Khamis, 17 Oktober 2013

The Star Online: Lifestyle: Parenting

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The Star Online: Lifestyle: Parenting

Filling in on the thigh gap


If thigh gap is what gets her daughter active, so be it.

BEING a mother can be very educational. For example, I recently learned what the expression "thigh gap" means.

As a professional wordsmith, I mistakenly thought I already knew all the major important gaps: the generation gap, fence gap, gap year, and a gap-toothed smile.

But it turns out I had a gap in my education that was filled, courtesy of my 14-year-old daughter.

Curly Girl explained to me that she now has a "thigh gap," which apparently is a condition demonstrated by the ability of other humans to see a small amount of daylight between your thighs when you're standing normally. As opposed to most people, whose thighs are touching all the time.

My thighs are not only touching but have been married for years. I'd rather not dwell on it. But I will confirm that, yes, now my beautiful daughter does indeed have a thigh gap.

Apparently this is right up there with fake boobs as one of the most important beauty ideals of our time.

Teenagers post pictures of their thighs on sharing sites like Tumblr. Facebook and Twitter that have accounts devoted to thigh gaps. Doctors worry that the obsession will spark more anorexia.

Curly Girl doesn't have an eating disorder, nor was she chubby. But, to her, the newly acquired gap is the main benefit of joining her new high school's cross-country team, along with newly visible hipbones. Any nonsense like cardiac fitness or team spirit is irrelevant.

But I don't mind. I'm just glad that the battle is over.

See, over the summer, I warned my daughter that she'd have to choose a sport to play when she entered ninth grade in high school in the fall. Research shows that sports are good for adolescent girls, not only physically but mentally.

You would have thought I'd told her she had to join the python wrestling club.

She just looked at me with the "You've got to be kidding" expression and said, "No."

When she was younger, Curly Girl played softball, soccer and basketball, all with great relish. She even pitched for an otherwise all-boy baseball team, surviving hazing and abuse to become the team favorite. And she ran track for nine minutes, just long enough for me to buy her expensive cleats, before deciding to quit.

But, as she entered adolescence, her brain overheated and seized up, refusing to process any activities other than painting her fingernails, texting boys she met at the movies and watching YouTube.

This was fairly mystifying to her mother, who suddenly found her sighing and rolling her eyes every time she was required to do any activity that she formerly loved.

I must admit I'd been spoiled. Raising her headstrong older brother was like trying to break a bucking bronco, whereas she'd always been the easy, sunny-dispositioned one.

That person now only reappeared sometimes, and never when I brought up the topic of high school sports.

I kept suggesting she run cross-country, and so did my neighbor, Raman, who was a long-distance runner as a boy.

"I don't like to run," she would insist, gritting her teeth and repeating it stubbornly, slowly, like she was speaking to idiots, day after day. But she also didn't want to get her hair wet, so water polo and swimming were out.

She tried to make the volleyball team, but didn't have enough experience. Golf was too awful to contemplate. Softball now seemed boring.

One of the advantages of being an old mom - I didn't adopt them until I was 46 - is that you don't really care if your kids like you. This allows you to be ruthless and mean.

"I don't care which sport you pick," I told her. "But you're playing one. And, in fact, I'll give you US$100 (RM320) if you make a team."

To quote Mary Poppins, a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down. And the prospect of having to enroll in a regular PE class if she didn't join a sport - apparently the most horrible fate imaginable - clinched the deal.

Finally, left with only a few sports teams available that would take all comers, she picked the only one that didn't require her to get her hair wet: cross country. She apparently forgot that she didn't like to run.

And promptly broke a small bone in her foot. That left her walking the track instead of running.

That bone is healed and she's finally able to start running instead of walking the track.

And, hallelujah, she actually likes it. She comes home every day red-faced and sweaty, breathing hard. And proudly tells me how many miles she ran that day.

She's proud of the distances she's now covering. She likes her teammates.

But, mostly importantly, she now has a thigh gap. And visible hipbones.

I'm glad to know she's got her priorities straight.

n Marla Jo Fisher was a workaholic before she adopted two foster kids several years ago. Now she juggles work and single parenting.

Follow her on Facebook at and on Twitter @FrumpyMom.


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