I need not glorify it, but I need not avoid it as a topic altogether. A beautiful body need not be swept under the carpet like a shameful secret. There are so many people who work hard at having a healthy body rather than a beautiful one, and appreciating that is not glorifying the body but the hard work of the person.

So, though I agree with the underlying message, especially given the context I am assuming it is referring to, I find it a bit too much to never mention the body. A thing of beauty is a joy, forever or not.

PS: One of the comments had this insight: As a father and psychologist I can attest to the fact that even casual comments about body size and shape tend to stay with people long after they are fully grown.

PPS: This is really a cheat post. I wrote it on another day but then published another post. Today I’m doing rather poorly, so have just edited it and published it. Since it was written in February itself, I think it can be counted towards the blogathon, right? 🙂

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