A note to my readers: This post originally appeared here on Girl Body Pride in a much shorter form. I thought the piece finished, hit publish, and walked away satisfied. I recently added some of my words to the Owning Pink site founded by the amazing Lissa Rankin (who happens to write for Girl Body Pride and has a new book coming out soon!) and that’s when I realized there were pieces missing. There were more words to write. I’d like to share them with you. Just one more time.
It is said when the Japanese mend broken objects, they aggrandize the damage by filling the cracks with gold. They believe that when something has suffered damage and has a history it becomes more beautiful.
I look in a mirror, imagining cracks on the surface filled with gold. Maybe then people would be able to see that I’m damaged.
Broken. Messed up. Fat.
Not good enough. Never will be.
So many cracks. So much to fix.
So much to wish away.
A bad example for the daughter I hope grows up to be nothing like me.
My father was a highly functioning alcoholic. He never missed a day of work in the twenty years that he worked two full time jobs to support my mother and five girls. He was never violent or a danger to any of us in any way. Alcohol, for my father, was an escape. I’m the reason he and my mother married right out of high school. My father was an honorable man. Maybe they didn’t truly love each other when they said “I Do” and instead focused on doing what was right, and maybe that grew into 30 years of him forgetting to buy her an anniversary gift because it was his way of finding out what my mother actually wanted.
My mom collapsed when he died in a hospital room full of family because the man who had been her anchor, her world, and the very foundation on which we defined the word “family” was suddenly gone. I didn’t learn until much later that my father told my husband in a private meeting to take care of my mother. He needed to know she would be okay before he could let go.
Alcohol had nothing to do with his death. But it did help him deal with life; I’m old enough to understand that now. My dad loved my mom. But my dad also became a father during his first (and only) year of college, was married at the age of 20, became a father just a few months later, and dropped out of college to get a second job because it was his duty as a man to provide for his family. He got us into our own house, off of welfare, and even managed to provide a few of the extras we all wanted like intrument rentals for school band and tennis rackets for sports.
He also drank every night because he wanted to and not because he had to, gave up beer for Lent and stuck to it, and never went to church on Easter Sunday because he was sleeping off the beer he had started on at midnight because he could. He loved us, but there was so much we never talked about that I’m sure the alchohol helped make less of – like the stress of providing for so many on a limited income or whatever dreams he had willingly walked away from when my mother told him she was pregnant.
“Do as I say and not as I do, kid,” he told me frequently. Most times, it was while he was knocking back a 40 after a hard day at the factory and getting chatty with me. And I listened. I hate beer. Always have.
Instead, I chose food as my drug of choice to cope with my own demons.
Sometimes, and I know this might be taken the wrong way, but sometimes I find myself wishing I hadn’t listened to my father. Maybe alcoholism might have been easier to deal with after recovery. Recovered drunks stay away from bars and skip the liquor aisle at the grocery store and have sponsors and 12 step programs and sometimes they find religion. Recovered complusive eaters and bulimics don’t have the luxury of avoidance. We need to eat to survive. Most of us are women and we tend to do most of the grocery shopping. Unless we are single, we are filling our carts with things we wouldn’t be because our kids and husbands like a candy bar in their cooler for lunch every day or requested cookies for a slumber party with their friends.
On good days, we leave the store just as whole as we felt when we walked in. On the bad days, we leave with an extra bag we have hidden away in the trunk and lose ourselves for just a little while because we are still only pretending to be able to just deal.
So where does that leave our daughters?
I founded a website dedicated to helping women on their own journies to sef-acceptance, self-love, and a love of body. I write about body positive advocacy and why Hollywood sucks and the pressure of being perfect and how “perfect” actually means “photo-shopped”. I write about how many of my good days are ruined not by the food I buy to self sabotage while shopping, but by the magazines and the messages they all shout from their headlines. They tell me that I am not good enough and won’t be until I’ve lost 30 pounds in two weeks and learned 15 new ways to pleasure my man in bed. They tell me that I am long past the allowable time frame society has granted for a woman to lose the baby weight and get back into my pre-pregancy jeans because that’s how they do it in Hollywood and celebrate with skimpy bikinis and headlines like “How Celeb-Mom-of-the-Week got back into Bikini Shape in Six Weeks!”
And I go home inwardly defeated but doing my damdest to pretend for my daughter because That. Is. What. We. Do.
We pretend. We lie and act like we love ourselves and love our bodies in spite of what the scale tells us. We may even hide the scale away in the master bathroom because we don’t want our girls to think that their outlook for each day should be based on if they forgot to pee before they weighed themselves naked that morning. Or maybe we don’t own a scale simply because the number just holds too much power.
I look at my beautiful and confident and spirited little girl and see everything I used to be and wish I had never lost. I look at her and see hope and my reason to keep trying because if I don’t she’ll see right through the bullshit. And that, my friends, is not an option. Every parents is bound to screw their child up in some way and I’ll be damned if she ends up in therapy for food and body image issues. Therapy brought on by anything else I’ve messed up and I’ll still consider myself a parenting success.
All I know is that I don’t want her to have to pretend confidence, self-love, and pride in herself and her actions.
I want her to not understand my struggles.
So I pretend.
Every morning. Every moment my brain slows down enough to think and not do.
If I pretend, she might not notice. She might believe.
So I fill myself with gold.