My daughter went back to school today to start her senior year of college.
Before we dropped her off at the airport, though, she asked me a question that still haunts me: “Did you ever decide what your most beautiful body part is?”
I know I have to give you some history to put this into context but I’m ashamed to say that my answer, much to her apparent dismay, was a mumbling, stumbling, look-everywhere-except-in-her-eyes, “Uh, no,” followed by an awkward, giggly, high-pitched, trying-to-be-light-and-jokey, “Still thinking.”
Here’s the back story.
A few months ago, I went to Mom 2.0 Summit, a fantastic blogging conference that, this year, was sponsored by Dove. I am a huge Dove fan because of everything they do to empower women and girls, and I don’t care if they’re doing it in order to sell soap. The message they send is so important and I give them a ton of credit.
At the conference, Dove debuted its new campaign, Unstoppable. They showed this video which reveals that 6 out of 10 girls stop doing what they love because they feel bad about their looks. Is there any female who can’t relate to the girl self-consciously pulling up the top of her bathing suit?
They also showed this video, entitled Inner Critic, in which women are asked about their favorite and least favorite body parts. It has stayed with me all these months later.
I came up with a list of my own least favorite body parts without even thinking consciously about it. That was easy.
Then I tried to come up with my most beautiful body part. I’m still trying to come up with it.
I mentored a self-esteem workshop for a group of girls from Girls Inc. of Orange County later that day led by the amazing and inspiring Jess Weiner, Dove’s Global Self-Esteem Ambassador. We talked about the representation of females in the media, the girls’ own body image and how it’s effected by their peers at school, and we created a cover for an imaginary magazine called Positivity – which would improve the world if it actually existed.
This workshop was the highlight of the conference for me.
The girls were full of life-changing ideas and were eager to change the standard of what’s considered popular. They wanted to trade in short shorts and exposed bra straps for sweatpants and no make-up. They wanted to celebrate natural beauty and individuality. They wanted to be accepted for being themselves.
Because who they are is awesome.
I left there on a high, looking forward to great things from these girls.
When I got home, I told Sara all about it. She’s been doing an internship working with adolescent girls for the past year, and this is an issue that means a lot to her.
“What do you think your most beautiful body part is?” I asked her, cutting to the chase.
She rattled off a handful of parts, and I breathed a silent sigh of relief and patted myself on the back.
“What do you think your most beautiful body part is?” she asked me, genuinely curious to see what I thought of myself.
“Well,” I said, hemming and hawing. “I don’t know. I can’t really think of one.”
“What do you mean?” she pushed. “What about your eyes? Your skin? Your legs?
And I went into a litany of why each part was not beautiful or my favorite.
EPIC PARENTING FAIL.
I don’t doubt that Sara knows I’m self-confident and believe I can do anything I put my mind to. She knows I’ve never obsessed about my looks or my clothes, that I’m more concerned with my actions and accomplishments. But maybe, every once in a while, she needs to see me primping in the mirror, grinning and saying, “Damn, I look good!”
I felt terrible the rest of the night but each time I thought about a possible part to go back to her with, there was a long list of why it wasn’t beautiful. Each part was okay – but beautiful? I’m too practical to go there. And, by the way, so are 89% of women, according to Dove.
As days passed, I thought that, for better or worse, that conversation was over.
Until, all these months later, Sara brought it up again.
And I still couldn’t come up with an answer.
I should have just lied. I could have singled out any part at all and it would have been better, even if she looked at me funny and said, “Really?” She may have been surprised but she would have at least felt good knowing that I felt good.
So next time she asks – and, oh, she will – I’m going to wax poetic about the shape of my face, my smooth complexion, the curve of my hips. I’ll tell her how much I love my voluptuous chest, my bootylicious backside, the soft skin around my neck.
And maybe, if I tell her often enough, I’ll start to believe it myself.