>In February 1986, a reporter named Jeffrey Zaslow came to my school to
interview fourth graders about weight and diet. (I don't think the
term "body image" was yet invented back then.) I was one of the
students quoted in the article. ("Models look like popsicle sticks,"
I opined. I also shared that my mother would lie on her bed and use
pliers to zip her jeans. This anecdote appeared anonymously, and when
my mom read it, she turned to me and said, "Look Suzanne! Another
girl's mother uses pliers to zip her jeans!" I said, "Um, mom?
While I was at my parents' house in July, I dug the article up to use
as source material for my MFA thesis. As I re-read it, I realized how
nothing has changed in how society views women's bodies and the
pressures girls face to be thin. Plus, the quotes from the kids
interviewed were intense. All the girls at my school thought they
needed to be thin (and most were). One guy in my class said, "Fat
girld aren't normal." Another boy at another school explained that it
was OK to be overweight if a person could not help it, but 4th grade
girls can help it. Yipes!
I thought about how cool it would be to check in with people 23 years
later and see if our attitudes differed now that we are in our 30s.
Everyone in the article from my school is on Facebook. It would be
easy for me to send a message.
I emailed the article's author, who had quite a career since 1986.
Lately he's famous for his books - "The Last Lecture,""The Girls from
Ames," and a new one about the pilot who safely landed the USAir plane
in the Hudson River earlier this year - but he is now writing a column
on life transitions at the WSJ. Perfect! Of course, after I sent the
email, I felt like a total douche and was sure the staff mocked my
conviction that this would be a compelling story.
A few hours later, I got an email from Jeffrey Zaslow. He and his
editor loved the idea! I followed up with my former classmates, and
four out of six of us (including moi) agreed to be interviewed. On
Monday afternoon, the WSJ is sending a photographer to my apartment
(which is still a disaster and may be filled with toxic fumes, as the
tub is scheduled to be reglazed that morning). The idea is to run our
pictures from 4th grade and now. The article will appear in the WSJ
on Wed., Sept. 2.
I am beyond excited!
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