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» Scarleteen Boards: 2000 - 2014 (Archive) » SCARLETEEN CENTRAL » Parents, Adults and Teens » The Body Image Generation Gap

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Author Topic: The Body Image Generation Gap
Heather
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Sometimes, I confess, it can be a little weird, and even a little difficult, to answer to some of the body issues here because of a generational gap.

For instance, it can be hard for me to commiserate with getting upset about a stretch mark, or breast growth or body size when given my age, most of those things are non-issues at this point because in order to keep loving my body I had to accept that 1) gravity may not be my friend, but she plans on sticking around regardless and 2) once you hit a certain age, certain things about your body are just a give. You WILL get stretch marks. You WILL get wrinkles. Your breasts WILL not be as perky as they once were. Getting older on some level is a bit like a major nudge telling you you either have to learn to love your body or know you'll only loathe it more as you grow if you don't.

Too, I think that right now younger women have a lot less support for loving their bodies as they are, but in the same vein, it;s something all ages struggle with because part of that non-support glorifies a perfect, youthful body and cuts down everything else. Too, it's a whole lot harder to obsess about your body when you;re obsessing about your taxes, your rent, your job, your children, etc. And not having to have big-time responsibilities to worry about may actually contribute to negative body image.

So, hey: young people, older people -- how do we address both our issues in such a way that is neither dismissive nor insulting of one generation or another? And how can we help each other given our varied experiences and ages?

In other words, how do we create an atmosphere in which we ALL can love and honor our bodies, regardless of size, shape or age?

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Heather Corinna
Editor and Founder, Scarleteen

"If you're a bird, be an early early bird --
But if you're a worm, sleep late." - Shel Silverstein


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glitter695
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For real? Im going to be blunt....and Im never like this, but I dont think there will ever be a time where people are happy with there bodys, or that there will be a time where people will honor other peoples size or shape.

Most people if they see an over weight person they get disgusted, and I agree its rude and I would never do that, but we cant do anything about it. I think they do it because they dont want to end up like that.

Maybe if they stop showing that perfect bodies has to be toothpick thin, then maybe things will change, but until then society is going to remain the same. People think that you have to have the perfect body to be liked.

I admit, right now Im not happy with my body at all, I see that I have luv handles and that bothers the crap out of me, I want to have a nice body. The reason is, is that I dont want to get really big and get made fun of by other people, that might be a lame excuse but, thats why. I would love to do something to help change the way people act to people who look or sound different, and if there is a plan I am willing to do it. People have to learn, but until then nothing is going to change.

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*~*~12/3/99*~*
*~*~*~I LOVE YOU BOB FOREVER AND ALWAYS*~*~*~

"Advice is what we ask for when we already know the answer, but wish we didn't" -Erica Jong<~~~no thats not me :)

*~*Scarleteen Advocate*~*


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Heather
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This level of negative body image is actually a relatively new phenomenon.

So, it isn't an age-old problem, certainly not at this level of widespread negativity. That's really only come about in the last 100 years.


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bettie
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here a few of my thoughts on the matter. I am sorry if they are disjointed but it was the best way to express them.

I am 30. Just turned 30 two months ago. I've got the stretch marks (had them for some 15 years), the wrinkles (a new addition), the bags under the eyes (all my life) and I am sure I have other things that make other people freak out when they notice it on themselves. Reading about someone younger than myself freak about their signs of aging (or as I see it, of living) when a big chunk of the population and whole bunch of ST readers have them "en masse" can feel insulting. Do they consider me to be soooo gross since I have three times the stretch marks they have? That crosses my mind.

***

My "flaws" don't bother me as long as I am eating well, exercising regularly and getting some decent amount of sleep. They are signs that I am alive. I smile, I bend, I stretch, I frown. You get the picture.

***

Magazines aimed at people my age and in my income bracket have photos of 14-18 year olds. Their undernourished bodies are used to sell lotions and potions to me. This generational judgement, for me, is the worst of all. It is a lie.

***

I don't think I can change the big forms of media out there. What I find helps give me perspective is that I surround myself with people of different ages and sizes, different ethnicities, different styles. I have developed a larger picture in my head of beauty that allows for change and growth.

A good place to start is to go to your local YMCA or what have you. There I got to see the human body up close and nude. All sizes, colours and stages of life. Based on the human spirit that emerged from these individuals, I was better able to accept my body as it changes as well not pass judgment on the bodies of others, either in a passive way or in an explicit way.


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Louise Lalonde
-Scarleteen Sexpert & Volunteer du Jour

"Glad to have a friend like you,
And glad to just be me"
-Carol Hall


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Bobolink
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Things have changed on this planet in the last 100 years. We now have a class wealthy enough to be concerned about how they appear to each other. 100 years ago, 99% of the world's population was concerned about whether or not they would get to eat that day. Now perhaps only 80% of the world's population has that problem.

The thing is that beauty standards change over the centuries. Look at the ancient Greek staues of women: small breasts, large hips. Remember that this was the IDEAL.

Look at the painings of Reubens or Fragonard in western European culture. Heck, if you're old enough, look at your Dad's collection of 1950's Playboys.

We all idealise physical beauty but we must remember that ideals are not reality. When was the last time you saw a boy that looked like Fabio? How many guys have washboard abdomens? Did you know guys are now getting implants for those?

There is nothing wrong with keeping a body healthy and in good muscle tone. But remember, I believe the World Trade Organization has ruled that there may only be 4 supermodels in the world at any one time.

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"A free society is a place where it's safe to be unpopular."

- Adlai Stevenson


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towel42
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Bobolink made a point I was going to point out, about art. Look at the nude form in art through the centuries. That really dictates what the standards of beauty are. You all should visit this website, Elfwood (www.elfwood.com). It's a fantasy art gallery, for amateur artists. There is so much varied art on there, you can really get a good idea of how different people measure beauty and body image. As far as me, myself, and I, I honestly do look like the women in the Pre-Raphaelite paintings. (I actually look identical to the woman in "Lady of Shalott" by John William Waterhouse, its uncanny.) Back then, I would have been considered beautiful, but now I'm a little bit chubby, and could stand to lose 10 pounds. Sucks, doesn't it?

I'm well aware that my self esteem and body image could be better. I know intellectually that I shouldn't worry about this or that, a little flab, a stretch mark or two, but I can't help it. It is conditioned into girls from a young age that women should be slender and beautiful and perfect and flawless. I really don't think there is anything we can do, except shout out loud to people that need to hear it, that their beauty can't be measured by society. Only YOU can decide if you're beautiful, by believing that you are.

If only I could get myself to do that...

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...an angel who didn't so much fall as saunter vaguely downward...


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Eclipse
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Well said, Bobolink...! Are there really 20% of us?

Anyway, yeah, body image problems as we know them are pretty darn new. I've read several different places (psych and anthro texts, feminist writings..) that eating disorders like anorexia and bulemia aren't really found in 'aboriginal' cultures... is this still considered true? We can blame the media, sprawl/loss of community, lack of control over our own lives, and many other things for it, so I suppose the short answer is that it's another symptom of our civilization.

On the other hand, don't all human cultures have standards of physical beauty? And nearly all practice body decoration and body modification, sometimes to an *extreme*. So I think that part of it just comes with having the social and symbolic nature that we humans do.

Short term advice? Spend some time at a nudist coloney. Or for an even quicker fix, visit the Century Project webpage (I gave a link in the Sexual Literacy forum a while ago)...


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Ron
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Interesting discussion folks. I've been reading people who say that we don't have one body image but many, maybe thousands. We develop an image of ourselves in interactions with other bodies and body images, there is akind of dialogue among body images going on everytime we are with other people or even think about them.

This makes be think that negative images projected from magazines or other media maybe aren't that important and that the best way to feel better about yourself is to do positive things with your body and other bodies (we talk about some of those things around here from time to time) In other words for a positive body image, do positive bodily things with other people.

By the way, just picking a nit, but 'generation' is different from 'age' You age but you are always of the same generation, if you see what I mean.


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Heather
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I think too, though, that it is important that we recognize how much we might PROPEGATE this sort of negativity.

In other words, when someone comes here and says "Ick, I'm fat!" that is going to make anyone who reads it (especially someone whoo *is* fat) get the impression that their bodies are icky, or that there is something wrong. When there are posts after posts about a quest for thinness, or washboard abs, or perfect skin, etc., that sends a very strong and fairly negative message -- with no media involved, among yourselves -- to anyone reading it, who might think , "Hey, my stomach is a little rounded, but Maybe that isn't as okay as I thought it was after all?"

------------------
Heather Corinna
Editor and Founder, Scarleteen

"If you're a bird, be an early early bird --
But if you're a worm, sleep late." - Shel Silverstein


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Celtic Daisy
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I have to say this. I am 15 years old, female, and up until grade 9(2 years ago)i felt like i had to look and dress perfect too. Somewhere along the way, that thought just left me. I think it's all in your state of mind. I'm fine with my body, my mind, my look. I don't worry about being popular and for the most part i try not to worry about my looks.

True, there are times when i think"i would love to be skinnier", but then i ask myself why?

I have stretch marks, i have fat, i'm not perfect, but i can accept that and love that!

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"A six foot tall anorexic bimbo,with plastic breasts is making me feel weird about my own body."
-Miss Bif Naked


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Ron
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Interesting observation MizS. Indeed the way we talk about our bodies on Scarleteen is definitely part of the body image dialogue!

Celtic Daisy, I have it from very secret and highly reliable sources that your are in fact stunningly beautiful...so don't let on!


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Beppie
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The impression that I got when I was in high school (and this may well be unique to me and my neutrotic group of 'friends') was that if you had a positive body image you were "stuck up", and ostracized. Of course this is utterly ridiculous, but that was how it was. It was only acceptable to say nice things about other people, but with regards to yourself, you always had to be derogatory- you let other people compliment you.

I cannot stress how utterly harmful this system was to all of us, and how much self loathing it caused among all members of the group- and resentment towards each other too (you know the old saying- you can't love other people unless you love yourself first).

But I was wondering- can it be because in a social context people are discouraged from saying good things about themselves?


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LisaNH
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quote:
Originally posted by Miz Scarlet:
In other words, how do we create an atmosphere in which we ALL can love and honor our bodies, regardless of size, shape or age?

Figure that out and then sell it! I'm 35 and feel like I'm going through my teen years again, because I've recently 80 pounds or so. So I'm experimenting with clothes, wearing colors, tight jeans.

I have a teenage daughter (almost 14) and we recently went shopping for a prom dress. She wanted a dress that was unique, and bought the tightest slinkiest thing around, and laughed that she's lucky to be skinny -- no one else would have that dress because you have to be bone-thin to be able to wear it.

I get the impression that there's some more awareness in her crowd that bodies come in lots of different flavors, shapes and sizes ... her group of friends is all up and down the scale, and they all seem pretty accepting of each other. Maybe there's something about going to an all-girls school that helps?

Lisa


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Lillith
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Try this one: next time you're feeling down in the dumps about how you think you look...take a walk towards the nearest museum- or go to the library and take out an art history book- browse awhile, and soon you will begin to appreciate how our definitions of "beauty" vary greatly depending on the time. Soon, like me, you might be able to take on an attitude: "hey my body was in style for 2,000 years, too bad it went out the week I was born!"

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~~~~I used to be schizophrenic...but now we are fine~~~~


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Ella
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That's a great quote Lillith! It's true too, every body type has been "in style" at one point or another. In the end it doesn't really matter about style, it matters about what an individual likes and liking yourself. I think sometimes it's hard to realise that even if popular culture says that one thing is beautiful not everyone identifies with that as the ideal beauty. What I'm trying to say in a confused way is that everyone has their own image of what is beautiful and a lot is very different from what is seen through the media.
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Lisa D
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Typically, I find that women tend to be much harder on both themselves, and other women, about body shape/size/fitness level than most men are. A generalization, to be sure, but one i find that holds up in many of the groups in which I interact.

I've always been an average sized gal - at my thinnest, a small size 10, and at my largest, a 12 or 14. I exercise, eat healthy, and generally feel pretty darn good about my body. Because of the way I'm put together, even a sensible diet of cigarettes, altoids and heroin would never yield hips smaller than 36" - I'm all about the eastern european curves. For the most part, the men i know admit to liking all sorts of women; slender, curvy, big busted, small busted, wide-hipped, etc - you name it. However, the women I know are VERY critical when a friend or aquaintence puts on a few extra pounds. They notice it right away, and many can't help making a snide comment or two.

In your experience, do you notice a "gender gap" when it comes to tolerance of different body shapes?


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Rizzo
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Yes and no. I think women are definitely more observant when it comes to appearances, because we've been conditioned (moreso than men) to think they matter. A lot. So when a friend of mine gets a pimple, or puts on weight, or shaves her arms-- whatever, I notice. But I don't think I'm one to make snide comments about it.

I think women can be just as harsh as men when it comes to expecting women to be physically perfect. But not more... for example, I've heard pretty mean comments about my underarm hair from both sexes.

In my experience, girls are more on the lookout for flaws in other girls, but if a boy notices, he'll be just as rude about it. Of course, it really depends on the people, and I'm totally generalizing.


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momma cat
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I really don't think older people need to be that concerned when younger ones get upset about having body features that are common in the older set. It doesn't mean you guys are unatractive, it's just different. I expect to see crow's feet and graying hair on 50 year old and I think graying hair can look really good in a sophisticated way, and wrinkles hopefully show where the smiles have been. That would look strange on a 14 year old...

Most people want to be like their peers. And if the rest of your buddies don't have stretch marks (as far as you know) one might not feel so great about them. But I don't feel bad about putting on 10 lbs since Christmas because most of my peers are putting on a little weight too, whereas I would feel kinda icky if everyone else looked like marathon runners.

I think when people complain about appearance issues they're not saying 'anybody who has some sagging is icky' they're probably saying 'that'll be find when I'm older, but I feel unusual experiencing this at the young age of 14". Or atleast that's my viewpoint. I'm gonna go salt and pepper and be darn proud of it when I'm older, but it would upset me if I went grey at 25. Well, then again I'm pretty sick of being mistaken for younger than my actual age...


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Heather
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quote:
Originally posted by momma cat:
I expect to see crow's feet and graying hair on 50 year old and I think graying hair can look really good in a sophisticated way, and wrinkles hopefully show where the smiles have been. That would look strange on a 14 year old...

I'm gonna go salt and pepper and be darn proud of it when I'm older, but it would upset me if I went grey at 25.


But even those sorts of statements and expectations are not really accurate all of the time.

For insatnce, my father's side of the family is Northern Italian, and at 31, I am the ELDEST member in a long time who wasn't completely grey at this point. My grandmother was entirely white at 19, my father mostly so by 25.

And since wrinkles, stretch marks and the like really aren't about age-in-years, but about skin texture and genetic makeup, and about skin wear-and-tear and stress, again, age really isn't a reliable indicator.

Yes, people under 20 can go grey, can get wrinkles, etc. No, it isn't abnormal, nor should that be upsetting, unless one assumes there is something unattractive or wrong with white hair or wrinkles.

------------------
Heather Corinna
Editor and Founder, Scarleteen

My epitaph should read: "She worked herself into this ground."
-- Kay Bailey Hutchinson


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Aquamarine
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When I try on clothes, my friends often sigh about my "luck." And I find that bothers me a little, because my body is not an example of luckiness. My dimensions are healthy for me; if I were meant to be twenty pounds heavier, then I would be twenty pounds heavier--and twenty times less complimented. I see beautiful girls that go through high school without the least self-confidence in their appearance because they don't seem to accord with the unspoken creed of "thin equals beautiful." I see girls--and guys--displaying various degrees of disordered eating en masse. It's all too easy to understand why teenagers have eating disorders when you hear two students in the hallway loudly conversing on how overweight Britney Spears is.

And so I don't feel the least bit comfortable with my body even though it is considered an "ideal" one--tall and thin. This question bothers me: why should my figure be ideal? Why can't every healthy body be thought of as beautiful? As Miz S reminded us, men and women today have to deal with much more pressure in the area of body image than they ever had to in the past. I hope, of course, that the nearly irrational standards of physical beauty are done away with in this country as well as others. In the meantime, I'll be thinking of ways to promote healthier bodies and happier people.


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Kiwipunch9
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It's probably all a vicious cycle... The thin people look down apon the overweight ones. Then the overweight ones become thin and look down on the others. Dont you wish the time would come back when being a little chubby was a sign of wealth and happiness?? Some people should be glad they're not starving to death.
I can be honest though, the image put forth in society has impacted me, and most of my friends. Sometimes I look in the mirror and suck in my stomach a little, even though i shouldnt. Also, When I'm around my friends, they complain about how fat they are, when they're just as thin as me. I dont understand it. I am just out of shape..
Nothing will be fixed until everyone... including the media, helps change that. Pop culture... *sigh*

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"There's an old joke, I just made up. How many of me would it take to screw up your life?" --Ben Folds, Kalamazoo


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Zae~Zae
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Well,here at scarleteen the Gap isn't so bad because we have Sexperts, Advocates, and Mentors of different ages and backgrounds. That helps. If one person is too old to relate to you exactly, you have other people to answer your question. The older people can also give some insight because they could have gone through something similar. Everyone has probably thought, at one time or another, that they were either too fat, too skinny, too light, too dark, too short, thought that they're breast were too big or small, thought that booty was too big or small or whatever. Everyone dislikes something about their self. That would make a good topic! I'll start it.
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Bobolink
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<bump>
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wobblyheadedjane
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(Hey Karl, as a rule, advocates are the ones who bump topics in order to let other users see that they're there and comment on them. So if you have something to add to the topic, great! Otherwise, leave the bumping to the advos, okay?)
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KrAzY_KaRl
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Hey! dont get "agro" on me, I didnt know that, I thought he was just messing around or something. :-(

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"Quickly we have to get to those oilfields.. I mean Terrorists!"


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logic_grrl
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Nobody's getting "agro" with you.

But you might want to check out these handy sections full of information about the way things work here, and what sort of posting we do and don't encourage:

New to Scarleteen?
board etiquette


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playbunny
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to be honest i dont think anybody likes their own body for instance i hate mine i want to change at least five things about me e.g my belly my legs my breasts my eyes and my height people say to you that you have a lovely figure but thats because they dont want to hurt you.

but like people say if others dont like you for who you are and what you look like then they can get lost

holla back


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AHelpfulOlderLady
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I'm 5'2", so what do most people think my ideal weight should be? (rhetorical question, no answer needed) I've had many people people tell me that I should be 100-105Lbs, then look at me in shock when I say I weigh more. The doctor says between 113-128Lbs is healthy. I lost a lot of weight after my current pregnancy, so now I weigh 123, and I feel like a twig: I would rather be 15Lbs overweight & have breasts, hips and butt. I'm 27, though, so this is not how I felt most of my life. Most of the time, as a teenager, I was obsessed with being skinnier, without losing the fat in my breasts. My peers pushed it into my head, and my sisters pushed it into my head, and magazines pushed it into my head, even my mother (chronically overweight) pushed it into my head. This is just the issue of weight.

When it comes to everything else, it was worse. I'm pale and have excema (extremely dry skin), so I started getting wrinkles very early. I had a classmate point out loudly to the class one day how OLD my hands looked, since they had more lines than hers (smooth hands, never had to wash a dish in her life). My mother, who was 33 when she had me, so no spring chicken when I was a teenager, was absolutely obsessed with getting rid of her wrinkles, plastering on the makeup to hide the fine lines, dying her hair the second the gray started to grow back into it. I had a very bad relationship with her to begin with, so perhaps the fact that I wanted to be the polar opposite of her helped me distance myself from that attitude.

Maybe the gap is not generational? Maybe our parents, all the parents--those in my age set, those older and those in the teen set--are responsible for this attitude? It's been growing since the mid-60's, I think: almost every man & woman since then has impressed, or tried to impress on their children the importance of remaining young looking, since it's what mass media taught them.

I personally hope to teach my sons that age, and all the signs of it, is a badge of honor, to be worn with pride. You were smart enough (or lucky enough, as the case may be) not to get yourself killed before your hair went gray, relish in it!


Posts: 6 | From: Cedar Rapids, IA USA | Registered: Feb 2005  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
   

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