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Look at her hair!

“We don’t insult ourselves in front of Doomoo,” my sister said. Why my niece’s nickname (my mother hated that nickname by the way) is “Doomoo” is something we aren’t getting into but that statement is actually quite profound. It was said after my sister, brother-in-law, niece, nephew and I started watching Ant Man and Evangeline Lilly appeared on screen with my haircut. My niece said excitedly, “She looks like Aunt Jen!” And I immediately replied, “but her hair looks way nicer,“ and I may have included, if I thought of it, “she is the major upgrade from Aunt Jen.” My sister, calmly, replied with the first statement here, “We don’t insult ourselves in front of Doomoo.” And she couldn’t be more right! Why do we do it and why do we think it’s okay to insult ourselves to ingratiate, charm, amuse others? I could have said something like, “We go to the same stylist,” and left it at that. Funny how children don't see the differing levels of worth like we do.

From my understanding Billie Eilish wears extra baggy clothes because she doesn’t want people debating her thinness/thickness/curviness on the internet. And we have Lizzo who is taking an opposite approach but doing essentially the same thing, challenging our collective views about how a woman should dress and look. Good for them! Why do we feel we have a right to insult them? Do we think our comments give us some little temporary power? Probably. The truth is if we felt our own value we wouldn’t have the need to sling insults, even seemingly harmless ones at celebrities.

I hit puberty at 12 and went from being quite lanky to having curves. And attention I didn’t know what to do with that scared me. If I had been Billie’s age with a modicum of that fame, jesus I don’t even know what I would have done. My coming of age remembers the dawn of the internet and my adolescence was basically world wide web free, at least in the home. I was lucky. I didn’t necessarily always know what people said. But the media was still prevalent and society was always what it was with its skewed taste and general misogyny. I can’t say I remember hearing my mother (who is deceased so I can’t ask her) saying anything in particular badmouthing people, especially women. However, she very well may have and was a product of her time. She wouldn’t have liked Billie’s hair or understood why Lizzo wears skin-baring clothing. Back then I didn’t have that self-possession I see some Millennials and Gen Z’s with. And unfortunately my mother, who did have some great qualities, lacked in confidence herself. She ended up dying from a dementia related illness.

Tragedy is no stranger to me. With a timeline of what many get 40 years worth of trauma to experience, mine was crammed into about 6 years. Being a cancer survivor myself who had a hysterectomy, I can think about my womanhood in a new light. Being a recent widow having lost my wife (who was 38) to leukemia, cancer of the blood, my view of life and love is rather poignant. Having watched both my mother and my beloved Mariah die (1 and 1/2 years apart) gives me an interesting perspective too. We are not our bodies.

Our perspectives color everything and our destinies are inextricably linked with our thoughts and words. One of the many things I admired so much about my late wife was her understanding and compassion. Mariah never just insulted anyone even in jest, even celebrities in a passive manner. She might say what she didn’t like about something, but it was always a thoughtful statement (or statements) with meaning behind it. She didn’t like to watch things ironically for that same reason. If we weren’t into something we simply stopped watching or listening or reading it. I really loved this about her. I continuously marvel at how wise she was. She had a close relationship with her family, especially her mother, and a good support team. And she had me. She had her struggles with self worth as many do and I hate she went through that. She felt the same about me. She watched me spiral on some late nights with comparison, judgement and fear and would plead with me to stop.

How do we expect to raise our children in this world if we don’t think about these things? With the internet our insults have become so commonplace, so jaded, and so dangerous. They are woven into regular everyday face to face communication too. We can type or speak our words out into the ether and someone somewhere likely hears them. Since misery loves company we can think we are right. This empowers us. But at what cost? Don’t we have other ways to feel empowered? Maybe it’s the little things. Maybe it’s how we speak about ourselves and others in front of our children that spark the change.

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