14 candle cakeIt's a complex problem for mothers of daughters: How to talk about our culture's obsession with fat (i.e., why being fat is apparently a fate worse than death for a woman) without validating society's disproportionate preoccupation with such matters. It's a talk no mother wants to have, but if we don't -- unfortunately -- somebody else will. A perfect example is what happened to 14-year-old Shelby Buster -- on her birthday, no less.

The teen was on a celebratory shopping trip at the mall with her friends (with mom waiting in the food court so as to supervise without cramping  the teen's style) when some horrifically vile employee at clothing store Rue 21 told her to get lost because she's too fat for their skanky old ugly old outfits. Or, as Buster put it: “I walked in and the lady at the front counter said hey you’re too big to be in this store, I need you to leave."

Um, happy birthday to you ... ?! 

Seriously, obviously, as a mother/woman/human being, this story makes me violently ill/angry. But it also illustrates my original point, which is that we clearly need to talk to our girls about the ludicrous expectations sure to be placed upon them and build up their confidence but good before somebody comes along and tries to destroy their self-esteem. The question is, HOW?? How do we do that??

The trick, really, is convincing our daughters that they're worth more than the sum of their potentially flawed parts -- that our male-dominated, sexist culture is so terrified by the concept of powerful women that it's come up with a million and one ways to prey on our vulnerabilities so we're too busy hating ourselves to actually think about or do anything important. 

This, unfortunately, is a tough sell for the average 14-year-old who just wants to buy a cute top at the mall without feeling like a pariah. 

Unless, that is, we as mothers have set such fabulous positive body image examples that our daughters would never even think to question their own amazing selves. Which ... well, sh*t. I sure as hell screwed that one up, how 'bout you?

Guess we can only go forward. Oh, and by the way, the store did apologize to Buster when she brought her mom back with her, but a fat lot of good that did, I'm sure (pardon the pun). The damage was no doubt done.

How do you boost your daughter's body confidence?


Image via Scott McLeod/Flickr