Body Shaming, Parenting, The Dress, You Are Beautiful

The Dress

Last year during a particularly hard time for my family we ventured into the mall looking for a dress for my then ten year old to wear to a funeral. After checking close to a dozen stores she finally found a dress that she was happy with. It was the last dress of that style, and in her size too, it was like fate had brought them together.

The dress clutched in her arms we made our way to the change room where the associate takes one look at my daughter and sneers that there was no way that dress was going to fit her and that she should find something else. As my daughter’s face crumbles, on the verge of tears, my mouth drops, and I ask myself “did this associate really just say that?”
I slowly regain control of the situation, pick my jaw up off the floor and tell the associate that she’d like to try the dress on anyway.
Now of course she could have just smiled and said sure! or right away! But no, of course she didn’t. She responds:

“Go ahead, but its not going to fit”

My daughter tries the dress on and low and behold it fits her perfectly, like it was made for her. She comes out and everyone starts complimenting her on the dress and she beams. You see, she’s at that delicate age where she’s beginning to develop her sense of self. She doesn’t need to be told by a complete stranger that her body is imperfect in anyway. It is no one’s business, and body shaming a child is just despicable.

We buy the dress, because quite honestly the dress was perfect and the rest is history. I didn’t give the dress incident much thought until this past weekend.

You might be wondering why a year later I would bring even bring this dress up at all.

This dress, a full year, and 5 inches of height later, made another appearance at an event this weekend and low and behold the dress still fits like it was made for her. The dress that the associate was so adamant wouldn’t fit my daughter still fits (albeit it is much shorter!).

And so these past couple of days I’ve given a lot of thought to “The Dress”.  Perhaps if we hadn’t been in the process of grieving last summer I would have been more capable of processing my thoughts on this incident immediately. As it was I launched a complaint with the manager of this big box store, but we all know how far those complaints go.

I wish that I had told the associate that she shouldn’t talk down to little girls, women, boys or men like that. We are all bombarded by images we see in media everyday. Bombarded with what advertisers and marketers consider to be the ideal body shape. Do we really need to put each other down in the process? The delicate body image developing in young girls at this age is far more important than trying to show your dominance. In fact, regardless of the age of the person in question, the most important opinion that matters is their own.

I am her mother. I have been buying her clothing for her entire life. I know what size clothing my daughter needs, I don’t need someone acting like my ten year old doesn’t deserve the right to try on a dress that she’s carefully selected to wear while paying her respects to a lost family member. I realize that we had somehow neglected to wear our matching “in grieving” shirts and so it was probably difficult to realize that it was a tough time for us. But I also realize that we should have been treated with respect regardless of what our current circumstances were, it shouldn’t matter that we were grieving. The associates interaction with our family was completely unnecessary.

It is my hope that this post in some way helps even just one person who doesn’t fit within what is depicted as beautiful in our society. Please know that you are beautiful, or handsome, or sexy as hell, and follow your heart. Wear what you want to wear. The only opinion that matters is your own. I am continuing to teach my girls that same lesson, while trying to remember those words when I look into the mirror too.

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