Dear E. Jean: Last week I was speaking with my mother about feeling motivated to eat healthier, and she replied that I had “very noticeably put weight on” my legs. I was beyond upset! She was baffled about why I was upset and said, “It’s not like they’re completely humongous or anything.” As though that would make me feel better!
Her remarks have totally put me off eating a healthy diet. I feel myself slipping back into starving myself and overexercising. Am I being dramatic? Or was my mother out of line? I’m having a hard time getting over how rude and offensive her words were. It’s not like I’m overweight (I’m 5’6″ and 128 pounds). Why does she make me feel like everyone is talking about my weight? —Sensitive Thighs
Miss Thighs of the Thews: I have two theories: First, some mothers are like the gods on Olympus. They create us, then they chain us to rocks and command eagles to eat our livers every day throughout eternity. Second—and just as true—we daughters are the gods, and our mothers sacrifice their careers, their independence, their sex lives, their shoes, their figures, their plans, and their wits for us.
Re the shoe sacrifice: One winter, when my family lived deep in the hills of Indiana, my own mother, the flame-haired bird of paradise Liz Carroll, was driving me to a tony afternoon social event in Huntertown, wearing her beautiful high heels encased in little clear plastic galoshes. As we passed a pond, she thumped the brakes, pulled the car over, retrieved a shovel from the trunk, and, saying “Let’s try your new skates!,” cleared the snow off the ice. I was five. Her beautiful shoes did not survive.
The matriarchal sacrificing and rock-chaining provides many mothers with a lot of weight about our weight. And as for your own personal legs, Miss Sensitive—well! Each syllable uttered by your mother is heavier than the thighs of 10,000 women. (And I don’t need to point out that every word you reply has the power to cut her to shreds, do I?) You sprang from her loins, you are flesh of her flesh; the woman made your thighs, for God’s sake—so, no, you are not being “dramatic.”
Just say to her, “Ma! Please do not mention my weight ever again. It makes me want to starve myself.” You’ll have to remind her of this every week or so, but so what, it’s fun trying to keep a mother in line. I kept Liz Carroll in line until last Tuesday at 3:55 p.m., when, after 98 years on planet Earth, wearing Volcanic 410 lipstick and her Oscar de la Renta hostess pajamas, and with her hair done up with a turquoise bow, she shuffled off this mortal coil. She turned out not to be a god after all, but a mortal. It was the surprise of my life.