500 Words: Hey 19


Hey 19, look at you with that luscious body!  Damn, if only you knew how beautiful you were.

I’m sorry you grew up in a household which didn’t teach you about loving yourself.  Which didn’t teach you about self-esteem and confidence.  For being surrounded by the constant talk about needing to go on a diet.  And for the doctors who told you to lose weight without talking about nutrition or healthy eating.  Who threatened to put you on diet pills if you didn’t lose weight.

I’m looking at you and wishing you had just known how wonderful you were.  How you didn’t have to let men touch you if you didn’t want them to, and how sex wasn’t affection.  I’m wishing you knew how powerful you were, how strong your body was.

This is the body which marched with the high school band in parades and half-time shows.  And danced at the discos in its polyester diva clothed glory.

I want you to know all messages you received about needing to diet were bullshit.  Look at you!  How I wish you could have seen your body the way it was, not the trumped up image of being fat which led to buying clothes which were almost always too big, and rarely flattering.  I wish you could have looked in the mirror and seen lovely, beautiful, awesome you; not the fat girl you thought no one loved.

You lived in a household where nobody valued you, and in a society hung up on beauty standards no one could reach.  That part hasn’t changed, but there are women now who push against the idea that we have to shape our bodies to meet expectations.

Feminism was just entering the national conversation.  But you, my awesome 19, were confused and unsettled, there was no way you could have known what any of that meant.  You weren’t allowed to say “no,” or think about what you might really want to do with your life.  You were expected to just go along, and so you did.

Healthy body image wasn’t really a thing then.  Your stupendous 155 pounds were deemed too many, and that was that.  So you yo-yo dieted, along with every other girl in America, believing that you were too fat to be worthy of anything good.

It’s 35 years later as I write this.  Sighing deeply when this picture filtered to the top, I wish I could take you aside and tell you how beautiful and worthy you were.  I wish you could know self-esteem and confidence, believing what you wanted was important and worth pursuing.  I wish I could have taught you how to believe in yourself and ignore the judgmental people around you.

Your parents’ divorce had nothing to do with you.  It really wasn’t your responsibility to provide emotional support for them.  I wish you could have known that.

I wish we could have talked about the importance of owning and wearing good bras.  And better looking glasses.


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