‘Mummy?’ enquired my lovely, six and a half year old daughter. ‘Yes sweetheart,’ I murmured distractedly. ‘Am I fat?’ she asks with a concerned voice. This is the kind of thing to not only stop you in your tracks but completely stop your heart too. I turn and look at my beautiful, perfect, innocent daughter and think… how is this fair? At this tender age how can it even have entered her head? I sit her down beside me, take both of her hands in mine and say, ‘it doesn’t matter Gidg, if you are tall, small, fat, thin, yellow, brown, pink, or green. It doesn’t matter what you look like, it is about what kind of person you are inside that counts. You are a caring, considerate (cough, most of the time) little girl who needs to not be thinking about if you are too fat or too thin or too anything. Do you understand me?’ She nods gravely, gives me a hug and then goes off to play with the cats.
And I sit there and think to myself, why did I just lie to her? Of course it matters what you look like, in some cases and in some industries that is ALL that matters. It’s like the lie that mothers tell pregnant women: of course labour doesn’t hurt, it’s just like shelling peas, snicker. We tell lies to each other to be kind and to keep ourselves from having to face the truth. Perhaps I should have told Gidg, ‘actually sweetheart, you need to lose a couple of pounds because it’s been proven that if you look like this skinny minny then you are more likely to get that job, or get that opportunity.’ But I didn’t tell her because perhaps I don’t want to face the truth either. I was brought up to believe that what you said and did were far more important that what you looked like. And perhaps I am getting more and more ostrich like in my dotage as I want to continue to believe that despite all of the current evidence to the contrary.
What is going on with Mary Beard for example? This very well respected Cambridge scholar has been criticised by AA Gill this week for not being all that much to look at, she’s presenting a TV programme about the Romans for crying out loud, surely SURELY in this case what you say is more important than what you look like? Can you imagine Tulisa presenting the same programme? Well she just won ‘Sexiest Woman of the Year’ so I guess we can all prepare ourselves for ‘Tulisa explores Ancient Eqypt’, or some other totally inappropriate combination. But please explain to me why it is not acceptable for a woman with wild hair, and not a scrap of make up to present a tv show, when it is okay for the Hairy Bikers? Why do we all have to be perfect when in fact there is no such thing, and why do we continually try to be so? If there is one thing I want my daughter to grow up knowing and being is that she is kind to herself and to everyone else. Being comfortable in your own body juts got more important in my house.