I’ve never met Dara-Lynn Weiss but a few things about her are certainly familiar to me. Weiss is the “diet mom” who wrote a piece for Vogue about putting her seven-year-old daughter on a diet. The piece was reviled and roundly criticized. What happened after that? She got a book deal.
Ms. Weiss’ unapologetic book, ” The Heavy,” came out last week. In some corners, some of the old criticism has turned to praise. Some have even called her “brave” to dare put her daughter on a diet.
What has happened that a growing number of people accept the idea of food police in their everyday lives and the lives of others? I could write a book. Oh, wait a minute…
There’s so much to say here but just to begin: Mothers don’t have to put their daughters in beauty pageants to suffer from “Princess by Proxy” syndrome. Weiss’ book, the tour and the praise is clearly all about Weiss herself. But who speaks for the children? Just as with extreme pageant moms, we may have to wait a few more decades to find out. In the meantime, Weiss is being rewarded with exactly the kind of national recognition that “Honey Boo Boo”‘s mother Mama June is enjoying. Who would have thunk such different moms had so much in common?
No matter how much a child may say that it doesn’t bother her to be scrutinized and displayed, she cannot answer the question for the same reason that it is inappropriate to thrust her into adulthood in the first place.
By the time these kids can speak out, it’ll be much too late. Finding one’s way to a healthy adulthood is challenging enough. Such unnecessary stumbling blocks of body and boundary violation must not become an accepted part of the popular culture. If they do, who will speak out for children then?
Everyone of a certain age remembers Chastity Bono, who was often brought out at the end of the Sonny and Cher variety show to say a hello and a good-bye to the audience. It seemed so idyllic didn’t it?
Among his other struggles, we have come to find out that Chastity who is Chaz today, was put on diets even though he wasn’t overweight. Once again, food, diet and appearance go hand in hand when children are put on display by narcissistic parents who live through them. Should anyone be surprised that today, Chaz Bono has a significant weight problem? Yet many people seem to be.
Chaz is attempting to lose weight in much the same public way that he was put on display. He says he hopes the pressure of trying to lose weight publicly will give him more incentive to accomplish his goal. If pressure is part of what created the problem, is the pressure to be thin and “socially acceptable” really the way a proud non-conformist like Chaz will best succeed? Or, is it that political correctness never applies to those who don’t “fit” the right size or the right weight?
I try never to make clinical assumptions about the lives of people I only know superficially, but could FATLASH be among the issues with which Chaz is struggling? You bet it could and probably is.
When food, weight and appearance become the battleground on which major developmental issues are fought -those of separation, individuation and a sense of body ownership, children and for that matter, adults as well, find ways of fighting back. If fat is so abhorent to the parent who insists on such diets, that is usually the best weapon. The struggle for self and fundamental independence become more important than the misery that often accompanies being fat in our society.
Whether anyone, parent or bureaucrat, has the right to control what someone else eats through shame, force or coercion is an issue in itself, but it can and does create a sense of deprivation that can feel like a life or death struggle.
Fat becomes a weapon that speaks when the person cannot. They may spend the rest of their lives learning how to say no and to set limits rather than allowing their bodies to do it for them. This gives new meaning to the term “pro-choice,” doesn’t it?
In Chaz’s case, public display, scrutiny, scorn and/or praise has been like “mother’s milk.” I cheer him on in his journey but if I could talk to him, I’d tell him to stop abusing himself the way he was “abused.” (I use this word lightly and not in the clinical sense.) Find your privacy and personal space, Chaz. Get to know your boundaries, your body and your appetites away from the public eye. That’s what will offer the best hope of finding your true self inside as well as out.
Even when one writes a book in which two of the intended themes are self-acceptance and substance over symbolism, it’s tough to escape self-scrutiny when seeing oneself on TV–especially as compared to people we usually see there. (Jerry Springer, Honey Boo Boo and Reality TV not withstanding)
Ironically, thinking we must live up to an impossible standard is part and parcel of “fear of thin.” More on that in future posts.
I found this interesting in light of an upcoming speaking engagement (date to be announced) for a sorority which considers it so important to fight back against weight obsessions and women’s body-bashing, that they’ve instituted “no-fat-talk-Fridays.” They also teach workshops on body image.
I commend sororities like Delta Delta Delta and hope more will follow suit. Now, if only they could have a chat with me before I do my next TV interview.