Under one roof
The property guardians
Your visit was going well. We were sitting around the dinner table, you, me and my husband, our two teenage girls. You had probably had a glass of wine or two.
Then I realised what you were saying. “Oh I never ate school lunch. I always saved the money to spend on God knows what and never ate anything. Win-win!”
I’m not sure why I didn’t say anything then. I was too shocked, perhaps, that you could say something so irresponsible to my daughters. The older one replied: “I always have lunch. I eat loads and loads and I’m always skinny.” The younger one was quiet.
I find myself livid that you could boast like this, apparently without a thought for the impact it might have. You have battled with an eating disorder all your life. I have watched you perform your ritual sugary overindulgence many times, and the tedious self-recrimination that follows. You appear to have wrecked your digestive health. Were you seriously advocating my daughters do the same?
You are not a bad woman, far from it. You love your granddaughters and I appreciate that you do. But you are sometimes a thoughtless woman, a woman who lets her own narcissism overtake consideration for other people. To brag of starving yourself in front of teenage girls, it beggars belief.
It is particularly astounding to me, given my own encounter with anorexia as a teenager. I have managed not to drag this illness into my adult life. I have, with some effort, managed not to inflict its problems on my children. I consider myself lucky to be alive. Did you learn nothing from those years?
I want to ask you to think more carefully about what you say to my children. But I know that this would result in teary defensiveness at best, a hostile breach at worst. I accept you will not change.
Instead I am going to trust my daughters. They do not assume that skinny is best. Their heroes are curvaceous women, but more importantly, women with talent and presence. I trust that they dismissed your words for what they were: the sad, outdated vanity of a woman struggling with the cage she imprisoned herself in long ago. My girls are not in this cage. I trust that they value what they can do with their bodies, not what size jeans they can squeeze themselves into. A better future is theirs