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A Post About Beauty

I started worrying about my children back when they were zygotes. With a daughter, I have worries that are completely different from those I have for my son.

Self-esteem and body image issues are some of my biggest concerns for her. She’s only seven weeks old, but already I find myself wondering how best to foster a positive self-image that will get her through the tough times… like puberty.

As I see it, we can talk as much as we want about how physical appearance doesn’t matter in the grand scheme of things, but the fact remains: beauty – or at least our perception of it – IS important.

I want my daughter to feel and know she’s beautiful. Unfortunately, I think that’s one of the toughest achievements out there.

It might seem silly to care about physical appearance. After all, we’re all just a bunch of cells. We’re made up of un-pretty things like skeletons, eyeballs, and intestines. We see only the very surface. Furthermore, if we have naturally nice skin or lustrous hair or straight teeth, it’s accidental – not the result of any hard work or particular worthiness on our part. Still, somehow, appearances are a source of judgement.

I’ve known it since childhood. There’s that line in the Free to Be song, “When We Grow Up“, where the girl says, “I don’t care if I’m pretty at all.” I knew, even back then, that I should feel the same way, but I didn’t. I wanted to be pretty. And even before age 10, I worried that I wasn’t. I fretted about my crooked teeth and my stubby fingernails and my freckles and my flat chest. Then, by the time the braces were off and the breasts showed up and I quit biting my nails, I was already worrying about being too fat. (Looking back, I know I was in no way too fat.)

twentysomething dilovely
Dilovely at age 20 or so…? A LONG time ago, anyway.

I thought a lot about looks when my university boyfriend entered medical school in my fourth year. I was taken aback when I visited him at school, because I quickly realized that basically 100% of his classmates were somewhere on a continuum between Quite Good-Looking and Downright Gorgeous. I remembered the process my boyfriend had gone through to get into med school – a rigorous series of essays, interviews, and references, not to mention the MCAT – and figured there had to be a correlation. Not that beautiful people are smarter, or more cosmically deserving of success, but that beauty facilitates confidence. Confidence is an undeniably large factor in success.

Doesn’t seem fair, but it’s true. Naturally, I want my daughter to have that confidence. I wish I could just install it in her psyche like software… but alas, instilling it is a much trickier process.

This video is a nice attempt to break through the self-esteem angst.

I like all the different, lovely faces, and I appreciate the positivity. Some of the advice is great (2, 7, and 10 are my favourites), but two of them really annoy me: “Control your perspective” and “Another word for sexy? Confident.” As if it’s that easy. If your perspective is getting you down, just fix it! And if you’re not sure you’re sexy enough – simply BE CONFIDENT. What have you been waiting for?

Sadly, it doesn’t work that way.

Why don’t more of us grow out of this dissatisfaction? Don’t we adults know better? Not always. I recently read a memorable blog post by a thirtysomething mom who had included a photo of herself that she hated.

The photo was neither pretty nor horrendous. There are other photos on the blog of this woman looking very appealing – but that’s not how she sees herself. I was impressed by the raw way she wrote about her appearance, how she considers herself ugly, and how often she feels inadequate because of it – in spite of a happy marriage, good family, friends, and readers.

I was touched by her post, because most of us can relate to feeling ugly sometimes – I definitely can… but it depends on the moment. I have times when I feel pretty, too, which makes it easier to get through the ugly times. How hard would it be to feel ugly every day? Because no matter how other people perceive us, it’s how we feel about ourselves that makes the difference.

A wise friend, in response to my post about my pesky wrinkles and grey hairs, sent a link to this wonderful piece by Amanda King, “I’ve started telling my daughters I’m beautiful.” It is full of love, pain, protectiveness, and amazing words. This lovely mom has nailed it: she’s beautiful to her daughters, and she doesn’t want to tell them they’re wrong. So she says it aloud – she is beautiful. She writes, “I see it behind their shining brown eyes, how glad they are that I believe I am beautiful.”

Oh. So true. I think of my sweet daughter and my heart squeezes.

I tried to imagine saying to her, “Aren’t I beautiful?” My mind balked at the idea, because, well – isn’t that conceited, somehow?

Wait – NO. It hit me. Society gives women a preposterous goal: work endlessly to attain beauty, but don’t acknowledge that you have it. We’re not supposed to be satisfied with ourselves. How perverse – and dumb. After all, I admire tremendously the people I know who seem most comfortable and happy in their own skin.

I also realized… my children are worth the effort of tossing that stupid goal in the toilet. If anything can convince me to own my beauty, it’s knowing that my children might need me to.

The clichés are true: beauty comes from within, and it’s also in the eye of the beholder. If my child sees me as beautiful, I am. My friends get more beautiful to me the more I know and love them. It’s not that I stop seeing “flaws”; it’s that inner and outer beauty are all wrapped up together.

We ARE beautiful.

***


 

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Is this what it’s like to be popular?

So, lovely Di-hards, how do you like the new look? Isn’t it pretty??

I’d like to declare a huge thank you to my big brother, Uncle Ben, a.k.a. Eupharos, for taking a nice theme by NodeThirtyThree and customizing the whole thing according to my inexperienced ideas. He’s got skillz. And he’s even going to help with different versions of it for different seasons, so we don’t get bored. Yay! Merci!

(Incidentally, we are still working out a few kinks of the changeover… like you might notice the comments suddenly aren’t threading, for some unknown reason… but we will figure it out, I’m sure.)

I also want to express my thanks to everyone who read – and everyone who shared – my last post about teachers. I never expected that the aforementioned facelift would coincide with a much larger event.

It has been humbling and wonderful and more than a little freaky to watch my traffic spike over the last week… and when I say “spike”, I’m actually understating it a bit. Through last Monday, I got nice, regular, very modest traffic (100-200 page views per day) where I knew most of my actual readers personally, and the rest of the traffic bounced across my blog looking for movie reviews, Kate Winslet naked, Salma Hayek’s cleavage, or Reese Witherspoon’s legs.

On Tuesday, I suddenly had the most one-day page views of my li’l blog’s history, including more than 500 just for my teacher post. I was all like, “Woohoo! How exciting!” Then, the next day, views for the post jumped, such that Tuesday’s numbers became tiny. By yesterday, the post had been shared so many times on Facebook (over 1K) that my widget stopped counting.

I know these numbers are not huge by internet standards in general, but to me, they were nothing short of shocking. By yesterday evening, I was feeling a bit more “Um, holy crap,” than “woohoo”, because what the heck do I know about getting this much attention?? As of this writing, Those Greedy, Lazy Teachers has been viewed 14,000 times and counting. (Please don’t think I’m boasting here – it’s more like boggling.)

Again, thank you. I am honoured that you found my words to be worth passing along, that you chose them to help represent teachers’ situation. And a special thanks to all you supportive non-teachers – you make such a huge difference at times like these.

I’m figuring that this will be simmering down pretty soon. I think it is most likely a one-post flash in the pan for this blog, indicative of teachers’ level of frustration – not to mention need for understanding – in the current climate.

As such, dear teachers, I hope that reading this helped, for a moment at least. You have proven what a tight-knit, solid community we are. I hope your first week back with the kids was stellar.

And I hope that at least a couple people who needed that clarification have gotten it, and understand a bit better. It’s hard to tell about that.

You see, along with all the page views, I’ve also had an unprecedented number of comments, and… my very first trolls! (It’s funny that I vowed in my post not to read any comments on online forums… I didn’t realize I was going to create one.) And I was very nervous about those trolls before they showed up yesterday, knowing it must be only a matter of time before they stepped up to the plate… but then I got a comment from “Fred”, and honestly, I was grinning. Silly though it sounds, it made me feel that I’d “arrived” somehow – to be spread far enough to get me some haters.

Anyway, after congratulating Fred on being my first troll, I was amazed and relieved to realize it wasn’t just me against him: other readers were stepping up to enter the discussion. (If you co-defenders are reading – again, thank you.) It got rather interesting. And THEN, there was Thomas, who made Fred look like a relatively good-natured mischief-maker.

All this served to remind me of something I think I already knew: if a mind is tightly closed, you can’t just go and open it.

I think, to get into a mind like that, you would have to come at it sideways, far from the protective anonymity of the Birdhouse. You’d have to meet that person, in person, in an entirely different context… see each other as humans first, do something unexpected that peels back a layer of baggage. Like in this story from Momastery – I love how Glennon wrestles (philosophically) with herself and the jerk beside her on the plane, and they both learn stuff.

And hey, just for fun, since I’m all wicked-popular now (get it? I’m sooo funny), here’s a song that I hope might give me guidance on what on earth to do next.

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Those Greedy, Lazy Teachers

When you were little, what did you want to be when you grew up?

When I was little, I wanted to be a ballerina. After that, I wanted to be a novelist.

It didn’t occur to me to want to be a teacher until later. As a homeschooling kid, I didn’t even have teachers other than my mom.

Then I went to public high school, and had many different teachers, including some really amazing ones. It was my senior French teacher who inspired me to consider a career in education. She was (and is, I’m sure) a wonderful, talented person who taught because she loved kids and wanted to engage with them and help them to do better in life. I loved her class.

When I decided I wanted to teach, it wasn’t because I wanted to be rich. (I already knew that teaching is NOT the way to get rich.) Ditto being famous. I wanted to use my languages, to help other people find their love of language, to impart knowledge and connect with young people. To teach. It sounded so rewarding, so community-oriented, so purposeful.

I remember that my awesome French teacher came to my farewell party before I left for France, after I’d finished my degree in French and Spanish at university (which was also inspired in a large part by her). I hadn’t seen her in four years – four years during which Mike Harris had wreaked havoc on Ontario’s education system. She was looking forward to retirement, and she was feeling, for the first time in her decades-long career, disillusioned and sad about teaching. I remember her saying, “It’s different now. The government speaks badly of teachers, so the parents speak badly of teachers, and the kids come to class with that disrespect in their minds. It’s a terrible atmosphere to teach in.”

The same thing has been going on in British Columbia now since 2001 – an agonizing demoralization of educational professionals through consistent bad-mouthing and a gradual stripping of contracts and working conditions.

Now here we are in Ontario, once again, dealing with a provincial government who blabs on about “putting kids first” as they scramble to lay blame for the deficit. (Ask any Ontario public school teacher – this catch-phrase is so hypocritical it makes us want to throw up.) Continue reading “Those Greedy, Lazy Teachers”

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An Open Letter to the Gunman

toronto eaton centre shooting crime scene

Dear Mr. Shooter:

So. It appears, from the status of the person you succeeded in killing, that your decision, i.e. to open fire in the crowd at the food court in the Toronto Eaton Centre yesterday, was gang-related.

We, the public, still don’t know who you are or where you’re from. We don’t know what your history is. What we can assume is that you’re angry. You’d have to be, to pull a stunt like that.

As a teacher, I automatically wonder what kind of a child you were, and what your teachers thought of you in school. I wonder if you were ADHD or ODD. If you were a bully, or if you got bullied. If you were part of a visible minority that felt it had to stick together to survive, or if you had a bone to pick with visible minorities – or both. I wonder if you were neglected or beaten as a child, if you had enough to eat, if you had a parent in jail, or if you witnessed murder. Continue reading “An Open Letter to the Gunman”

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Hypes and Gripes – June 2011

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Just for shivers…

I had something else I was planning to write about today, but then there’s this. (Sean found it, being the primary internet troller of the household.) It’s simply too bloggable to wait, especially on the heels of that last video.

Ad for Lysol Douche

a) Doubt? Inhibitions? Ignorance??? Chemicals fix those!!!!!!! Why didn’t we think of this before?? Women need not have any problems after all! Continue reading “Just for shivers…”

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