I'm a white college freshman. For whatever reason, most of my close friends are Asian and Hispanic. They are bright, witty and I usually have a great time with them. However, every now and then, they go on about how stupid white people are. It puts me in a very awkward position. Occasionally, I'll meekly complain, and they will assure me I'm not a "white girl" despite what my birth certificate says. Now if I were Hispanic, and my white friends were ragging on "wetbacks" . . . forget it. My friends have experienced racism, and I don't deny them their anger about it, but I don't see how prejudice against whites is fundamentally different from prejudice against minorities.
-- Nowhere Girl
That's what all the crackers say.
Rightly, of course. Granted, the Stupid Factory keeps churning out racist white people -- along with the pricey boutique line, painfully earnest white people who keep making things worse. But, please. Anyone who goes out and does exactly what he complains about belongs in the Museum of Modern Stupid.
Cut the meekness crap and remind them, hello, that you are a "white girl," lily white, pale as a pail of paste -- and that being of no color defines you . . . kinda the way being Asian pegs your friends as elementary school spelling-bee champs. Where does it say that having felt the pain of racism earns people the right to dish it out? You'd think their experience would serve as a constant reminder that ignorance is ugly on everybody.
I have a wonderful 13-year-old daughter, "Jane." She's smart and she's sweet and she is my angel. Unfortunately, she's very "developed" for her age. She's almost six feet, slim and curvy, and she has very large breasts. This may sound like every girl's dream, but it's not good at all. The neighborhood we live in is pretty rough. Men stare openly at her, even make rude comments.
Jane has begun wearing boyish clothing to school because the boys there were harassing her. The real wake-up call for me was when she asked me if she could have a breast reduction. Frankly, I'm considering it. It's painful to watch her go through this. She's not ready to be a full-fledged woman and she knows it. How can I help make these awkward years easier for her?
Letting her mutilate herself will only make them harder. Please please please, don't support her self-hatred.
For one thing, even considering a breast reduction sends the absolute wrong message. It says her body is the problem, when the real one is the feral scum that shouts at her on the street. She is beautiful. I know she hears this from you now, but she won't believe it if she also hears you say, hmm, maybe smaller would be better. A conflicted body image can be outright dangerous as she gets older, when the boyish clothes inevitably give way to hey-mister-like-what-you-see? Lycra.
But why traffic in future emotional fuzzies when you have this?:
"Breast reduction is not recommended for women who intend to breast-feed."
Or: "Some patients may experience a permanent loss of feeling in their nipples or breasts."
These ifs -- the "noticeable and permanent scars" are a certainty -- are courtesy of the American Society of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgeons and the Plastic Surgery Educational Foundation (www.plasticsurgery.org). A reduction can be freedom itself for women with chronic back and neck pain from overlarge breasts -- but assuming that kind of risk is dicey enough for a "full-fledged woman." To allow a 13-year-old to choose, or to choose this for her, would be unconscionable.
So. Let's call surgery a "don't."
But you sound like a good mom, and there's so much a good mom can do. First, tell a school administrator about the harassment. It can't all be stopped, but it is all unacceptable, and the school is accountable.
Also, steer Jane to an activity that'll make her proud of her body -- a modern dance class or yoga or a sport (and buy her a decent bra). There's nothing better than exercise to improve her body image. Self-respect, too: If looks are her only frame of reference, there will always be somebody prettier and she'll never value herself. Yet the only voice that can drown out the street noise is her own; you've got to help her find it.
That takes time, so equip her for the short term. (A baseball bat sounds tempting, but you'd best resist.) Give her a vast, order-of-the-cosmos reason this is happening. Clearly, Jane's physique is stunning. Stunning properties of any sort are the Great Human Prize, but they have a price: standing out when you most want to blend in, whipping up resentment, attracting hoots from gutter dwellers -- in general, stirring up the monsters. It's life's backhanded way of saying you've got something special, something the monsters don't have and so very desperately want. Please tell Jane that to refuse her gift, to conceal it or loathe it, is to let the monsters win.
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