Believe in Me

A friend sent a link to a Barnard Poetry Slam in which a young woman condemns her mother and how her family raised her. In short, her mother dieted ferociously, taught her daughter to eat like her and keep her mouth shut. The brother spoke his mind without filters and ate whatever he wanted, just like their dad. The daughter felt like a maimed second class woman.

I found it infinitely sad. I don't remember my mom ever dieting, except she said she once gained five pounds and lost them when she cut out her Coke every afternoon. I was too young to notice or care. Quite honestly, my mother's weight never entered into how I saw her, or myself. I was more than lucky. My parents raised me to believe in the power of hard work, intellect, education, and myself. So what if I was a girl - if I wanted to do it, I was encouraged to try, whatever it was. I once built, when I was about eight, a race cart for which I carved wooden wheels from scraps of lumber. All by hand. My downfall was the broom handles I used for axles. Lesson learned. The integrity of the material matters. No one said, "girls can't build a race cart by themselves." I was given free rein in the shed and any tools I could handle myself.

Once, on a rare visit to the Georgia grandparents, I said I wished I could learn to paint. My grandfather drove me right then and there to the art supply shop, where he bought me a full set to get going, along with books that I could use to teach myself. I was never very good, but I learned basic lessons about perspective, light and shadow.

To everyone who supported, encouraged, and gave me a push, my eternal thanks. How I wish all young girls grew up with the backup to get where they want to go. And to hell with diets.