Carmen Rasmusen Herbert: Jennifer Livingston and taking advice from a big red dog
This pregnancy has been an especially difficult one for me.
Some days it’s all I can do to get out of bed to take care of my two sons. Frequently, I’ll turn on a show mid-afternoon for my oldest while I crash on the couch beside him. The other day, the PBS program “Clifford” was on. I caught just a phrase or two before I drifted off to sleep:
“That’s why Clifford’s Big Idea for today is, ‘Believe in yourself!’”
I needed to hear that. Sometimes it’s just really hard being a woman — and being an emotional, uncomfortable and growing pregnant woman at that.
Right or wrong, we women place so much emphasis on how we look. We have been told from a very young age that being pretty is very important, even if it’s with the best of intentions. When we show up to church in a frilly dress we get comments on “looking like a princess.” Little girls love to help put on mommy’s makeup. They want curls in their hair, big, full dresses and ballet slippers.
We want to feel beautiful.
Imagine how it felt for morning news anchor Jennifer Livingston of La Crosse, Wis., to receive the following email from a recent viewer:
“It’s unusual that I see your morning show, but I did so for a very short time today. I was surprised indeed to witness that your physical condition hasn’t improved for many years. Surely you don’t consider yourself a suitable example for this community’s young people, girls in particular. Obesity is one of the worst choices a person can make and one of the most dangerous habits to maintain. I leave you this note hoping that you’ll reconsider your responsibility as a local public personality to present and promote a healthy lifestyle.”
Livingston is, by today’s standards, overweight. She could even be considered, as this email so rudely stated, obese.
In response, she incredulously asked on live TV, “To the person who wrote me that letter: Do you think I don’t know that?” She then went on to defend herself on WKBT-TV in an incredibly strong and confident way.
“You don’t know me. You are not a friend of mine. You are not a part of my family, and you admitted that you don’t watch this show so you know nothing about me besides what you see on the outside. And I am much more than a number on a scale.”
October is Bullying Prevention Awareness Month, as Livingston points out in her broadcast, and she hopes this particular example will bring heightened awareness to the problem we have with bullies in this country.
“I think, in his mind, he (Kenneth W. Krause) views himself as being helpful, which is what I think a little bit of the problem is,” she said recently on "Good Morning America." “He doesn’t see that the way that he approached it was clearly hurtful to me. He’s trying to shame me into losing weight. That’s not being helpful. That’s being a bully."
Growing up, I had to deal with my fair share of bullying. But I don’t think I recognized it for what it was back then. I just thought my so-called “friends” were “being mean” again.
I struggled with acne all throughout junior high and the beginning of high school. I was called “pimple cheeks.” I was told boys wouldn’t like me because of what was on my face. I became obsessed with finding a cure, even vowing that one day I’d become a dermatologist so I could help others clear up their skin and not have to go through what I did at school.
I tried every wash, lotion and mask under the sun. Finally, my parents took me to the doctor, and I was prescribed medication to clear up my face. Finally, something worked.
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