Sugar and spice and all things nice…

21 Dec

…that’s what little girls are made of… or that’s how it has seemed till now from the response I’ve had to this blog. I’d been struck by how it was often very skinny women who I’d often suspected had their own issues around food who were the most neurotice about controlling their little darlings’ in-take of anything fattening (there are lots of chubby boys out there, but they seem to be treated in a more robust – he’ll grow out of it kind of way, while a little girls’s chubbiness is often seen by a – thin – mother as a personal affront, particulary in fashionista circles…) Anyway most of the comment has been on girls by mothers.

But intriguingly since I did the longer piece in the Sunday Times on food, neurosis, fatness and parenting, it’s amazing how many men have come up to me and said how much they liked the article. (Now if you don’t do the News Corp paywall, don’t worry, if you scroll down to the next post there’s a  large edited chunk of the original piece so you don’t have to go and pay to find it). I’ve been gadding around the last few weeks doing the odd Christmas party and two chaps in particular accosted me wanting to talk about the article.  They are both married to stick thin glamour pusses (one is on the TV, one worked for a glossy mag) and they both said that my piece about how maternal attitudes-  in particular-  to food affect the children in the long run had really chimed with them… Now is that because it suddenly made them see their wives’ behaviour in a new light? Where they worried that their skinny spouses were not giving the kids enough to eat, or inculcating them with a cake phobia?  Or do men married to super thin women like them that way, perhaps even insist on them being that way…  and therefore have anxiety about their offspring not getting fat, too? Is chub anxiety also a man issue??

Well while I was thinking about it I remembered that interestingly it was always my father who took me to the dietician. He really minded that I wasn’t slim, indeed, it is he, now, who is particularly vocal and pleased that I am now thinnner than I used to be…in fact it seems to matter a lot to men too – and they certainly notice.  I know there are more women on Mumsnet than men which is probably why there are more female comments, but I am really intrigued now by the family dynamic around male attitudes to the weight of the women around them, including daughters….. I know one man, for instance, who is terrified that his spouse might get fat since it runs in her family and he doesn’t like it… he makes a lot of comments about it and I know gives his wife meaningful looks whenever she chows down on a second helping or another slice of cake. Personally, to feel under that kind of scrutiny would make me furious. I’d hate to feel that controlled. But it was definitely one aspect that came out of the women and mothers I spoke to about this subject – one described a mother who was always dieting and explained it to her daughters – eek – by saying that if she wasn’t thin, daddy wouldn’t fancy her any more. Now it’s bad enough to be mothered by a cake-phobic but to have that sexual dimension  added into the mix for an impressionable child has got to be a hiding to nothing!!

Yet fathers do worry about their childrens’ weight: I know one who is fine about his wife being larger but anxious that the children don’t follow in her footsteps.. what do you think?

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One Response to “Sugar and spice and all things nice…”

  1. Maeveminds December 31, 2011 at 1:48 pm #

    I agree with your comment that fathers often care more than the mother’s that their girl children are thin. In my own case he married a trophy beautiful wife who was an external reflection of his own wonderfulness and I, as their offspring, was supposed to reflect their joint gorgeousness. He hated the fact I was overweight and saw it as a personal affront to himself. He never tackled the subject with me directly but relentlessly told my mother to ‘sort that girl out’, hence the start of the endless damaging fad diets I was forced on by my mother. I only realise as an adult it was him who was the real manipulator. I do remember every time he hugged me I could feel him surrepticiously measuring my back fat, like I was a prize heifer. It certainly never felt like love and the forced diets didn’t feel like concern for my health. I just felt like I was just a problem to be sorted out, the question ‘Why was I eating too much?’ and any links to unhappiness never seemed to cross their minds.

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