Friday, August 11, 2006

Family Conflict

In an episode of Showtime’s series Weeds, Celia Hodes (Elizabeth Perkins) regularly weighs her daughter, Isabelle (played by 12-year-old Allie Grant), and as the scale tips, accuses Isabelle of sneaking food. The solution? Celia sneakily swaps part of Isabelle’s candy bar for a chocolate laxative, landing Isabelle in the elementary school bathroom and as the flatulent target of her peers. Isabelle’s father yells at Celia, “They called her, ‘Shit Girl!’”

“Well, better than ‘Fat Girl,” Celia replies. She continues, “It is cold and cruel out there for fat girls.”

Incidentally, the sour apple doesn’t far fall from the tree. Privy to her mother’s guile, Isabelle plants Immodium in Celia’s Trimspa bottle, rendering the bathroom-happy Celia as bloated, constipated, and enraged. As she makes camp on the toilet, reading, doing the crossword, filing her nails, chugging water, and even nodding off, Isabelle’s in bed, polishing off a chocolate bar. Her response to her mother’s frustrated screams: a smug, complacent, “Bitch.” Was Isabelle hungry? Maybe. Craving chocolate? Perhaps. But, it’s clear that rebellion trumps all else, that the chocolate bar is a prop in an ongoing family struggle that ultimately has no victor.


PalmTreeChick said...

Scary to think that things like this actually happen in real life.

Have you ever watched "Intervention" on A&E? That's a good show.

littlem said...



Haven't seen the show; heard it's good.

Interesting that they had the guts to tackle "food as female family battleground", which has gone on in my family yea unto the 3rd and 4th generations.

One of the most vivid memories of my adolescence was that my grandmother, who was quite the feisty beauty in her day, wouldn't really speak to me until I got thin. My only girl cousin on that side of the family was athletic and a rail (5' 9'', she could have modeled; I've always wondered why she didn't), and she and my grandma palled around on the regular. Grandma was much friendlier to me after I lost weight. (And I'm the one with two degrees. No, no lingering rivalry here ...)

I wear one of grandma's silk shirts now (from "Best", back when they REALLY knew how to make clothes - grandma was a killer seamstress) that my mom gave me, and it fits perfectly even though I've put some junk back in the trunk. She's passed, but I still find myself wondering what she's thinking sitting there up in heaven when I wear it out to some semi-gala thing. Is she proud because it fits, or is she mad because my figure's not proportionate?

I guess it's the same issue as the show; the manifestation is just (waaaaaay) less extreme.

What do you guys think? Should I cry (it still makes me sad to remember)? Or be mad? Or just get over it?

Teacher lady said...

I've seen that show; and I think it's sad but true. Maybe women are just trying to "help" their daughters survive in this screwed up society -and girls have to be "screwed up" to fit in? As Celia said, "Excuse me for trying to make sure she's thin so the world can be her oyster."

drstaceyny said...

ptc--haven't seen it--will try to check it out. . . .

lm--oy. I can understand feeling sad, angry, and wanting to "get over it. How you feel is. . . how you feel (no should's apply, in my mind).

tl--I just watched the entire first season, and the topic came up in multiple episodes. I get the "looking out for you" mentality, but how is a girl to fare when she doesn't have the acceptance of her mother? I'd argue that that might be a bigger liability than not being accepted by society, though I'm open to debates!

shelleyflavell said...

My mom used to hide food from me. Not fruits and vegetables, but anything that might be "fattening." This made me hide my eating and my own food cache, and to this day when I am around her, I sneak food. I am 43 years old and I still sneak food and hide it when I visit her or she visits me. She was always kind of a food police. Now she only has my dad to control.
My grandmother, her mom, is 94 years old and always has a weight comment to make about people who visit her. I start hyperventilating when I pull up to her home. Forget the fact that we are all well-educated intelligent women who are fabulous and also struggling with and overcoming crap that is way bigger than the size of our ass, her approval and disapproval is based on the size we wear.
I just returned from a visit to my homeland and didn't let it all get to me. That much......

Beth said...

That was an amusing episode! I can't imagine having a mom that controlling or warped, but I admit I sometimes think I could turn out to be that kind of mom. It's strange to hear of other people being judged by their family in terms of weight, or having fattenting food hidden. I wonder how I became overly concerned with appearance and food in a family so laid back, accepting, and non body conscious. Littlem, yeah you should be mad you were treated differently by your grandma, but also let it go. I don't know what that feels like bc my family ignores aesthetics generally, but you didn't give into bulimia or cosmetic surgery(a weakness you pointed out in me) like I did. You have your 2 degrees and no matter how much plastic surgery I ever get, I'll still believe that a college degree is the most valuable and attractive assett one can posess.

drstaceyny said...

sf--it's interesting, but not surprising, how intergenerational these issues are. I'm glad your most recent visit was less painful.

beth--so, clearly there are other factors, besides family, although I'd still argue that (not necessarily in yours) family can transmit messages even without words. Good luck in working toward your degree. . .

DisgruntledBlixa said...

That's funny, the episode. I'm in Australia and have never heard of the show.
When I was young, my mum wouldn't let me eat chips or chocolate or stuff like that because she told me that I didn't want to get fat. She would tell me that I didn't want to eat those fattening foods. A girl across the road from me who was chubby told me that fat girls grow up to be skinny, and skinny girls grow up to be fat. I was a skinny girl.
Anyway, I went to live with my Dad when I was 10, after having lived with my mum for a year. He and my Stepmum had to teach me how to eat 'fun' things again.
I'm 28, 5 feet tall and weigh 42 kilos (92.4 pounds) and my lowest weight as an adult was 36.5 kilos (80.3 pounds). Weight is always in the back of my mind. I eat, I eat heaps, but really I usually only eat 2 meals a day. I see my boyfriend eat probably normal amounts and I think he overeats, but I know he doesn't. I'd love to lose just a bit more weight, though I don't do anything about it. I go to the gym, but I'm a bit conflicted as I don't want to gain weight, which I will in muscle. I will never let myself get to 45 kilos and would be happier at 40 kilos.
The crazy thing is, and the reason I started to comment (I got on a tangent, I guess) is my mother and I kind of compete with our weight. She lives on the other side of the country so we don't actually get to see each others appearance, but we let each other know when we have lost weight. It's not a healthy relationship anyway, and the weight issues between us doesn't help.
It's funy how mothers can start the obssession, brainwash us into thinking we're disgusting and repulsive, make us see every bit of fat on us. Though this isn't the case of every girl or boy with an ED, just some, I guess.
It's okay to say that degrees are really important but I'm studying my 2nd degree (Postgrad Primary school teaching) and education can be quite redundant in comparison to life experience.
I don't regret anything that's happened in my life, my relationships with people and family, it all goes in to making me who I am today, an empathetic person who has a little bit in common with a lot of people.