It’s weird what sticks with you. When I was pretty young (say nine or ten-ish) my next door neighbors, who were like surrogate grandparents to us, gave me a book about hygeine, comportment and femininity for girls. Who the heck knows where it came from, because their daughter was already grown and having sons of her own, but it seemed to be some sort of hand-me-down. Teen Girl Talk (the great site awfullibrarybooks.com has a feature on it, here http://awfullibrarybooks.net/?
p=7499) was filled with all sorts of frightening tips. At the time, I remember thinking it was already pretty out-dated*, and I’ve never been the girliest-girl in the world, but for some reason I lived and died by its advice.
I tried the 1000 calorie per day diet plan (great for growing kids!) and did the ankle exercises until they were throbbing (and still chubby.) I even kept my eyes open when washing my face because, “eyes need washing, too.” But what I remember most is its recommendations on body measurements, and how you should be able to fit your hands around your waist. Is anyone actually able to do this? Make a circle with the fingers of both hands in front of you right now. Does that look like the circumference of a healthy waist? No. Maybe back when whalebones were a popular fashion accessory, but certainly not now. Lord knows I couldn’t do it at age 10 and I couldn’t do it at age 20 when I started working out and dieting like a madwoman. Is that not insane? Even as an adult I catch myself wrapping my fingers around my waist trying to gauge just how long my damn fingers would need to be to reach each other. Even though I know – and knew as a kid – that it’s a completely unrealistic goal.
There’s not much of a point to this, except to say that we spend our adult lives trying to get out from under the negative things we learned and experienced as kids. If I have a female child in the future I’ll make sure to tell her that her waist is great just the way it is and that eyeballs don’t need washing.
*Further research has uncovered that it was published in 1981, but, gosh, it seemed like something from the 30s.