Oh Oprah, we love you

Oprah’s Golden Globes Speech

This is a great speech. She talks about a lot of things, but it is mostly that we women should be celebrating each other and we should all be comfortable sharing our truth.

I think I’ve been doing this intensive journaling thing for almost two weeks now. Even though I’m not comfortable sharing my truth, so to speak, to my family and friends, I’m comfortable sharing it mostly anonymously on the internet.

Of course, there’s not a lot to talk about. I don’t have a “me, too” story (thankfully). I don’t have a history of tremendous pain. My parents were not the best but they also weren’t the worst, so like most people, I have some baggage. I do feel like I’ve done enough therapy and personal work in the past ten years to know that what happened to me when I was younger wasn’t great, but at least I’ve processed it and can move on. I do still struggle with a few things.

One of the biggest things that I struggle with, was from an intense focus on all things weight related when I was a kid. My dad had grown up an obese kid. He joined the Army, which he credits with getting him in shape. He triumphed over his thrifty genetics and has maintained a mostly healthy weight (though still heavier than he’d like). Unfortunately, my mom and sister both struggled with obesity and that became his focus when my sisters and I were growing up. My mom was a very thin child and gained weight after three pregnancies. My sister was always overweight or obese, from early childhood. My dad’s focus, which I’m sure he only meant as trying to do the right thing, was incredibly damaging. My mom was always on the latest diet and just kept getting fatter and fatter after losing weight. My sister, who will never be thin, was fed a constant narrative of “fat is bad”. I was the youngest so this is all I ever knew. Even though I was never overweight, I was always large-boned and muscular, so I was treated as overweight even though honestly, I was not. I remember stepping on the scale when I was 5 or 6, seeing the number 42 (yes, that was the actual number), and instantly thinking that I was fat and how that number was bad. I still remember that image (red numbers, white scale with horizontal line grippy bits) and thinking those feelings. What 5 year old steps on a scale and knows that their weight is a bad thing? What the hell?

Anyway, as a teenager, I never ate enough and was always exercising. I was extremely lean. It didn’t get better until I went to college, and even still, there was some reinforcement of negative body image messages from people I really liked, so it continued, though I wasn’t as anxious about it. I think it really only let up when I got pregnant. I celebrated my heft because it meant my child would be healthy. I gained too much weight (even though my upper limit was still lower than my current weight) but dropped it less than six months from breastfeeding. After that, I was at my healthy adult weight (165), and I was pretty happy about my body shape.

Obviously, now is a different story. But I guess my whole thinking process here is that most of us women, and to some extent men, get these messages from childhood that we’re somehow not good enough. For those women in the “me, too” movement, so many of them thought that they weren’t good enough so they felt they had to do things that were damaging to them in order to survive in a terrible, image-focused industry. What really stinks is that those folks in power in media who were the abusers were also in charge of the messages we all hear. Even though my dad was ultimately acting from a place of fear and trying to prevent his kids from experiencing the same childhood he did, what he did was damaging. But it was nothing like what modern media and culture do. My dad’s behavior was just reinforced by messages he heard and unfortunately, what we heard.

So now I’m trying to unpack all of this crap. I’ve mostly rejected the messages from my childhood, but I can’t reject the messages from media because it is constant and mostly one-sided. I can choose to consume less, but man, that’s really hard to do. I am thankful for women like Oprah who have used their power in such a way as to bring us healthier messages. I really hope these “me, too” and Time’s Up movements change things so that we can all start living our lives in a healthy way and not damaging ourselves for being something unattainable.

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