Friday, July 20, 2018

Is Fat a Four Letter Word?

Were you ever skinny, the eight year old asked.

The brain is a wondrous thing isn’t it? As soon as she asked that question I thought back to what it was like being a chubby child in a culture that places so much value in thinness, in a culture where your nickname is “la gorda” (fat girl) and you can’t complain because it’s said with love! And even when it isn’t, if it really bothered you you’d do something about it. 

Where it doesn’t matter how nice your are or what good you do because those accomplishments will be brushed aside with pity and sadness as some supposedly well meaning aunt pats you on the arm and asks why you don’t take better care of yourself and warns you that you won’t find a man to love you if you’re fat. A culture and world where people treat gaining weight as one of the worst things that can happen to a person. A family where so many of the stories told about you seem to focus on the fatness.

I thought these things as I was clapping my hands and bopping around as we were waiting for the little girl’s father to take her home. I thought these things as I looked at her little chubby face, waiting for my response. I thought these things as I remembered hearing her 6 year old sister called “la flaquita” (the little thin one) and how her choices aren’t questioned as much as her older sister’s. I thought back to a week ago when, during a lesson, I asked the 6 year old for an example of a criticism. She quickly said to me, “You’re fat.” It starts so young, this judgement of our bodies. 

I think I have a good sense of what this little girl’s life is like and how she is made to feel.

I thought these things in the span of nano seconds and then I replied with an upbeat “nope!”

She smiled and hugged me as she said, “we’re the same!”

I hope we’re not. I hope she gets to grow up feeling better about herself. I hope she grows up knowing every day that the number on the scale doesn’t and shouldn’t at all dictate how she lives her life. I hope that if at some point she decides her chubbiness is something to work on she does it for herself and not because being thin will magically make things better because I gotta tell you I know some unhappy thin people.

If I had the opportunity to be in this little girl’s life for a longer period of time I’d probably have other lessons for her, other messages but in that moment I decided the best thing I could do for her was pretend that being fat has never bothered me.

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