Skinny

By Margaret Bishop

Skinny

“Want to know something interesting?” my 11 year old daughter asked as we pedaled along on our bikes one early July morning.

“At the end of school, our teacher gave us vocabulary words, and we marked whether they had a negative or positive connotation.”

“Every single boy in the class said that SKINNY had a negative connotation, and every single girl in the class said that SKINNY had a positive connotation.”

“Isn’t that interesting?”

Interesting is one word to describe this classroom phenomenon. But, how about heartbreaking or depressing or maybe just inevitable? After all, wouldn’t the same result have likely occurred thirty-something years ago in my own 5th grade class?

And why shouldn’t girls today associate positive thoughts with the word skinny? Aren’t they bombarded with advertisements featuring thin, beautiful women? Don’t their moms munch on Skinny Pop popcorn, drink Skinnygirl margaritas and sport fashionable “skinny” jeans (or at least aspire to)?

And why do the boys associate negative thoughts with the word skinny? My female mind tells me that in boy speak the word skinny is just another synonym for “weak.” What 11 year old boy aspires to weakness? Strong, ripped, fit – these are the body images of which little boys dream. But weak? No way! 

So what advice can I possibly offer my daughter and all the other girls like her that have been told in the subtlest of ways that skinny means everything? Skinny is not just another adjective in their world. Rather, skinny is a goal, something to strive for, an aspiration. And of all the positive things that a woman can be – kind, generous, intelligent, athletic, artistic (you get the idea) – skinny certainly doesn’t seem to deserve a top spot in the rankings.

I suppose I want my daughter to know that there is so much more to a life well lived than a dress size or a number on a scale. I want her to know that skinny doesn’t mean happiness. In fact, some of the most unhappy women I have known have been nothing more than waifs, too consumed by their own crushing anxiety and depression to worry about providing fuel for their bodies. I want her to know that skinny doesn’t always mean healthy. If you need proof, just ask anyone that is battling a serious illness, and they will surely tell you that to gain a pound only means gaining strength in their eyes. I want her to know that despite what commercials may lead her to believe that skinny isn’t a free pass to fun, fame and good fortune.

I want her to know that when I Google the word skinny, synonyms include words like “gaunt, emaciated and scrawny.”

 And finally, I want her to know that in HER world skinny can simply be an adjective – nothing more, nothing less: A word like many other words used to describe a person’s outward appearance without giving a single clue as to the state of the soul that lives within.

About this writer

  • Margaret Bishop Margaret Bishop and her husband, Matt, reside in Camden, South Carolina, with their three wonderful children (David, Olivia and Thomas) and always entertaining dog, Sugar. In between carpools, Margaret enjoys reading and writing as much as possible.

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One Response to “Skinny”

  1. Rose O. says:

    On target, Margaret Rose. I worked with Eating Disorder patients for about 6 years, TRAGIC.

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