Giant Skillet Lemon Sugar Cookie
Nothing makes me more hopeful and more determined (and in some ways, more frustrated) than listening to my 13- and 14-year-old students put on their heavy armor at such a young age. The other day I was grading tests with a few girls in my room during lunch. They had a Taylor Swift song playing in the background and we were chatting about the music video when one of them said wistfully, “She’s so pretty.”
I walk a careful line at this juncture. Even after years of reading, thinking, learning, feeling, it’s still a tightrope.
Taylor Swift is lovely. She’s also extremely thin. I wouldn’t presume to know anything about her health, but it doesn’t matter if she’s healthy or not in this conversation: what matters is that she fits the excruciatingly narrow definition of beauty sold to us by American pop culture and that I had a healthy little person sitting in front of me idealizing that. When I hear those sighing comments, my teacher gears work overtime.
I want them to recognize their attraction to thinness as a construct so they can decide what to do with it. I also want them to recognize that thinness can be healthy, but it’s just one of many healthy, happy body types women have. I don’t want them to arm themselves against one form of body shaming by using another. Instead, I want them to take a step back and see the hamster ball we’re all in — why we push and pull against these things in the first place and who holds the puppet strings of all these conflicting desires. But I also don’t want them to feel bitter or victimized. I want them to feel powerful. If they can see what’s happening, they’re in charge. They can see the man behind the curtain. They can choose to interact with him or they can choose to click their heels and leave anytime they want.
All these gears turn in my head as I’m sorting out just what to say. But before I can really say much, I hear the clang and clamor of them putting on their own armor. They’re discussing amongst themselves:
“Really, we shouldn’t work to be thin. We should work to get strong! To get muscles.”
“But it’s okay to be naturally thin.”
“Yeah, it’s okay to be naturally thin. We just shouldn’t try to lose weight.”
“Exercise is to make your heart healthy and to build strength.”
I chime in now and again to encourage, but they’ve almost gotten the last piece of armor nailed down tight all on their own. I have no doubt their diligent mothers, fathers, teachers, sisters, and brothers have been passing them this armor one piece at a time since they were born.
In a week or two we’ll start a project inspired by Sandra Cisneros’s The House on Mango Street and Tree Change Dolls where we’ll examine the media messages that construct our ideas of femininity and masculinity, and then we’ll choose a bit of pop culture to recreate. I hope I’ll pass another little piece of armor to them. I also long for the day when they can remove that armor and know they’re still safe — when we can look out for each other in ways that are affirming of everybody, every body.
One year ago: Coconut Cloud Fruit Dip
Two years ago: Key Lime Pie Cheesecake with Sky-High Meringue
Three years ago: Brie En Croute with Figs & Rosemary
Four years ago: Quick Rosemary, Fig, and Goat Cheese Tarts
Five years ago: Clementine Cake
- 1 cup butter, softened
- 1 1/2 cups sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 teaspoon lemon extract
- 1/2 teaspoon almond extract
- 1 tablespoon lemon zest
- 2 eggs
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
- 1 teaspoon salt
- vanilla bean ice cream (for serving)
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Cream together the butter and sugar in a large bowl until light and fluffy, about 2-3 minutes. Mix in the lemon and almond extracts, zest, and eggs. In a separate medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, and salt. Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients in 3 additions, mixing after each until just combined.
- Spread the mixture into a 10-inch skillet sprayed lightly with cooking spray and bake for 30-35 minutes, covering with foil around 25 minutes or so, so it doesn’t get too brown. Remove it when it’s still soft in the center. Let it cool for about 30 minutes before serving with vanilla bean ice cream.