“Can you believe how ugly she is?”
“What is she thinking by wearing her hair like that? Gross.”
“I know. Did you see her shoes? Seriously. How horrible! With toes like that she should cover them up. Ugh.”
So it goes.
For over an hour.
I usually move when these two mothers sit next to me, but today the karate studio was full. I could have gone to my car, but my daughter likes to be able to see me.
I tried hard to read my book or focus on watching the class, but they are literally inches away from me and they are loud. They flip the pages of a fashion magazine and make fun of every person they see. They gossip and laugh it up.
I seriously forget sometimes that people are like this.
When our daughters come out of karate together the moms continue as my girl puts her shoes on. I try to talk over their voices so she won’t notice them, but it’s impossible.
“Can you believe the gall of that woman to wear eyeliner like that? Who does she think she is!” one wails so loudly my daughter can’t help but look at the picture. I look too.
For a second I think, “She’s right. That looks ridiculous.”
Then I snap back to reality and swoop my girl out of there.
At the car my daughter says, “Why were those moms saying that stuff?”
Using a Waldorf teaching method I say back, “I wonder about that too.”
She doesn’t say anything else.
When I get home it’s dinnertime, teeth-brushing, reading and cuddles. I lose myself in the routine, but in the back of my mind a question keeps repeating itself.
I was feeling anger and disgust at those mothers. My sitting there and judging in anger these women…is that equal to them sitting there judging the models and celebrities in the magazine?
Once the kids are asleep, I put that question to my husband.
He said these women are obviously jealous and that by breaking down and scrutinizing the tiny flaws they find, it makes them feel better about themselves.
“Maybe,” I say. “But I was getting angry at these women and making all kinds of internal judgments about how mean and catty they are. Aren’t I just as bad?”
He didn’t really answer that.
I don’t know either.
These women, like many, were making fun of celebrities. It seems to be a favorite pastime of them, and I am sure they are not alone.
I was very angry with them.
But maybe that is misplaced.
They are trying to find comfort in breaking down these images that society says are “perfect.” Maybe I should be angry with that.
There is a million ways in which women, and our girls, are targeted and told we are not good enough. Maybe these moms are using this as a way of coping. This is the way they fight back. They poke fun at the very things that they are supposed to covet.
But they are also teaching their daughters that a woman’s body is something to scrutinize and poke fun at. That clothes, shoes, makeup, jewelry…all of that has some connection to how a person should be judged.
Ugh. I hate all that.
I want my daughter to grow up feeling confident. She should not NEED to put others down to feel good about herself. Her worth should be so grounded that nothing can shake it.
I have no idea how to do that.
I purposely don’t put myself down in front of her. I commend her for actions and try not to say she is “so beautiful” all the time. I never call her princess and try to read her stories about strong women. We talk about virtues and what makes someone a good friend.
I don’t know if it’s enough.
As she gets older I know that it will be harder and harder. I cannot wrap her up and protect her. She will hate her body at some point and that makes me angry and sad.
But I will fight.
I will continue to talk to her and, even more importantly, listen. I will praise her strength and confidence and continue to teach her how to be kind to those around her.
I will fight this battle forever because she is worth it.
And if I’m ever stuck next to those moms in karate again, I’ll just go sit in my car.