I’m on an “away” trip this weeknd, a combination family reunion and 10K race. I signed up for the race first, and the family thing just happened to work out that way. Curiously, it’s also the ninth anniversary of my mother’s passing today, which makes this impromptu gathering that much better, or weirder, depending on poin of view.
I was in the hotel lobby, enjoying a small but decent serving of eggs and potatoes and orange juice, when a band of teenage boys shuffled through. I never had teenagers at home, but grew up with brothers, so I know how they can decimate a breakfast buffet. But these lads merely grazed on fruit, nibbled on hard-cooked egg whites and sipped the smoothies. They didn’t touch the cereal, pastries, waffles and assorted sweet, caloric toppings. Turns out they were members of a high school wrestling team, and they spent their time checking their phones and talking about “making weight,” which is important for that kind of competition.
Listening to their conversation, I am reminded of young people and body image in general. At the pool, which my master’s groups share with high schoolers, I constantly hear the girls put themselves down, denigrating their features, calling themselves fat and pointing out their flaws. Where’s the beauty in that, I wonder? Don’t they know they’re perfect? How does this negative conversation even start? Who starts it? And more important, how do we stop it?
Ending the negativity begins with strong, reaffirming, postive words, early and often. Reminding kids, whether they’re ours or not, that they are loved and valued regardless of size, looks or life choices.
And that includes the grandma at the table next to me, with the adorable little granddaughter, both of them enjoying breakfast together. OK, grandma is in the hotel lobby breakfast area barefoot; maybe not the best look after a certain age (and not the best idea in a public place where food is served). But that’s a story for a different post.