Standing in line at Starbucks today, I couldn’t help but fall in love with the tiny tutu-sporting toddler just ahead of me.
As her mom pointed out all the snack options, the little girl, rocking rhinestones and a feather crown considered her options (seriously, where on God’s green earth can I dress this way and still be considered a fully functional, mentally stable adult woman? Because if such a place exists, I’m buying a plane ticket, like, now).
She eyed the pastries, told her mom the cranberry walnut muffin might be good and finally settled on a chocolate doughnut.
“I’ve never tasted a doughnut before,” my new little role model said.
The cashier handed the treat over and jokingly tried to sell the girl on a banana instead.
“It would be healthier,” her mom said. The little girl barely gave the fruit a second glance and dug right into her sugary selection.
“It’s good!” she told her mom.
Don’t get me wrong, please. I’m well aware of the childhood obesity epidemic and the rampant health problems associated with poor nutrition and yadda yadda yadda.
I understand that moderation isn’t often a word associated with American dietary habits and processed foods are basically destroying our nation’s youth (Michael Pollan is a professor at my journalism school and I worship him, so trust me, I get it!).
But when I see little girls (or boys for that matter) making food choices from a place completely independent of guilt or conscience or caloric judgement, I just find it kind of beautiful and heartbreaking. When do we lose that freedom and become completely, utterly screwed up?
I’ve done a lot of writing about body image and the media and read a lot of amazing works on cultural standards of female beauty (Naomi Wolf should rock your world if she hasn’t already). It’s an area I feel insanely passionate, angry and hypocritical about. I’ll preach to death about every woman’s right to love her body and turn right around and berate myself for each and every flaw.
Observing little kids’ attitudes toward food and their bodies is so insanely eye-opening. There had to have been a point at which we were all that liberated and acted on hunger cues and cravings, not self-flagellation and sample size aspiration.
I have a niece who’s not even two. She loves her belly. Like, absolutely adores it. She flaunts it around, rubs it gleefully and just very clearly enjoys occupying every inch of her own skin. Do I have to worry that fashion magazines are going to change that? Are the Victoria’s Secret Angels going to send her self-esteem spiraling? Will she one day solely judge her worth on how closely her abs approximate Megan Fox’s (though let’s be brutally honest, Megan might be in her thirties by the time my niece is at risk for insecurity and Hollywood will likely have replaced her with someone younger, thinner and sexier – scary, right?)?
I know how naive and totally impractical it is to tell everyone to just embrace their bodies the way little kids do. I mean, are you really going to channel your 3-year-old cousin’s body confidence the next time you try on ill-fitting jeans or see any picture ever printed of Blake Lively? Probably not.
But if you’re still searching for a 2012 resolution (or you’ve burnt out on Master Cleansing), it might be nice to consider a commitment to turning back the mental clock—back to a time before you learned to think anything was wrong with your body. Do you even remember when that was? For me, it was dancing pantsless in my parents’ living room to Madonna’s ‘True Blue’ (pants were basically optional to me until age 7).
Take a second, think of that time in your life, and just remember that you didn’t always feel bad about the way you look. And you don’t always have to.
And maybe get yourself a doughnut.