Thirteen years ago when I had gastric bypass surgery, losing over 150 pounds, I thought it would be the end of being called fat. Then my 7-year-old daughter, Cara, came home school the other day and said a girl had teased her.
“Your mom is like the fat minion from ‘Despicable Me,’” Cara repeated to me.
She barely got the words out before she broke into hysterical crying and I didn’t know how to comfort her. She was upset that someone would say that about me and I was upset that she had been teased for my shortcomings.
What she doesn’t know is that I could not care less about being called fat. I have been called fat my whole life and it no longer fazes me. My teasing started early. I remember when I was five and cast as one of the three little pigs in my day camp’s “Disney Review.” The kids seem to think “Pig” was a name that should stick. By middle school my nickname was “Moose,” but in high school I was just a regular teen. My personality kept me sailing through college and into my early 20s, but by my mid-20s I was hovering at the 300-pound mark and it was hard to ignore the looks and stares I was getting–especially on planes and subways.
By the time the stares and comments really got to me, it was all over. I remember an incident that occurred year after my surgery, while I was shopping in the Gap for a size-12 pants (down from a size 26). A little girl turned to her mom and said that the fat woman was in her way. I was no longer a fat woman–to her I was, but I knew in my heart (and body) that I wasn’t.
The latest incident with my daughter was different. I was upset was that I didn’t know how to shield my daughter from this kind of teasing. She should not have to bear the burden of my faults. I may not look like some of the other moms in their yoga pants and tight fitting tops, I have curvy and heavy thighs, but isn’t fatness relative? I’m not fat to my peers, but to little girls I am and I’m OK with it, but not when it affects my daughter. Cara once asked why my thighs were so big and I said, “That’s just the way God made me,” and she said, “Sorry about that!”
Cara wears super skinny jeans and narrow shoes and I somehow thought she would not suffer like I did, but my “fatness” affects her negatively and I can’t protect her at school or when she is with other kids. The most I can do is give her the tools to protect herself.
As a mom, my first instinct was to call the other mother and give her a piece of my mind, but as I calmed down, I talked to a few of my mom friends and I prepared my speech. I would reminder her of the voice she has and to use her words. That she needed to remind people when they are not being kind and/or she can walk away–all things she has learned and used since pre-school. I wanted to remind her that we all look different and that words cannot hurt us.
But Cara already knew this and said, “I told her she wasn’t being very nice and then I walked away.” She is much wiser and kinder than I was at her age. I just wish that in the 21st century teasing was obsolete like the rotary phone and that no child had to tolerate any type of teasing. But I guess running into mean people is something she will experience throughout her life; I just wish it started a little later.