Dr. Leda Horticulture (leroy) Thu 28 Jun 01 07:06
Oh, I wish I could take all those teenage girls and somehow convince them that the anorexic beauty queens the boys want to be seen with at the senior prom don't necessarily turn out to be happier, more secure, well-adjusted, more interesting people. Yes, it hurts to be rejected or neglected because of the way you look, especially when you're young and don't really have much else going for you. But in the long run, that rejection can turn out to be the best thing that ever happens to a girl. It can force her to turn to other things besides constantly preening her appearance. If her appearance doesn't reap rewards, she may have to develop some talents, some intelligence, some useful skills, some kindness and compassion, some creativity, some originality, some genuine interests. Things that will really get her somewhere in life, in spite of what these depressing studies may tell us. If she gives up on impressing boys, she may have more time and energy to give to her own life. If she finally stops caring about what THEY think, whether THEY approve of or desire her body, maybe she can finally start caring about things that really matter. I know how hard it is to believe this stuff when you're young. Maybe it isn't until you start going to your fifteenth or twenty-fifth high school reunions that it really starts to sink in: those girls who were so pretty and popular back in high school often turn out to be shallow, predictable, boring, sometimes even tragically unhappy. And the less attractive, less popular people so often turn out to be the fascinating, the successful, the vital, the adventurous, the creative geniuses. It's almost a cliche, but still hard to believe in or care much about when you're fourteen and suffering in the thick of it. I just wish there was some way to tell that girl, yes, maybe what you say is true. But so what? Whether or not you go to the prom with this or that cute boy will some day be so insignificant when you look back. But believing that your appearance is the most important thing in life can do you some severe, long-lasting damage. The starvation, the tanning, the exposure to carcinogenic chemicals, eventually there may be dangerous cosmetic surgeries and spiraling debt, and then the time wasted on it all...these things can wreck your life for real. I know I wouldn't have listened or believed it when I was in high school. Still, I just wish there was some way to get through.
Ruth Greenberg (ruthchava) Thu 28 Jun 01 09:08
I also wouldn't have believed it then, but I think I was lucky to learn that lesson at a fairly young age. I also remember a teacher telling me, when I brought up the same subject as the young woman who spoke with Lori, that she felt sorry for many of the girls in the most popular categories because this was their crowning achievement, being popular and beautiful in high school. She told me she thought I was lucky because my life was only going to get better. I'm not reflecting it well here, but she managed to say it in such a way that it made me feel really good. I also don't think you need to lie to her, since I believe she's wrong. Why would she want to be with those boys? Are they so interesting, or handsome, or gallant, that she feels like she's missing out because she's not dating them?
Molly Wright Steenson (explode) Thu 28 Jun 01 13:03
in high school, the boys i actually ended up liking weren't that articulate -- or for that matter, visible. and maybe that's part of the problem -- those people, the genuine ones, are often harder to find. i hated high school so much for these reasons. i feel like it was a waste of four years, and the best thing that happened to me was going to college in 11th grade (you could go to college in 11th and 12th grade in minnesota and get full credit for both) and germany for the year in 12th grade. i was a skinny geeky kid for a long time, and a late bloomer -- for me, the issue wasn't one about being thin but about being a late bloomer. i got laughed at a friend's bat mitzvah swimming party as we changed into swimsuits because i didn't have breasts or pubic hair really to speak of. so for me, those were the issues. and they were so painful, more painful than almost anything.
Mary Eisenhart (marye) Thu 28 Jun 01 13:39
Yeah, getting to college and discovering one's fellow Martians was one of those life-changing epiphanies for me as well.
Lori Gottlieb (lori-gottlieb) Fri 29 Jun 01 20:05
I so enjoyed reading the last few posts, because I think there's a lot of truth to them. But at the same time, while I remember getting to college (I went to school on the east coast - SO different from California!) and discovering my fellow rebel anti-girly-girl chicks, I also remember girls on my hallway throwing up after dinner every night. Several of them. And not just freshman year. And I remember a lot - I mean, A LOT - of pressure to look good, even though we were the brainy girls, the ones who used their smarts and not their looks to get into a very prestigious Ivy League school. So while we may not have worn makeup or gone shopping or overtly acted concerned about appearance, and while we may have felt that our group's "culture" was anti-Cosmo, you aren't throwing up in the bathroom or eating two bites of salad ("no dressing!") in the dining hall for dinner because you're UNconcerned about how you look. So you can still hang out with kindred spirits and the larger cultural messages manage to creep in. It's that pervasive. Which, I guess, is what I was kind of saying, or trying to say, with STICK FIGURE.
Mary Eisenhart (marye) Sat 30 Jun 01 13:46
I would not say that my fellow martians were all female. And indeed, college was also full of people with whom I felt no affinity whatever, but there were enough weirdos to form a good culture.
Lori Gottlieb (lori-gottlieb) Sat 30 Jun 01 23:26
Speaking of high school, I just saw a friend from high school the other day. This is a woman who went to elementary school with me, and we were in the same "group," but then in high school she stayed with that group and I went off and did my i-don't-belong-to-any-group thing. So it was really hot out, and we went to go get a drink, and she ordered a lemonade. "I never used to drink lemonade," she said. "Why not?" I asked. "All that sugar and wasted calories." Then she smiled the way I remember her smiling as a kid, with a genuine sense of joy, and added, "But now, at this point in my life, I treat myself." Amen.
Molly Wright Steenson (explode) Mon 2 Jul 01 13:32
good for your friend, lori! it sounds like she's maybe had some similar epiphanies to yours.
Lori Gottlieb (lori-gottlieb) Tue 3 Jul 01 11:25
What's also interesting about her comment is that, growing up, I always thought of her as so free-spirited, so her-own-person. She was never super thin like the rest of her crowd (not fat either, just "normal") and she always had a sense of humor about, well, ANYTHING. She didn't seem to take life's day-to-day too seriously (in a good way). I, on the other hand, was the girl always worrying about what something MEANT. She didn't strive to be popular - she just was, people just genuinely liked her. She didn't wear the trends or get the hip haircut. She was just, well, her. Happy, fun, always smiling. So she's the last person I'd have thought ever worried about sugar and wasted calories in lemonade. Just shows how almost no adolescent girl - no matter how strong a sense of self - is immune to this stuff.
David Gans (tnf) Wed 4 Jul 01 08:22
>there were enough weirdos to form a good culture. I love that, Mary.
Mary Eisenhart (marye) Wed 4 Jul 01 12:16
So did I at the time!:-)
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