I can't eat ice cream anymore. Please shed a tear for me, I know you feel my pain. The ice cream truck & ice cream shops took all my allowance! I don't even want to calculate how much money I've spent on ice cream.
I know what you're thinking, "Loha why are we talking about ice cream?"
Recently, I got into the elevator with my neighbor & her daughter on one of those unseasonably hot days in spring. This little girl was happily licking her double vanilla & chocolate ice cream cones. She was all in, I'm talking ice cream all over her face & I had to smile cause her pure joy was contagious.
Her mom looked at me sheepishly & told her daughter she was making a mess. Her daughter looked at me with that same sheepish expression while declaring "I'm such a pig!"
My heart sank into stomach. Where did she learn that phrase? Why is a 6 year old using such self-abusing language so emphatically? Why does enjoyment have to be bad?
In an attempt to say all the things I wish I could've said, here's my letter to that lovely young girl:
Dear sweet girl,
I see you with your bright smile, eyes full of joy & boundless energy in your steps. I wonder what your favorite games are & who's your best friend.
Do you get to play & run free until you plop on the ground too tired to take one more step?
But I bet once you hear that jingle from the ice cream truck you jump up like it's Christmas morning begging your mom to buy you a treat.
Do you beg & give her the puppy dog eyes like I used to do? I bet it works at least half of the time. I wish I had a tip to share to make it work all the time but I never was that successful!
I saw you the other day, eating your ice cream & your unashamed joy made me so happy. Does anyone tell you that? That you simply being you makes people happy?
You deserve to hear that truth everyday. You should hear it so often that you roll eyes & say "You say that all time!" but deep down it adds a little swagger to your step.
Your mom was embarrassed cause you had ice cream on your face. You dutifully followed her lead & called yourself a pig. I wonder how often you've heard your mom or other women in your life call themselves & others pigs. They probably laugh & nod or chime in listing all the things they shouldn't have eaten or all things they'll start eating to lose a few (or many) pounds. Have you watched their lovers nod in agreement about them being pigs or make comments about not eating so much?
I wish I could shield you from all the image & body hatred that we're all swimming in. I wish I could've protected myself too but this is our world.
But we aren't doomed to stay stuck in patterns of self-hatred.
Here's my wish for you:
I hope you find a community of people who affirm your greatness.
I hope you learn to stand in your awesomeness even when the people around you have forgotten their own awesomeness.
I hope you learn how to be compassionately honest with yourself & others.
When it gets hard, I hope the truth of who you really are is your lighthouse during your darkest hours.
This letter isn't just for her, it's for the little girls in you & me. They deserve to enjoy their ice cream.