Embracing (and my big boobs)

Last night, I had the honour of co-hosting 250 people at a special community screening of the documentary Embrace. It was a truly magical event. All of us came together to share the positive energy in the room and to soak in Taryn’s message of body acceptance.

Embrace movie poster

250 is a big number – but it would be wonderful if the message could spread out to reach a wider audience. And the good news is that EMBRACE is now available to watch on Netflix and to download on iTunes – so you can gather up your family and friends and watch the movie in the privacy of your own home!

I had the privilege of opening the evening with a personal story and I thought I’d share it with my readers:

For those of you who don’t know me – my name is Lori Wilson and I want to welcome you here tonight and thank you for supporting this event.

Before we get started, I want to share a little story:

A few months ago, I hopped out of the shower and I scooted into my bedroom with nothing on but a towel around my hair. My teenage daughter just happened to by lying on my bed watching TV and she turned to look at me. Her eyes scanned me up and down and her mouth fell open – “Oh my god mom!” she started.

I braced myself. How was she going to finish that sentence? Was she going to comment on my blubbery belly? Was she going to gag at my saggy butt or my dimply thighs (that definitely don’t have the obligatory gap between them). Was she going to use the dreaded f-word….FAT! I stood there totally vulnerable.

 I steeled myself in the moment and waited for what was coming. My daughter said – “Oh my god mom! Your boobs are huge! I wonder if mine will be that big one day too?” And she turned back to her tv show.

 I had to chuckle to myself. My boobs! She looked my body up and down and her only comment was on my boobs.

I realized two things in that moment. One – when my daughter looks at me – she isn’t seeing the glaringly imperfect person I’ve constructed in my own mind. She is seeing her mom – a woman with big boobs apparently.

And two- despite the fact that I am passionate about promoting healthy body image, I devour whatever reading I can get my hands on on the subject and I preach it to my kids – if I’m being perfectly honest, I am still deeply unhappy with my body. I catch myself hating how my pants fit or cringing when I pass a mirror. Or recoiling with horror when I go to take a picture with my iphone and the camera is pointed right at me!

And having talked with many of you – I know I’m not alone. I think I could comfortably speak for all of us in this room in saying we all know that we should be accepting, but we have a long way to go in making that shift happen.

That is why we wanted to share this film with you. We want to start that shift in our own mindsets and we want to support this shift happening for our friends, family members and all the females in our lives.

And though one movie might not fix the years of reprogramming that we likely need, it’s a great place to start. 

Enjoy the film! Let’s Embrace!

*If you are interested in building upon a local EMBRACE community – email embracelori@gmail.com to be added to our mailing list.

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An Open Letter to Youth Competitive Dance

Dear Youth Dance Competition Organizers and Judges,

First of all, I would like to start by thanking you for providing a forum for my daughter to express her passion. At 10 years old, she revels in the opportunity to move her body and pour her feelings and creativity into music and movement. Even when she isn’t training, she will most often spend her free time choreographing new routines and practicing the moves that have turned her into a strong and athletic young girl. And make no mistake, she is an athlete. And this is in no small part due to the focused training she undertakes in preparation for competition.

Like any competitive sport, there are things that I don’t love about dance – the incredibly high cost, the countless hours that make family dinners all but a distant memory from September to June and the scant costumes (many of which will come in handy if my daughter ever parlays her dance training into something involving a G-string and a pole). But like all parents who agree to enroll their children into competitive endeavors, I appreciate that I sometimes have to take the good with the bad and these are the issues I will grit my teeth and contend with as long as my daughter continues to love this sport.

There is however one thing I just cannot wrap my brain around. One thing that makes me sad and frustrated at the same time. Here’s my problem – can you please tell me why I am required to plaster my beautiful daughter’s face in layers of gaudy makeup and absurdly long false eyelashes in order for her to compete on stage? And why every dancer from the tender age of 6 must endure hours in front of a mirror layering on powders, blushes and lipsticks only to come out looking like ridiculous overly sexualized young women?

Here is why I have a real issue with this – you are essentially telling a group of young athletes (the vast majority of them girls) that they are not good enough just as they are. That all of the hours of sweat and training are not quite enough to prepare them to compete in front of a panel of judges. Instead of celebrating their natural beauty and athleticism, they must further prepare by slapping on face powder and body glitter and hairspray themselves to within an inch of their lives to make themselves presentable. In order to fulfill the advanced requirements of the sport, they must transform themselves from beautiful innocent young performers into sexy made-up temptresses.

When I’ve asked around, I’ve been informed that the makeup enhances the quality of the performances. And I can understand this point only in relation to particular themes – perhaps a zombie dance would require ghostly white faces and fake scars or a smurf song would lend itself to blue faces and costumes. But I’m talking about the lion’s share of dances that regardless of the theme or music require all female performers to apply obscene amounts of eyeshadow, mascara, foundation, blush and lipstick.

Now I’ve also been told that the thick and often garish makeup is applied to allow the judges to see the girls faces better. But if that were truly the case then why don’t I see bright pink gloss or spidery lashes on the equally talented male performers? Maybe I’m missing something but I’ve yet to see a young man dance across the stage in a belly shirt with rouged cheeks and a head full of laughable attached ringlets.

Can you imagine any other competitive sport where the athletes would have to endure such indignity before competition? Would we send our children who play rep level soccer or hockey or football or lacrosse onto the playing field wearing ruby-red lipstick and purple blush to better appreciate their athleticism? Are gymnasts, swimmers and track stars forced to spend hours in the mirror pre-comp carefully affixing 1-inch lashes to enhance the visual aspect of their performance?

And am I the only one who finds this completely nuts? Because I’m really starting to think I am. I have always been shocked by how few of my friends share my discomfort with this requirement. “Oh Lori” they say “it’s just part of the sport.” “The girls will lose marks if they aren’t wearing makeup” or “My daughter loves getting all made up.” To this last comment I say yes – my sister and I spent many an hour as young girls slopping piles of my mom’s discarded makeup all over ourselves and having a ball. But it wasn’t mandatory to any activity we were participating in. It was simply for fun.

I do not consider myself a dance mom any more than I’m a soccer or hockey mom to my sons. I’m simply one mother stumbling my way through parenthood trying to do what is best for my children. And like most parents I will support them in their choices as long as they are reasonable and not life threatening. But I also want to teach my children to speak up when something feels wrong and to challenge conventions when they are outdated or unreasonable (and you can bet I’ve had many frank discussions with my daughter about my feelings around makeup and dance).

And please don’t misunderstand me – this is not meant to be a dig at any particular person or studio. I happen to love where my daughter dances and her talented teachers and I’ll be the first to admit that I had a blast watching her on stage at each and every one of her competitions last season. I’m only asking that as a collective – moms, dads, kids, studio owners, teachers, competition organizers and judges – that we take a good hard look at this particular requirement and perhaps decide that at least for these young athletes- dance should be appreciated as a sport and an art form that ultimately needs no artificial embellishment.

To the organizers of the competitions and the judges, I can tell you this for sure- if you lose the makeup you might not see bright pink lips or electric blue eye lids but I can guarantee you will have a much better view of the pure and unaltered joy on the dancers faces. You will see natural smiles and cheeks flushed with effort and excitement. You will see their eyes lit up with happiness and passion. And at the end of the day – isn’t that what it’s really all about?

Sincerely,

Lori