Who’s the Prettiest?

Serena Williams has an amazing ass.

There, I said it. She does. That woman’s body is simply amazing. Muscular yet curvy, incredibly strong, so sculpted. And her ass? I swear you could bounce a quarter off of it. I’m certain that’s the ass Phaedra Parks is referencing in her Donkey Booty workout video. It’s delicious. It just is.

Many years ago I was with a few friends having cocktails and the subject of this particular badonkadonk came up, and my husband – who happens to share my fascination with both its magnitude and its beauty – made it known that he considered it wondrous. Okay, wondrous might not be the exact word, but he didn’t use vulgarity. He also made this comment in earshot of a ‘tween girl, the daughter of my BFF at the time. And when he realized he’d done it, he included her – again, not with vulgarity – in the conversation about how hard she must work to achieve that physique so it didn’t seem like some random, catcall-y comment. I agreed with him, both about the beauty and the work it took to have that body. And after, we were taken to task. Basically it was the opinion of this group that our conversation (or ANY conversation focused on the physical attributes of another woman in a way that communicated ‘attraction’) was inappropriate.

Blink. Blink blink.

For the life of me, I could not understand why discussing the body of a person whose success and fame is built on those muscles and that strength was a horrible thing to do in front of the children. Serena works hard for that ass, and she is obviously proud of it. She’s no shrinking violet. She puts it out there. And here’s me saying day-um, you GO! (I live in the South, you understand, so much of my slang packs extra syllables these days). If I had an ass like that I’d serve drinks on it. Why is it wrong to say it was attractive?

My husband was characterized as someone to “keep away from the daughters” because he’d often vocalize an appreciation for a hot chick beautiful woman. Never mind that he would also speak of a person’s intelligence, or generosity, or ability or skill. His comments about amazing bodies cancelled all that out, making him socially un-acceptable in this group. And my defense of him? Fell on deaf ears. Because I did not yet have a daughter so I didn’t understand. **

It seems that somehow, in our quest to make sure our girls feel valued in ways other than just physical beauty, we are actually robbing them of the opportunity to feel good about that very thing. Just like I think that ‘society’ is softening our boys (someday I’ll tell you about the phone call I got from my son’s teacher), I think that we’re also making our girls feel bad for wanting to play with Barbie and her unrealistic measurements. Especially when our measurements are, uh, realistic.

I think these women decided my husband’s comments were inappropriate not because what he said about Serena was so offensive, but really because of how they felt about their own bodies. I mean, these weren’t ignorant women or bad parents or even the grownup equivalent of mean girls. But they were women with insecurities about things – big things – and really, insecurity is the heart of all the ‘mommy wars.’ It’s what makes this job of being a parent so humbling and scary and hard.

Women are terrible listeners. We hear the words with our ears, but we really listen with our hearts – and our imaginations and our issues. Think about it. You ask your mate “what’s wrong?” They say “nothing”. We hear “I have a lot of things pent up that I’m finding hard to say and I really wish you’d try to drag it out of me.” Or, a husband says “we need to do the dinner dishes” and the wife hears “you are a terrible housekeeper, why can’t you be more like my mother?” and then the argument ensues.

So somebody makes a comment about the body of a famous athlete, and some of the women in the room hear “you don’t look like that. You don’t measure up.” And really, it’s not about how our daughter might hear that statement, it’s about how we hear it.

The truth is that our girls are someday going to be judged on their appearance in some situation somehow, whether it be by a boy, or the ‘popular girls’, or the fit little hardbodies walking into your (my) Zumba Toning class wondering how your (my) size 16 ass is going to lead them in a good workout. Our appearance is the first thing people notice about us. So what is the best way to give our girls the skills and the confidence to cope when it happens? What is the best way to teach them that looks are one part  of their entire package?

It’s funny the ways we protect our children from the words of others, but the ridiculous things we say or do are okay because we’re the mommy, so they come from love. We don’t want them to hear a man commenting on a woman’s body, but we’ll offer them our Spanx to wear to their first dance. We’ll require our kids to participate in a sport every semester, but we’ll be ‘too busy’ or ‘too tired’ or too whatever to find our own time for exercise. We’ll admonish a kid on the playground who calls our daughter chubby, but we’ll make ‘jokes’ about the size of our own thighs or bellies or upper arms.

Part of what I’ll share with you here at Girl Body Pride are my attempts NOT to do that. I don’t want to pass my hangups down to my children. I’d prefer they find their own.

**I do have a daughter now, by the way. She’s almost 5. Her favorite color is pink, and when looks at herself in the mirror and asks out loud “Who’s the prettiest?” I think you know the way she expects you to answer.

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