As children, we observe and learn our parents' beliefs about bodies
through their behaviors. Handed down from generation to the next generation, like alcoholism, we teach our children our body beliefs and how to adapt to them.
Many of these beliefs have come out of love, few are born out of hate, and most are handed down for protection. Many of these beliefs we have not even questioned ourselves. We have simply absorbed them.
As parents, we fear that our children will suffer if they do not look a certain way, that they will become ill, or bullied for their bodies, perhaps even as we once were. This drives us to enforce body and food laws in our home in the name of protection.
The Abdalahad’s backyard was ripe with celebration and relief. Their twenty-five-year-old daughter was finally getting married. Our neighbor’s trans-generational traditions built a thick, pungent wall between their house and ours every Sunday. Their split concrete pavement was transformed into a stage, splashed with frangipani flowers—purple and scented like love.
A wedding, a Lebanese one, was about to be celebrated, and I had the best seat in the house, right outside my lounge room, beyond the sliding doors of Belfield. With a little push of the tips of my toes and a crane of my neck to the right—just so, I could align my eyes vertically, straight through the crack in the wooden fence just enough to pretend that I too was a guest.
With a stiff neck and what felt like forever, the bride and groom were finally arriving. Big hair, draped heavily in a white bouffant silk gown, the bride entered the neighbor’s backyard. I imagined myself a bride entering the backyard with my prince charming. Sweetness and tingling oozed through me like chocolate syrup.
"I can't wait to get married." I dared to play within the delicious fantasy. "Fat ladies shouldn't be brides," Dad's words broke through my fantasy, slapping me with such a sting that startled me right back to reality.
That was that. He taught me. Don’t be fat. Love is only offered to those who are thin.
Before you think about “boo-ing” my dad (forgive me, I’m a little sensitive about it), I am certain that he has no memory of his off-the-cuff remark or that it penetrated so deep into my soul. In fact, due to his large size, I think he believed (he was taught) that he was hardly listened to at all.
This blog is about empowering us to all examine our own body beliefs
and to ask ourselves if this is a world that we want our children to live in. It’s about learning that words matter and that we can make a difference in selecting them carefully.
I want my words to help create a world where all body types are welcome
, where listening to our bodies will set us free from the high expectations of our culture. My dad taught me to question what I have been told, by him, by other family members and by the messages about bodies that bombard us daily. Today, I am changing the story around bodies for myself, my children and the next generations to come.
What beliefs do you want to pass on to your children?
Robyn Cruze, MA is National Recovery Advocate and the online community manager for Eating Recovery Center.