Words spoken by just about the cutest 4-year old on the planet. At the table of a cabin where her family, ours, and two others were spending several days relaxing, unwinding, laughing, and playing together— having a great time.
Her words were mostly appropos of nothing at the moment– I think I had scootched my chair so someone could get by. I could tell she knew her words contained a power– but she didn’t know why.
Her words landed in the space between all of us adults. Her words were not intended to hurt, but they were spoken with the understanding, even at four, that “fat” is something you aren’t supposed to be.
Fat isn’t like tall, or short. It’s a bit like dark or light (in that there is a preference for one over the other) but with dark and light there is an understanding that one can’t be CHOSEN over the other. Unlike, you know, Fat.
I am certainly at a weight right now that makes me uncomfortable, myself. I can point to the whys. They aren’t the point right now.
The awkward silence when the four-year-old piped up was an interesting space to encounter.
“Kids,” her mom said… deflecting.
I chose to be more direct: “Yep, ” I said. “I am.”
Josh chose to address the social piece. “That’s rude. It’s just rude.”
I tried to open a door to thinking about WHY it’s rude– because certain body types and appearances ARE acceptable (OK to comment on those– you’re tall, you’re skinny, you’re pretty…) But other types are not OK, therefore, shouldn’t be remarked on. (You’re scarred, you’re old, you’re short, you’re fat.)
But a little while later I got up from the table and went away and cried a little because that word, FAT, is so freaking painful, and carries such a weight of shame and failure and weakness and ugliness.
This is a hard post to write, and I’m going to say straight up that I am not fishing for anything, not asking for validation that I’m pretty or anything; and I’m not asking for bravos that I’m “making the right changes”. I do know what I could and probably should be doing to lose weight. Right now, I’m just thinking about feelings. I’m just sorting through.
Everyone has the right to be happy or unhappy with their body and their appearance. But no one has the right to seek to make someone else unhappy about themself.
In 2011 I ran a 10K, and I felt So. Good. About. Myself. I was, by most people’s perceptions, a fat girl at the time. But my sense of myself was quite different than my feeling today.
That same day a gal much bigger than me completed the 10K course, probably mostly walking, who knows. For all I know, she may have lost a hundred pounds already and been on a ginormous high that day.
When you look at someone and notice their body size, all you really know about them is, well, their body size. You don’t know their story. The word FAT has so much power because it makes a person’s story somehow irrelevant. The moral punch of FAT negates where you’ve been, where you’re going, and who you are. You can’t be SEEN as a person if you aren’t of a certain body size. I do it too.
There’s this kind of thing, that gives me hope, though:
Hope that someday four year olds won’t say “You’re fat” with quite the same sense… a sense that there’s power in it, but they don’t know why.