I come from a line of thin, flat-chested women. Yet, I have curves. When I was in high school, my mom, a professional seamstress at the time, let me design my prom dress, which she sewed. It was fabulous and mature. I loved it.
However, as any professional seamstress will tell you, the most important part of any dress is the undergarment. When my mom finished the dress she noticed that I didn’t have the right “support.” She could not hide her shock and amazement at how developed I was—I looked so different from my older sister. She said, “Well, we are going to have to take you to THAT SPECIAL store to buy something because you are so big!”
Having curves in high school and being physically different than my family made me super self-conscience. (That seems so funny to me now.) Compared to the bodies of my mom and my sister, I imagined I must look like Dolly Parton’s understudy. Finally when I arrived at the SPECIAL underwear store, a short, rather well-endowed woman whisked me to a changing room. She told me to take off my shirt and took out her measuring tape. I said somewhat apologetically, “I know, I’m huge.”
She replied in shock and horror, “Honey, you have nothing there!” Granted, most women would like to hear the opposite, but to me, a somewhat shy and awkward teen, I just wanted to look like everybody else in my family.
She returned with a box of perfectly fitted bras and they looked great. At that moment, I realized that I was listening to one woman’s opinion of my body. And because it was from my mother—I gave her comment much more weight than it deserved.
We often listen to the opinions of other women—especially the most important women in our lives—about our weight, our age, our hair, our relationships. And they aren’t necessarily helpful.
Young women are listening to what we say about their bodies and ours. For young women, body positivity, and really all positivity, starts with the older women in their lives. Don’t blow the opportunity to share positive messages of body acceptance or to lift up another woman’s beauty.
Because really, how could any child of God be too curvy? Too old? Too unfashionable? That’s just silly.
Elizabeth McBride is the director of intergenerational programs and editor of Café. She still struggles with listening to positive messages about her body, but at least the voice is hers. She only wishes that she started to embrace her curves years ago.
Photo by Dave, used with permission