Monday, June 21, 2010

Body Image

“I’ll starve to death before I’ll cook for myself. I think I could survive a week without eating.”

- Megan Fox*

Megan Fox has ticked me off.

I don’t normally follow Hollywood and music gossip. Most of my celebrity information comes from the TV show “The Soup” and the occasional look through “O.K.” and “People” when I’m at a hair salon. Once, I heard Ms. Fox had bad-mouthed the director of the “Transformers” movie. And I know she’s pretty with an impossibly perfect body and has a Marilyn Monroe tattoo.

When flying back from France, I read an interview with her in Allure magazine. On page 159, the woman commented on her underwear add for Emporio Armani:

“People always airbrush me, especially in my stomach, because it looks like I have a 24-pack – they soften it. It’s been softened, which you’d think they’d want to make me skinnier, but…”

Who needs to hear this? Imagine having those problems.

I’d love to say:

Can you imagine Calvin Klein thought my legs were too long? They airbrushed off part of the thighs and calves to make them shorter because my gams couldn’t fit on one page.

The funny thing is the interviewer called Megan “down to earth”. The problem is people in the industry hover over earth so high they wouldn’t recognize someone all the way down on earth.

Now I’m not a big “body image in the media” complainer. I loved my Barbie dolls, even if at full-size Barbie would be anorexic, and topple over on her too-small feet. Hey, I didn’t even mind that they were all blonde and blue-eyed until Hispanic “Teresa” came out in the 1980s.

Every person on the planet has body issues. Every woman. Every man. There’s some part we’d like to increase, shrink, stretch, lighten, darken, remove, add. My list would be long indeed. But at this point in life, I don’t dwell on it. I highlight the assets and hide the not-so-assets as best I can.

Why am I writing about this? I’m glad you asked. (SEGWAY.) Last Monday and Tuesday, I was given the honor of teaching two days of Spanish at a very difficult middle school. This was NOT a good way to get back to work after a week break. (Don’t cry for me since I vacationed in Dublin and Paris.) Apparently, the teacher was on Paternity Leave and left the same boring plans for the kids to do each day. The kids had already endured several days of this, and were beginning to rebel. To add to the fun, his Smart Board had just been changed, and decided not to cooperate. And I had jet lag.

Considering the obstacles, I survived Monday. The first classes on Tuesday went better because I gave them choices. Then a particular middle-school class came in. Two girls volunteered to do the date and weather on the Smart Board. The rest of the students were pretty cooperative, and it looked like it would be a decent class.


One of my two helpers got right to work, while the other, a big girl, started speaking to a few boys in the back of the classroom. I would’ve tried to get her back to her own seat, but I was helping a student define a word. I caught her movement in the corner of my eye, so I looked up to see her charging at a group of boys. I ran to the back of the room just as two boys restrained her from a third one seated on a desk. I warned, “Don’t kick him or I’ll have to send you to the office.”

The girl kneed him in the groin area anyway. She must’ve missed because he didn’t double over in agony. “That’s it. I’m calling the office,” I said. The boys kept her back and she took a couple of steps back. As I made my way to the phone in the front of the room, she charged again, pushing the boy in the chest. He fell backwards, landing on the side of his face, with his neck at an awkward angle. How he was okay, I have no idea.

The commotion caused both side doors to open, as well as my front classroom door. Another teacher escorted her to the office, while I phoned to announce her upcoming arrival. I sent the boy to the nurse to get ice. He came back without any, insisting he was fine.

(On the upside, this is the only fight that’s ever occurred in one of my classrooms)

For a good fifteen minutes, most of the students would only talk about the Jerry Springer event. I sat with the boys to find out what happened. They told me she was trash talking, calling them skinny (they were tall and thin). One boy told her she was jealous. She said, “I got all this,” giving a peek of her stomach. “Yeah, you do,” the boy on the desk shot back. Then she lost her mind.

I reprimanded the boys for taking the bait and talking back about her appearance. “She’s not as confident as she pretends. I know it’s hard, but you shouldn’t say anything back.”

Being that every teacher wrings their hands over these eighth-grade classes, I’m sure it didn’t work.

Children notice appearance. My son knew he was the smallest out of the boys in the kindergarten classrooms in his school without anyone having to tell him. When he wasn’t, he noticed that too. I was a skinny thing who was teased for being skinny. My own grandmother called me “Olive Oyl”. My teenage years weren’t any better for self-confidence over my stick-like appearance. It was a time for voluptuous girls – not waifs.

When I write teen characters, I always have them note how they feel about the way they look. No teens are entirely happy with their bodies or their faces. And they check out their classmates, A LOT. They’re experiencing big changes and never feel quite normal.

As an adult, I’d love to let teens know they’ll want those tight bodies back when they’re older. Because even the physiques that aren’t exactly tight aren’t going to get any better unless they’re willing to work at it....

... unless you’re Megan Fox:

“She doesn’t do cardio, preferring Pilates and yoga for their mentally calming properties.”

- Alexandra Jacobs on Megan Fox

*Top and bottom quotes from “Allure” magazine, page 156.


  1. Oh my! What a way to get back into the groove of things, huh? Teenagers are crazy. About everything. Especially if it hits their self esteem. Glad no one got hurt!

  2. You are a brave woman! There's no way anyone could pay me enough to teach.

  3. What a lovely welcome back. Try to stay away from Megan Fox and anything she says. Your blood pressure will thank you for it. :)

  4. That Megan Fox quote that you opened with is very disturbing. I liked the paragraph that you wrote about body image; it's sad that none of appreciates what we do have - especially when we're teenagers. It sounds like you handled the class well! My hat goes off to you - I couldn't do it:)

  5. Celebrities are funny. Good for a laugh, eh? I can honestly say, though, that growing up I was way more insecure about the way that I looked socially rather than physically. Now I'm comfortable with both. But it WOULD be nice to have longer fingers... xD

    I was sorry to hear about the fight in your classroom, but at least it was the only one you've had.

  6. Thank you for this post. There are so many wrong body messages out there, and the quotes you've posted really illustrate that.

  7. Good grief!!! what a kerfuffle!! I'm just glad no-one was hurt! That's some body issues all round - it's such an easy thing to pick on and pick out. Kids would always go for the physical imagery first - I guess it's the most hurtful and causes the most emotional pain first.

    Let's just hope these children grow to like themselves for what and who they are!

    Take care

  8. Sounds like quite a day! That Megan Fox is a pain in derriere! Thought you might be missing the ole bit of French.

  9. Bless your heart! At least preschoolers are small enough we can just pick them up and move them...and on that note: I've heard conversations in the Pre-K room about dieting and weight watching! Sheesh! I hope future class duties are calmer and more interesting!

  10. 8th grade? Enough said.

    Fights are always interesting. Sounds like you did the right thing, and you got a good story out of it. (All my classroom fights are great stories, even though two of them are almost-fights.)

  11. Oh that Megan Fox... she's so amazing, so down to earth... so... so... no one cares. Well guys do, but I for one do not care about her perfectly curved body, no one really cares.

    You always have the most fascinating stories, mixed with celebrities today, always an interesting day for you!

  12. I recently saw an article on Yahoo! (I think) about how she was put into a corset for her role in Jonah Hex - tightened to 18 inches. I'd have to remove a few ribs to get anywhere near that. And probably still have to lose weight too. She also proceeded to say how she thinks corsets should make a comeback.

    "I do think there's a place for corsets," says Fox. "I think they should come back. They should make a reappearance. I enjoy them, but maybe I'm sick."

    I'd rather be able to breath and bend over to tie my shoes, thanks.

  13. @ Tiffany, I agree. Over the years there have been so many fights in the hallway and at recess. And most of it happens in middle school.

    @ Nicole MacDonald, ironically, as a sub I don't get paid all that much to teach. I must be crazy!

    @ Sarahjayne Smith, I don't like when people who are blessed like her brag about it. Not cool. I won't read anymore interviews, even if it's in In Style.

    @ Kathleen, I like to write about and for teenagers. I like teaching teenagers. But I don't want to be a teen again.

  14. @ Amanda Sablan, I'd take longer legs. At 5'3", they're only going to be so long.

    As far as fights, I'm not counting little kid pushing. And there was the biting incident during gym. But for children who are the age where they're supposed to have impulse control, no fights before this.

    @ Sandy Shin, I wonder how Megan Fox's quotes would sound to her.

    @ Old Kitty, it's true - they go for physical appearance insults first. Usually it's like a volley match, bouncing off them (at least, outwardly). But this time, she couldn't take it when it got thrown back to her.

    @ Ann, thanks for the French. The woman has her own issues. She admits to OCD. She carries around sanitizer and spends some time talking about germs.

  15. @ The Words Crafter, the little ones usually worry me more. You can move them, but they can kick.

    Once, I heard a kindergartner mention weight once. That saddened me.

    @ Liz, I have a couple of good incidents that turn into fights also. Kids are good material.

    @ Jen, normally I don't care. I was on a plane, so I read the interview, got annoyed at a couple of quotes, and forgot about it. But the afternoon after the fight, I thought about her quotes in comparison with the girl having a false bravado about her body.

    @ Surfie, 18"! That's like Scarlett O'Hara in Gone With the Wind. At my skinniest my waist was way bigger than that!

  16. Excellent post. Did you see Heidi Klum's quote about being comfortable with her body that ran with a picture of her mostly nude and perfect body post-baby? Yeah.

  17. Sorry about the fight. They can be nasty at that age, can't they. Is school out for the summer yet there? We finished up here on Friday.

  18. @ Stephanie, I knew someone who wore her old jeans two weeks after having a baby. Not good for my ego. At least Heidi Klum admits to working hard and being active to keep her body in shape.

    @ Joanne, seventh and eighth-grades are the most difficult years, to teach and to be in! I think I had a curly mullet back then. I know... sad.

    Our last day is Wednesday. And yes, I am subbing the next two days.

  19. Not that I follow the celebrity crowd, but Megan Fox has said some really stupid things in what I hear in passing.

    Glad you have only had to deal with that one fight--those are some of my most vivid memories of that age and certainly something I could have done without.

  20. I'm sure Megan Fox will probably eat her words someday; I think she takes her looks for granted.
    That's scary that those kids got into a fight in the classroom, especially when that girl kept charging at those boys. But it sounds like you got things under control.

  21. you never know what you're going to get when you walk into a classroom, do you?

    (I just noticed your Blog Bestie Award from those graphics! How did I not see it before?)

  22. At least it was your first fight in class, I'm impressed at the support you got immediately.

    The body issue is a tough one, the kids are bombarded with carefully planned media campaigns, we just have to try as parents to keep their self-esteem high.

  23. Wow - a day in the life of a teacher... respect to you sister. In teacher training do you get lessons on how to cope with these situations?

    As for body image - the other great (?) quote that comes to mind is that of Kate Moss who announced that "nothing tastes as good as skinny feels"... I tell you it is not easy to swim against the tide of this bull as a mother of daughters especially!

  24. Ooh, good for you! I wrote my first short story about a teenage girl with body issues, so I think it's amazing that you're including these themes in your work!! It is so so true and I really enjoyed reading about Megan Fox and her "problems".

  25. @ Slamdunk, I remember a few fights in school. It was a similar situation - someone trash talked someone else. The next thing I knew, they were attached to one another.

    @ Neurotic Workaholic, she won't be pretty forever. It won't be this easy forever either.

    The upside of the fight was most of them (not the girl in trouble or the boys) got more work done because it got quieter.

    @ Vicki Rocho, it's a cool award. She's apparently way more computer savvy than me.

  26. @ Brigid, I talk to my children all the time about eating well and being active as being important. Size and shape shouldn't be on their radar. It helps that we record most of their shoes and they fast forward through the commercials. I can't keep it out forever.

    @ Barbara, Kate Moss's quote is catchy, but she got slammed for it. Probably because easier said than done and not everyone is going to be a stick. If more of the models admitted to hard work, it would be nicer. Six packs don't sprout like a field of flowers.

    As far as coping, I may have sat in front of the TV and had a glass of red wine that night.

    @ Saumya, I think it's cool you wrote about a teen with body issues too. I've haven't gone very far with tackling it in a piece so far.

  27. It's hard to gain a good body image and I think that's one of the hardest things about being a teen.

    Thanks for sharing and glad you're back safe and sound!

  28. Amen to that... I wrote about this issue in kindergarten here:

    I also really try hard to make sure the smallest and tallest kids (both boys this year) feel SPECIAL for it.

  29. Megan Fox is young and immature, albeit beautiful.

    Thank goodness she didn't break the boys neck! Can you imagine? That would have changed their lives forever, in a very bad way.

    I'm glad everyone survived the day in tact. :)

  30. @ Jackee, I agree. Hormones are surging, but teens think nobody will like them because of the way they look.

    @ Halpey, it's good you make the effort. My little ones used to get picked up by their peers in kindergarten as if they were dolls. They both hated it.

    I remember your post. It was a good one. Five-year-olds should be thinking about fitness instead of weight.

    @ Lola Sharp, when I saw the boy fall, I thought for sure it would be worse. Thank goodness.

    When I got called for the same job on Wednesday, I said to the gatekeeper, "Do you have anything else? Do you know the teacher is on paternity leave? Maybe someone should be in there long term." I never did that before.

  31. Wow, I love this post. You are brave and awesome. And so right.

  32. wow. what a day. and OMG with the BODY IMAGE NONSENSE. :(

    this makes me so sad.

  33. @ Tahereh, there's too much time spent worrying about bodies. And teens compare more than any other group.

  34. Wow, I hate Megan Fox now. These hollywood folks are definetly living in another world...

    And yeah, we all have suffered at one point from insecurity as teenagers...oldest story in the book =/ Shame the girl started this and the boys took the bate, indeed.

  35. I wish I'd understood when I was a teenager that it was just going to be downhill from there body-wise and I'd never have so much vigour or energy again. Then I might have stopped sulking for a bit!

  36. @ Clara, maybe they're down to earth in that other world.

    @ Hampshireflyer, I would've worn tighter clothes that showed off my size. If I'd been born another 5+ years later, my look would've been perfect.

    Who am I kidding? I still would've sulked.

  37. A close family member called me "Porky" as a nickname from the time I was five years old until he passed away a few years ago (when I was 33!!!) I struggle, in my writing, to make the girl characters as real as I can. One of my current WIPs features an impuslive eater with what nickname? You guessed it... Porky. Body image is something I STILL grapple with, and I hope against all hope I'm not projecting my negative self-image onto my five year old daughter.'s a struggle! :) Good post...

  38. She could go a week without eating? What a fool! Teens have it so hard today with body image, that girl in your must be so hard for her, no wonder she acts tough. Sounds like a day i would have run, wobbling, from! When i was a teen baggy trousers and grandad shirts were in fashion, I thank the high heavens I didn't have to squeeze into belly tops! Not to mention those bloody hipsters that were out a few years ago!

  39. @ Ant, I'm sorry you were called Porky and nobody stopped him. We often write from experience, eh?

    I also try to watch what I say about myself in front of my children. It ain't easy.

    @ Words A Day, I could never go a week without eating. Maybe I could skip a meal if the last one were really big.

    I'm glad I missed the lowriders with the thongs peeking out.