Tag Archives: Peggy Orenstein

[Never Say Diet] Obesity, Custody Battles and the Good Divorce

iVillage Never Say Diet Obesity Custody Battles

Only everything, if you ask a certain class of divorce lawyers. Which the Wall Street Journal did. I’m finding the whole thing infuriating over on Never Say Diet today, and it’s not just because it’s offensive to fat people — and thus, to everyone with a body. To be honest, I’ve been riled up ever since I read Susan Gregory Thomas’s piece in the Sunday New York Times about whether “The Good Divorce” is really all that good for kids. She ultimately concludes that it can be, but along the way she cites research finding “children of divorce score worse in math and social skills, and suffer from lower self-esteem than those from non-divorce households, period.” And if you check out the comments over on Peggy Orenstein’s Motherlode post on the story, it’s clear that plenty of readers are skeptical of the concept as well.

As it just so happens, I come from a Good Divorce — my parents share holidays and vacations, welcomed each other’s new spouses and children to the family, and never, ever fought in front of me or undermined each other’s authority. So confidential to those researchers: I scored 700 on my math SATs. And my social skills and self-esteem are generally through the goddamn roof.

There are exactly three things about me that will tell you I come from a “broken home:” I’m really organized, after 18 years of joint custody. (It’s great to live with both your parents. It is not great to forget half your science homework at the other parent’s house.) I over-worry about where my husband and I will spend the holidays now because I don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings.

And I will become irate quite quickly when you try to tell me how much divorce messes with kids’ heads.

I’m not saying that doesn’t happen. For every Good Divorce, there are thousands of terrible, heartbreaking divorces where parents won’t or can’t put their differences aside for the collective family good. But what really messed with my head as a kid wasn’t anything my parents did. (I mean: They made me organized. And considerate of other people’s feelings. Quel horreur!) It was the cultural perception of my family as fractured and dysfunctional. Teachers, friends’ parents, and unsolicited strangers often shook their heads and tsked that my cruel parents made me spend half the week at each of their homes so they could play equally important roles in my life. Everybody assumed I must hate my step-parents or new half-siblings (nope, they’re cool). One school secretary told me it was so sad that I had a hyphenated last name, “because it shows you’re secretly hoping your parents will get back together.” I had a lot of feelings about her.

Fortunately, since my family is pretty kick-*ss, these experiences didn’t leave many lasting scars. I’ve long assumed all that early cultural confusion was a sign of how trailblazing my parents were, since they more or less invented the Good Divorce back in the early 1980s. After all, as Thomas notes in her article, 30 years ago, only three states upheld joint custody arrangements at all — now they all do. I didn’t even know what to call it back then — I’d just have to say, “my parents are divorced — but no, really, they like each other.” We’ve made so much progress, right?

But when I read about trumped up custody battle tactics like “you’re too fat to be a mom,” and shoddy, stereotype-perpetuating research like “divorced kids suck at math,” I realize that the Good Divorce is still depressingly rare. And this traps families in unhappy marriages because there’s a default assumption that anyone getting divorced is screwing up. When in fact, getting divorced is very often an act of great courage — and of love.



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[Never Say Diet] Need a Better Body Image? There’s an App for That

iVillage Never Say Diet Virginia Sole-Smith Body Image App

But I’m not so sure that’s a good thing — I know, body image blogger blasphemy! But stay with me, I explain it all over on Never Say Diet today.

It was also a good excuse to pick the brain of one of my favorite writers, Peggy Orenstein, who had so many smart things to say on the issue. I didn’t get them all into the official post (oh 550 maximum word count rule, how you torment me!) so I thought I’d paste the rest of her email below.

You might want to quick read the Never Say Diet post, so you know what the heck we’re talking about with this new body image app and then come back here for Peggy’s full take:

Ai-yi-yi. Clearly, the woman who invented this is sincere and means well. But really, wouldn’t it be better  to get girls off the focus on body ENTIRELY? To realize that they are MORE than their bodies? MORE than how they look? To invest them with OTHER sources of self-esteem? For white, middle-school girls, how they look is the MOST IMPORTANT determinant of their self-esteem. That is a problem–and makes “self-esteem” a tricky concept. It’s not enough just to have something called high self-esteem, it’s the source of it, the domains from which you derive it.

So yes, ideas about beauty and body and what’s acceptable and what’s BEAUTIFUL must  change and broaden. But the all-consuming importance of body and beauty also has to be minimized in favor of who we are and what we do.

Also, what can it mean to a girl to hear positive body-image talk from people like Demi Moore and Ben Stiller who have subjected themselves to MASSIVE amounts of cosmetic enhancement and use personal trainers, personal chefs etc to maintain a the very kind of body that we’re telling girls isn’t important?

Though again, I think she’s absolutely right about the problem and its impact on girls and women. And I have compassion for the pain she went through–which is so common as to be almost normalized–as well as her desire to do something positive for girls and women. I’m just not sure there is any reason to believe this would be a useful or helpful tool…..So I wouldn’t want to slam her. I appreciate her passion. I just think there’s not going to be an app for self-love. I hope I’m wrong about that.

It can be such a fine line to walk between getting girls to think about a broader definition of body and beauty… and getting them to think beyond body and beauty. How do you strike this balance when you talk about body image issues with girls (of all ages)?

PS. If you missed my last post about Peggy’s fantastic book of Cinderella Ate My Daughter: Dispatches from the Front Lines of the New Girlie-Girl Culture, which, bee tee dubs, includes a picture of the world’s most adorable three-year-old, you can catch that over here.


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Pretty Price Check, plus Fun New Thing! (07.15.11)

The Pretty Price Check: Your Friday round-up of how much we paid for beauty this week.

Nail Art Awesomeness

  • The New York Times has 10 interesting takes on why wild nail polish has gone mainstream, including an awesome one on why no more formaldehyde helped. Can I just say how much I heart nail art? Happy sigh.
  • Tom Hanks is 11 years older than Julia Roberts, his love interest in Larry Crowne — and Amanda Marcotte is noticing he’s not the only dude getting to rob the cradle on the big screen right now. Which is not to hate on May-December relationships, but more to ask we we can’t see older actresses getting these parts and even — wait for it! — looking their actual age?
  • 10 percent of babies aged 0 to 2 are overweight. People are upset about this. I feel sort of like how I feel when the vet says my cat is fat. Which is to say I mostly think it’s cute and also: Chill, people. (via Jezebel and yes, yes, I know, comparing cats to human babies is yet more proof I’d be a very questionable mother.)
  • Kate Middleton might only weigh 95 pounds now. Except this is probably shamelessly inaccurate, sloppy journalism. And also, what if we all just relaxed about the princess and her weight? (Via The Examiner and Peggy Orenstein’s Facebook page where I was a little surprised to see the comments go in a rather disturbing “that is so sick” direction, sigh…Hate the game, not the player, people!)

Fun New Thing! Is so fun. And I was going to tack it onto this post, but I’ve decided it’s so very fun, it deserves its own post. So get excited… and I’ll be back later this afternoon to tell you more!

[Photo: Multi coloured leopard nails! by terri_jane via Flickr.]

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Pretty Price Check (04.29.11)

The Pretty Price Check: Your Friday round-up of how much we paid for beauty this week.

Maddy's Place 5 Year Old Makeup Guru

  • $70 unworn sweatpants were destroyed upon return to Victoria’s Secret, reports The Hairpin. Look, VS, I think pants that say “Pink” on the butt are hella tacky too, but that kind of waste is stomach-churning.
  • 30 percent of anorexia sufferers never recover, say some experts. But as this New York Times story points out, the definition of “recovery” is vague at best.
  • 50 percent of girls aged 3 to 6 think they’re fat, reports Sadie Stein over on Jezebel. I’m just going to have to let that one sink in. It’s a little too sad for witty banter.
  • $6000 jaw shaving surgery is becoming all the rage among China’s new middle-class says the New York Times. More fun news: China’s new plastic surgery industry is highly unregulated, leading one expert to call it a “medical disaster zone.”

And for those of you still coming down from the Royal Wedding pageantry high — Peggy Orenstein has your antidote.

PS. I’ll be taking Monday off in honor of the other headline-making event happening this weekend — my 30th birthday! See you Tuesday with new Never Say Diet action.

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Pretty Price Check (03.25.11)

The Pretty Price Check: Your Friday round-up of what we paid for beauty last week.

Monster High Clawdeen

  • $16.99: The price tag on this Monster High Clawdeen Wolf Doll (yes, that’s the link so you can fact-check the price, no I’m not subtly suggesting you buy one), whose “Freaky Flaw” is her constantly growing leg hair. Gah. (Via Jezebel)
  • 8 years old: The age of this little girl, whose mother claims to give her monthly Botox treatments and a whole bunch of other not-age-appropriate beauty crap. Like Virgin Waxing. Everyone is understandably losing their minds about this. I’m still forming cohesive thoughts. Stay tuned. PS. BellaSugar thinks it’s all a hoax — I’m praying they’re right.
  • $49: What we pay, on average, for each pair of shoes of our average-size collection of 17. Only 33 percent have ever paid more than $100 for a pair. Dear Other 66 Percent: Please tell me where you shop! (Via Fashionista.)
  • 600 percent: How much Dove sales jumped after that whole “Real Beauty” campaign first launched. Which is old news… but now, new research confirms that women will buy more when companies use a more diverse range of models. So that’s cool. (Via MyDaily)
  • 1.1 million: The number of men who got plastic surgery in 2010. It’s up two percent. Specifically, ear surgery is up eleven percent. Is it possible men have found a body part to be insecure about that women — generally speaking, don’tgetmadifyouhateyourearsnow — don’t have to stress over? (Via the Good Men Project.)

And for more price of pretty business, check out my piece, “New Health Hazards at Salons and Spas,” which is in the current issue of Health Magazine and online at CNN.com.

You’ll see my buddy Alexandra Spunt quoted in the intro. Alas, a  mysterious editing glitch cut out my mention of her book, but y’all know and love her as the fabulous co-author of No More Dirty Looks.

PS. Pole Dancing For Jesus is a thing now. Just thought you should know.

[Screenshot of Clawdeen’s bio from over here. Again, no endorsement.]








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The New Toddlers in Tiaras

This is my three-year-old niece, Lorelai.

Lorelai as Snow White

Obviously, she’s just about the most adorable kid you’ve ever laid eyes on. We’ll just all spend a moment thinking about that before I get to the point.

So cute, right?! And funny, too! I know!

Okay then.

Lorelai is also — in case you hadn’t already guessed where this is going — super into princesses. Continue reading


Filed under beauty standards, Glossed Over.