DEAR HARRIETTE: I was a sprinter all my life and was even a Division III athlete in college. I love running and continue to do it when I can to stay in shape and feel good. Naturally, sprinting for years changed my body. I was, and continue to be, proud of my strong legs. The "thigh gap" trend I see happening among preteen and teenage girls is driving me insane. If I didn't have these muscles, I wouldn't have had a successful sprinting career. I wouldn't be able to run long distances and feel strong.
My daughters are not particularly interested in running, but are involved in a multitude of sports. When my daughter was at ballet, she said a girl made her feel bad because she doesn't have a gap between her legs. I was furious, but I can't say anything to this 11-year-old. I am a grown woman and cannot reprimand someone else's child. I told my daughter to be proud of her legs, yet I know she is too busy thinking about the comment her classmate made.
Should I tell the teacher to have a body positivity class? I doubt talking to this girl's mother will change much; she's as curvy as a stick and has this "thigh gap" she tells her daughter all girls should have. -- Big and Strong, Denver
DEAR BIG AND STRONG: Your primary job is to talk to your daughter. Show her your muscular body and explain how it got that way. Remind her that every person has a different body makeup, and having a gap between her legs is not every woman's physicality, nor is it considered ideal. Instead, it is one body type.
You should know that ballet does not have the best reputation as it relates to promoting healthy body image. Many ballerinas, both students and professionals, have complained for generations about the push to be extremely thin. You can ask your daughter's teacher about offering a body positivity lesson to the class, but don't be surprised if the answer is no. It is your job to build your daughter's self-esteem.
It is also counterproductive to discuss the classmate's mother's body shape -- you are critical of her body in the same way her daughter is about your daughter.