There is a meme making its way around the blog world: “Ten Lies My Mother Told Me.” When I first discovered it, I reada few of the responses. Some of them were really clever and funny. Some more serious.
But the meme itself and those responses got me started thinking about my childhood experiences and my relationship with my mother vis a vis my weight and self-image.
After considering those topics for a few days now, I can only remember one lie that my mother ever told me.
You might be saying, “Wow, that’s amazing” or thinking that senility has set in and I’m simply unable to recall all the lies she told me over the years. Perhaps you’re even thinking that I’ve repressed the lies — little, white or other — she told me in the deep recesses of my brain and, perhaps through intense psychotherapy, they could be retrieved and examined.
Wrong on all counts.
My mother was simply a straight-up, honest — blunt — person. “Boy, that apple landed close to the tree,” you’re thinking.
She told me only one thing that wasn’t true, but she did so repeatedly over the course of many years, even when I was well into adulthood:
“You would be so pretty if only you would lose weight.”
I hadn’t thought about those words in a long time, but in the process of thinking about participating in this meme, they came flooding back to me.
I have been at a weight-loss plateau for awhile now. The weight is still coming off, but very, very slowly. Because of that, although I have not reverted to my outlandishly bad eating patterns, I have been backsliding just a bit.
No, I still do not eat any form of junk food. I gave all of it up more than a year ago. But I have eaten a little too much here and there, a little too late at night, gone out to restaurants a little too often not armed with my salad dressing and made menu choices that were not the most reasoned.
If you have ever struggled with your weight, you know that the inevitable times when you reach a plateau are dangerous times. Reaching a plateau is the point when the temptation to revert to old thinking, eating and behavioral patterns is the strongest, even though plateaus are completely natural and nothing more than your body adjusting to its new form and composition.
Your head is simultaneously adjusting to your new identity — the messages you are projecting to the world and the manner in which the world perceives you. The rush of initial weight loss has faded. People may not be noticing as often that you have lost weight which is completely normal because their image of you has evolved. Your clothing is becoming looser but at a much slower rate.
When you reach a plateau, you must remain committed to the program you designed for yourself that has worked up to that point. It will continue to work for you. It may be necessary to vary and intensify your fitness routine and / or adjust your nutrition plan, but if you persevere, you will continue on your journey to optimal health and fitness levels.
The Origins of the Lie
Intellectually, I know that my mother did not mean to hurt me. At this juncture in my life, I understand that fact with the clarity that can only be achieved after having raised children myself.
I know that mothering is hard work and sometimes, no matter how hard you try to communicate to your children in order to spare them the painful life lessons that you survived, you say things you later regret. The irony is, of course, that children sometimes have to endure difficulties and learn those life lessons on their own in order to develop survival skills. We simply can’t protect them from everything.
So I get the fact that my mother did the best she could with the skills and limited knowledge of the world she possessed. She was a modest woman who grew up during the Great Depression in a farmhouse on the Prairie that had neither electricity nor plumbing. She went to a little country school via a horse-drawn bus. And she graduated from high school in 1934 only to find that her dream of attending college was unattainable. So she ended up working as a combination cook, housekeeper and babysitter. She used to tell us how her parents sent her off to work for some neighbors from sunrise to sunset. Her wages? “Two dollars per week.”
Sounds primitive, doesn’t it? It was.
It was that primitive upbringing that made her who she was and fueled her to instill great ambition in her children.
Her upbringing in that stark, harsh environment formed her outlook on life — always practical. She was adamant that we should finish college and get good jobs. The idea of bypassing college to get married, have children and become a stay-at-home mother was always foreign to me because her mantra was “Never be dependent upon a man.” That was not a put-down of my father in any way, but, rather, my mother’s declaration about her lack of self-actualization and achievement. She used to tell us that we should finish our education and be able to support ourselves so that we would always have options.
She was a feminist long before the Women’s Movement was born.
So how did a feminist end up telling such an anti-feminist, woman-hating lie to her daughter during her most impressionable, formative years?
To be continued . . .