Few things can be more difficult than spending time in a small, crowded, hot dressing room with your home-from-college daughter while she tries on clothes. It didn’t used to be an issue. She was a late bloomer, and for years her size 0 frame easily fit virtually anything she tried on. I frequently bought her clothes without her. She was always a really healthy eater. As she got older, I marveled at how she did not seem to internalize any of the body image issues that plagued me most of my life. While some of her friends struggled, food seemed to be a non-issue for her. Her success in team sports provided an extra boost.
But now we find ourselves locked together in a room while she tries on some clothes that no longer flatter. Down the hall a girl slams the door on her mother. I realize I am about to enter a minefield, and everything I say — even what is left unsaid — is potentially lethal. She scans my face for approval; it’s a reminder of how much she still needs it. I’m not sure how she’s reading the situation — she may be in a bit of denial. I can relate. But I don’t want her to go overboard and begin the endless cycle of dieting and obsessing. It began for me at the same age, and I desperately want to save her from going down this road.
She is close to tears. I am fully aware that I need to marshall my most diplomatic parenting skills to get out of this mess. It would help if I could stop blurting out the word “skimpy”.
Somehow we survive. As the week progresses, she confides in me that some of her friends are hyper-focused on getting fit. I try to use this as an opportunity to gently encourage, but not too much. We go back to another store for round two, which I dread. This one goes better. We both breathe a sigh of relief. She says afterward that it was a good day. I agree.