For the last couple of days I’ve been talking about weight issues. For once, however, it isn’t my weight I’m talking about, but the weight issue of a 7-year-old girl named Bea, who is at the center of a multi-faceted controversy, the likes of which hasn’t been seen since Suri Cruise wore high heels.
In case you’ve been in spin class for the last five days, let me recap:
New York City mother Dara-Lynn Weiss put her daughter Bea on a diet and wrote about it for Vogue magazine. The child lost 16 pounds over the course of a year, and went from ‘obese’ to normal. At first, during discussions with friends, it was hard to tell what outraged people, the fact that she put a child on a diet or that she wrote about it.
What people didn’t talk about, outside of the accompanying and de riguer tsk tsk, was the fact that what Weiss was doing, was being a parent. It’s always a crappy, under-appreciated job, it’s hard to do well, and even when near-perfection in child-rearing has been achieved, you’ll get blamed for everything bad.
There are 70-year-old men out there who are still blaming their mothers for their relationship problems. Trust me, I know.
Weiss, who cruelly, evilly, gave her child the best possible start in life, was playing the hardest card in the Mom deck: the No card.
(Well, you just go ahead stick your tongue out at me, but your face will freeze like that).
“But she has the rest of her life to be on a diet,” one of my friends said. “She’s just a little kid.”
All that was missing from the conversation was a well-seasoned, “They grow up so fast.” Yes. Yes they do. Sometimes you have to.
One of the secret, half-whispered concerns were that Weiss didn’t make her daughter lose weight for health reasons, that she didn’t put her overweight daughter on a diet because 80 percent of overweight adolescents are obese at 25, and that 25-year-olds are at great risk of developing high blood pressure, heart disease and Type 2 diabetes, not to mention a lifetime of joint problems and high cholesterol. What people were worried about was that she did it so her daughter would be “pretty.”
(Don’t make that face. I’m not playing.)
It’s a tough world out there, even for the sort of middle-class, well-fed folks the Weiss’ seem to be, and it’s hard to make your way through life. There’s a great poster on the subways these days for a local storage company, but I spotted “shoes” in the caption and I had to look.
The caption reads something like this, “NYC: Tolerant of your beliefs, judgmental about your shoes.” And the first thing I thought was: "How incredibly profound is anything with shoes in it?" The next thing I thought was how that sentiment was exactly the thing. Not just New York City, but everywhere. We’re tolerant of your spiritual side, we don’t want to interfere with your civil rights, your sexual practices, your choice of wine, paper or plastic, your call, it’s all good.
But look a little different? Sister will cut you.
It’s a horrible, sad and awful truth. And it’s better that Bea have a little bit of a hard time now, at home with a family who loves her, than at 14, in the hallway, after geography, or three days before prom, when no one has asked her out.
While a Girl’s First Diet, isn’t the milestone celebration that say, First Bra or First Period is, it’s also not the back door kind of thing of First Plastic Surgery, or First Spray Tan, either. Chances are, if she’s a woman in this century, in North America, she would sadly have been on a diet soon enough. Until that famous “tolerance” includes all shapes, colors, forms, oddities, idiosyncrasies, and sizes, we have to protect our daughters in any way we can. Even if it means putting them on a diet, at 7.
Bea did a few years worth of growing up, maybe it was too fast. She learned some awesome adult lessons, each and every one of them hard won, the reward deserved. Including:
1. If you work for something, you will be rewarded.
2. Things worth working for are worth waiting for.
3. Self-control is not impossible, and no one dies.
4. Listen to your Mom, even when you hate her.
She probably also learned that raw Kale stinks. But she was going to learn that anyway, too.
Susie Moloney is the author of the new novel The Thirteen (William Morrow an imprint of HarperCollinsPublishers, March 27, 2012) about a coven of witches in suburbia ( think "The Stepford Wives" meets "Desperate Housewives"). Susie Moloney is not a witch, except maybe a little in the morning. Follow her on Twitter at: @Susiemoloney or visit her website at: www.susiemoloney.com.