Monday, July 22, 2013

Barbie Syndrome

I don't care what anyone says, no female has immunity to Barbie Syndrome. Even if you've never played with a barbie.  You still covet her long, completely hairless tanned plastic legs,  the way her hair is always perfectly ready for that instagram photo or facebook tag and you know you'd do anything not to have your period and live forever in a 22 year old's body who wouldn't even be able to stand in real life on those tiny little geisha feet of hers.

I knew my two daughters were susceptible.  My youngest daughter had already been teased by her brothers about her baby fat.  Though it's standard sibling squabble material, it's the type that can initiate an eating disorder.  We've talked to all of them about how detrimental this behavior is, hoping that there isn't lasting damage, but knowing that this kind of teasing sticks and follows you around your whole life.  Changing how you think and reducing your self worth to a distorted view of what you see in the mirror.

A few weeks ago, my oldest daughter went to a party with a group of other 12 year old girls.  Everyone seemed to have a good time playing the typical party games that girls do at this age.  Until a week later when I met one of the other moms of another girl at the party.  And she told me one of the other girls at the party was berated for being fat.  I'd known the bully for a few years and even had her over at my house a few times.  I was in shock.  She was always polite with a sweet southern charm.

I found out that night that's what she does in front of parents.  And that she's different behind closed doors, she's ugly on the inside.  When I talked to my daughter about it, she confirmed it was all true.  My daughter had just come to realize that this "friend" wasn't the person she thought she was. But she hadn't shared any of this with me. Unfortunately, since she's starting middle school next month, this is just the beginning of a lifetime of dealing with other girls who want to tear you down in an attempt to feel better about themselves.

Then, we saw that Carl's Junior commercial on tv, she saw Jenny McCarthy very sexily eating a salad and declared, "She looks like a barbie!", with disdain.  Thank god.  She doesn't have full blown Barbie Syndrome.  At least not yet.

A few days later, I went on a date with my husband.  When going out, I put some effort into trying to look good.  So I winged my black eyeliner, put on my orange beaded dangling earrings I love, let my hair down, wore a sexy halter top to show off my shoulders and some heels with my dark wash jeans that temporarily make me 5'10".  It was a lovely evening with balmy breezes on the patio eating great food and listening to live local music, when a family arrived with their daughter.  Who stared at me and then pulled out her camera and started taking pictures of me.  About 25 of them. At first, I pretended not to notice because I didn't know what else to do.

When our eyes met, she told me I was very pretty.  And even though I was gracious, or tried to be gracious, my heart sank.  Because she was African American.  And I've traveled enough to know that sometimes the concept of "pretty" is pretty synonymous with being Caucasian.  Like it often is in Sub-Saharan Africa.  And in Hawaii, where I first heard the term "double eyelid" or that many Asian women  want plastic surgery to have more of a Caucasian looking eye. Or that anyone would long for my pale skin, because all I wanted was olive skin.   I felt guilty and horrible, like I was perpetuating a lie.  Barbie Syndrome.

Finally, I got my opportunity.  A photo opportunity with that little girl, Jatavia.  To tell her and show her how beautiful she is.  Don't seek beauty outside yourself, let the beauty within you out.

And having a little barbie maiming session once in a while can be therapeutic and help ward off 
Barbie Syndrome...

7 comments: said...

Great lesson, there!
And, you don't have to be a Barbie to be beautiful!

BLissed-Out Grandma said...

Good job passing along the message, to your kids and that lovely little girl.

Joy Page Manuel said...

I'm glad that young girl met you, someone who's got beauty inside and out. Great idea on the Barbie maiming session!!! woohoo!

Julie DeNeen said... the photos. Great blog post and I too was swept into the Barbie madness as a young girl!

Sandra said...

I'd totally take pictures of you too, especially if you'd hang on the pole for me. But yes, I do get your point. And that little girl is adorbs (that's cool talk for adorable...I think it's cool talk...)

Rachel said...

I noticed this too when I was in Africa: my girl students there said 'You're so fat' as a compliment, and admired the hair on my legs. And they sometimes used whiteners on their faces. In the US and Europe, whites want to be skinny and tan. People (or women at least) want whatever's hardest for them to have: fat in Africa, skinny in the west, and so on.

Great post!

The Loerzels said...

@ Julie-I always wanted her pool when I was little!
@ Sandra-She was totally adorable and I hope she knows that.
@Rachel-So they meant it like "phat" then...


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