Even though I attempt to mask my physical flaws with certain clothing styles, I appraise them in the mirror each morning. Am I gaining weight? Is the tone in my upper arms improving? As long as no one photographs me at the gym, I may manage to create the right illusion. But we never escape how our children see us. A recent unearthing of our children’s art revealed the classic stick-figure family, and I’m surprised at how I look.
I’m wondering two things: why I am so big compared to the other people, and why am I so orange? Psychologists say we can learn a lot about a child by how they draw their family: how they view their place in family, their overall self-esteem, who they’re close to, and who is “in charge.” So since I’m the biggest figure, I think that means I’m the boss – or was I just the one that kept making rules and trying to enforce them? Was I loud, or did I dominate the conversation? It’s hard to know. At least I’m not depicted as a witch.
Now for the orange part. In my youth, I curated a tan through long hours at the pool, but after years of exposure to florescent light and minimal time to sun bathe, I’ve become pretty pale. Was this picture done after a beach trip where I ended up looking like a lobster? Was I a red-faced yeller? Maybe the “flesh-colored” crayon rolled under a table.
In high school, our daughter did a project through the lens of a Barbie doll. It’s been noted that Barbie’s body measurements are unrealistic, and therefore set unrealistic expectations for girls, leading to a poor body image. To illustrate, our daughter distorted a photo of herself to match Barbie’s proportions. Limbs were stretched, eyes were very large, and the body’s overall hourglass shape ending with tiny feet seemed cartoonish. This rendering was offered side-by-side with her un-altered photo so that it was easy to see that the Barbie-like depiction wasn’t normal.
My most enduring memory of playing with Barbie as a child was assembling her professional outfit for the office – a blue dress with coordinating jacket – somehow that has had the farthest-reaching impact on my sartorial choices as an adult. I didn’t care about her high heels, or tiny waist – I cared that the skirt wasn’t too short for her to sit down in and her shoes and purse matched.
Whether I’m the largest figure in the drawing, or the most vividly colored, I’m still a stick figure – grateful that I’m not too lumpy or wildly out of proportion. Now I’m wondering why my hands and arms look like they belong to a T-rex, or a doctor going into surgery.