I love my girlfriends. Despite being a shy child and having only a few friends at a time, somehow as an adult I have surrounded myself with strong, smart, funny, confident, amazing and sometimes wildly inappropriate women. I got lucky, really lucky. So did my daughter.
This group of 10 friends began with a few coworkers who formed a book club and then allowed a few outsiders to infiltrate. Nearly 10 years later we no longer discuss books, but we still call ourselves "Book Club" because we can't come up with anything better. Despite our lack of creativity in the naming department, we all still know how to read so that's a plus. The reality is that we are now more of a wine club that uses any excuse we can to get together: "You bought a new house? You got a new job? You're turning 40? You rearranged your underwear drawer? Yay! Let's celebrate!
As I prepare to move cross-country in two months, my greatest sorrow is that I will no longer see my book club girls on a regular basis. My second biggest sorrow is that my daughter will no longer be under their influence.
My daughter was the first baby to join Book Club. I didn't have any mom friends when she was born, and I sure wasn't going to lose touch with the female friends I had. As a result my daughter has spent her short life of five-and-a-half years among these women.
My husband has at times questioned the appropriateness of her exposure to some of the raucous conversation that takes place at our gatherings, but I know the benefits far outweigh the risks.
Recently I've read a lot in the media and on blogs about self confidence in girls and how much a girl's body image is influenced by the comments she hears the women around her make about themselves (particularly her own mother). Growing up my mom was often on a diet. It wasn't unusual at family gatherings to hear someone call themselves fat, jokingly of course. I was told that as a baby my nickname was "thunder thighs" and that my parents tucked my third roll of thigh fat in my rubber pants to hide it. It was also said in jest, but it never sounded all that funny to me.
Research is showing that those childhood comments stick in your female psyche. They shape who you are and how you feel about your own body as you move through childhood to teenage years to adulthood.
My daughter may know a little too much about my friends' bathroom habits and digestive tracts (I sure know too much), yet she has never heard them talk about dieting. She has heard them discuss running, yoga, camping, dancing and rock climbing, but she has never heard them complain about being fat. She has heard them talk about getting married and having babies and she's heard them talk about getting their masters degrees and traveling to distant countries.
She has heard it all. Some might say she's heard too much. I, however, worry that with our moving away she hasn't yet heard enough. I can only hope that the comments she's heard from my book club friends are always part of her psyche.