Recently, I was eating lunch with my Mom and Ava; we were enjoying a quiet conversation - then three teen girls sat at the table next to us. They all appeared to be about 14 years old, and in the moments to come, I did not expect the words that came out of their mouths....
The cell phone, of girl #1 rang, and she answered with a, "What do you want?" to her mother. Then came some more blunt/snarly words, and a few whines. After she abruptly hung up, she said, "How much do you weigh?" to friend #2. Her friend said, "I weigh 110 pounds...." Girl #1 came back with "Well, I weigh 95 pounds...." I was sitting there thinking about how ridiculous this moment was as the girls had a 6" height difference, when the third girl cut in and made fun of her "fat" friend (the 5'8", 110 pound one). She told the tall girl to stop eating one meal a day, and she would lose weight....
My Mom and I looked at each other wondering if we should say something as Ava was now listening to the conversation. Before I could ask the girls to consider another topic of conversation so my toddler wouldn't hear damaging words (I would have phrased it differently), they brought the conversation to a close. The "fat" girl said that she eats all of her meals, the 95 pound girl said that she eats only lunch, and the third girl said that she doesn't eat any meals - and then I noticed that she had no food in front of her.
I know that eating disorders have always existed, but I have never personally heard females openly and competitively boasting about theirs. When I was 14, I guessed that a few girls in my class were dealing with food issues, but no one spoke of this. Honestly, I have to wonder how all of the music videos, movies, young celebrities, the Internet, etc. has affected the mentality of girls. When I was a teen we covered up - it was the grunge era - and if anyone exposed skin they were ridiculed. Now, girls from 5-25 years old dress the same. Upper thighs, cleavage, bare arms, and backs are on display and this has become the norm. There must be a great amount of pressure on girls to be the thinnest, prettiest, most experienced, etc.
I really feel that if families eat meals together [and spend more quality time together] then the parents may notice changes in their teens. If a girl is not eating breakfast or dinner then maybe they could pick up on this.... I know that as parents we are stretched in many directions, and we can not give the time to everything in the way we would like to, but we still need to spend the one-to-one time and have the deep conversations with our children. We need to check in more with them.... I really believe that our little girls need us Moms as role models - not the pop/rap singers, chicks in the videos with their breasts hanging out (making out with each other, grinding with the Male/Female lead), or basket case young celebrities who are on their own highway to personal hell. Perhaps if we talk about self-love we can prevent teen girls from participating in sex tapes, sexting, and everything else that they are not mentally or emotionally prepared to handle.
The topic of weight, disorders, attire, and the influence of the media and technology is so vast that I'm not presuming to cover it entirely. I just wanted to get this troubling conversation off of my chest.
I will always be considerate of my words to Ava; I will talk about food being a source of strength/nutrients/energy/growth; I will talk openly about outside influences on self-esteem, and most importantly, I will show her what it means to be a whole and confident woman.