Body Talk

Only two years and five pounds separates them, but they couldn’t be more different in every other way.  Phaedra is long and lean: on the tall side for her age, yet rarely carrying a spare pound anywhere.  

Bella is also tall for her age, but unlike Phaedra’ almost waif-like build, she’s sturdy — a solid girl who never misses a meal, and is strong enough to pick up anything blocking her way (including her baby sister and the dog).

Phaedra’s bathing suit hangs on her like a curtain, while Bella fills out every last inch of hers.  Phaedra will probably have an extended awkward, lanky, gawky phase when she gets older.  Bella will probably careen upwards in terms of height, and have the kind of curves most girls dream about having.  Ironically, each girl will probably have the type of body the other girl would kill to have, because that’s how life works.


Once, my mom took the older girls to the park.  She was pushing Bella on the swings when a little boy approached, followed by his grandfather.  “I want to swing! Grandpa, can I swing?”

“You can swing once that little fat girl leaves.”

When my mom told me this story, I was shocked.  Partly because she was telling me this story in my living room instead of through the bars of a jail cell after beating the fuck out of that old man (I’m sure it was close, though), but mostly because of that one word: fat.

To start, let’s be honest here: I’ve seen fat kids her age.  Bella is not fat, or even remotely overweight.  She’s not rail-thin like Phaedra, but how many kids are?  Bella is at a healthy weight for her body and her age.  To think someone could look a child her age and judge her to be overweight is unnerving.

Secondly, seriously, old man?  You’re going to pin a (then) two-year-old with that word?  You feel okay with yourself calling a toddler “fat” to her face?  You, sir, are a terrible human being.

Richard Nixon
I know.

I’m raising future women.  The older my girls get, the more I realize that this, in fact, is the world I’m raising them to live in as women.  They are quickly approaching the age where they’ll live entire days without me, spending the majority of their day in potential contact with assholes who will pass their own stupid judgment on the beautiful girls women I helped raise.  Assholes who will utter a comment about her that they may forget about in thirty seconds, but just might stick in that girl’s head for the rest of her life.  Did Bella notice that word, or even hear what he said?  Probably not, but what if she had been five instead of two?  What if she had been twelve instead of five?

I’m raising future teenage girls.  Girls who will hopefully have a healthy amount of self-esteem, but realistically will probably judge their own beauty based on the opinions of boys, other girls, and what they see on TV and in magazines.  Do I think they’re beautiful?  Yes, and not in a blind “my baby is beautiful” way.  They are each gorgeous in their own unique way, and I regularly tell them so in genuine, situation-appropriate ways.  But I know that, at a certain point, my words will become meaningless.  It will be up to them to decide whether or not they believe in their own beauty, to love their own body.

In the meantime, I wish a motherfucker would call my daughter fat within earshot of me.

This entry was posted in Bella, fuck that guy at the playground, girls, Phaedra, things that don't make sense. Bookmark the permalink.

23 Responses to Body Talk

  1. If you ever find this guy, send me his address. What. THE FUCK.

    We have some family who constantly talk about being fat, looking bad in this shirt or those jeans, etc. It is a full time job counteracting these words when they say them about themselves in front of my kids.

    How is it in any way acceptable for my kids to hear people they love and think are beautiful talk so poorly about themselves? Will it make my kids realize how wrong those people are? Or make my kids question their own beauty?

    I just don’t get why people are so mean to themselves, and others. Just. Don’t. Get it.

  2. Lara says:

    got here by kim’s link… wonderful write.
    i am a large… okay, extra large lady and my growing 8 yr old daughter is a lovely girl. this topic is on the fore front of my mind as she’s heading towards a tricky developmental phase in her life. i can see the beginnings of those changes and quite frankly they scare the tar outta me! *I* watch what she eats in a motherly way because it’s my job! ‘fat’ is considered an inappropriate word in our house. healthy is healthy regardless of size.

  3. Heather B. says:

    I have a lot of body issues. Some are my creation, but most are the creation of my friends and family throughout the years who had something to say that was either well meaning or just plain asshatish. I made the decision when I became a mother to never be the one to create those issues in my daughter or son. So far, I have done a great job. I never talk about my body in front of them, I tell them both how amazing and beautiful they are (and mean it), and I buy as many gender neutral things I can. Yet, my girl is already such a girl. I don’t know where it came from, but it scares me. It scares me that a two year old wants to be a princess and that she knows she has skinny arms. I WANT her to know she is a princess with skinny arms, but in such a different way then she is going to learn through our cruel world.

  4. Your girls are lucky to have a momma bear like you.

  5. robyn says:

    I got here via Kim’s link, too, and I loved this post. It really doesn’t take much to make us (and our daughters) question ourselves, does it? When my oldest daughter was 5, she regarded her calves with disdain and told me, “My leg lobes are too jiggly.” Now, how the hell is it that a little girl can feel fat in a part of her body she hasn’t even learned the word for yet? So yeah, put my name on the list for the lynch mob if you ever find that guy!

  6. Also found you b/c of Kim. 🙂

    What the WHAT? I cannot believe a human being would say that about a little girl playing on a swing. I literally gasped when I read that.

    I also have two girls. They seem a lot like yours! If anyone called my little Grace fat – my momma bear claws would come out. And then I’d go home and cry.

  7. Janel says:

    Kim: I hear you. Phaedra sometimes tries out phrases she’s heard other people (real life and TV) say, just to see what my reaction is. Blargh.

    Lara: “healthy is healthy, regardless of size”. LOVE IT!

    Heather: Love you, obviously. I know what you mean: Phaedra is so incredibly girly, and I have no clue where it came from, and it scares me that she so wholly identifies with ultra-traditional female culture, and where that could lead. I like to think our girls are as smart as their moms, and will be able to distinguish between fantasy and reality, especially in terms of weight.

    Christine: Thanks, I trrrrrrrrrrry. 🙂

    Robyn: I’ll be sure to let him know that his second black eye belongs specifically to you.

    JD: “…and then I’d go home and cry”. Which is exactly why it’s probably better it was my mom at the park and not me. She’s much better at being publicly angry than I am.

  8. Arnebya says:

    It’d have been wrong, I guess, if I’d overheard this, to say, “Sorry little boy, you won’t be swinging today because your grandpa’s an asshole.” Damn. I really have to work on my couth.

  9. Janel says:

    You and me both, buddy.

  10. I’m unable to post a comment in under 400 paragraphs on the subject. In the place of intelligent commentary, please enjoy these guttural noises: ughtrrrrttttthhhpppphhhtttttt.

  11. OMG. I’m still working on standing up for my kid when I need to, but I would (almost) welcome the opportunity to have someone say something like this about my kid within my earshot. What an asshole.

  12. Janel says:

    Suburban Snapshots: I know, believe me, I could have written a 400 paragraph post. I humbly accept your gutteral noises.

  13. Janel says:

    Kristin: I could use the practice as well. I mean, I don’t want to practice, because I don’t want people talking smack about my kids, but you know.

  14. Melissa says:

    I have no idea where I found your blog, but I absolutely love it. And if someone had made that comment about my daughter, I can’t even imagine how I would have responded.

  15. Janel says:

    Thanks Melissa! Glad you found it. It’s hard to know what you’d do in that situation, but I hope I would find the presence of mind to give him a verbal roughing-up.

  16. Candice says:

    Hey Janel,

    Found your blog from Much Love, Nicole. I enjoyed it so much I did a bit of back reading. I could relate to so many of the topics, but you present them a lot more humorously than I could! I love your sarcastic sense of humor, but your love for your girls still comes through.

    As for this post, “Oh no he didn’t!” Your girls are absolutely gorgeous and NOT fat at all. Even if they were…you don’t say something like that! How dare he?! Total asshat!

  17. Michelle says:

    My mother always told me the story of when I was not quite 2 yrs. old yet and she took me to a new paediatrician. She put me on the table and he said, “My goodness…she’s as big as an elephant!”
    My mother quickly scooped me up and walked out without saying a word. She was so angry!! lol btw chubby, yes…elephant no way!

  18. Janel says:

    Thanks Candice! Glad you found it! I agree, King of the Asshats.

    Michelle: I would lose my mind. Your mom is my hero, for real.

  19. Jenn says:

    I want to time travel and punch that old bitch right now, and I don’t even know you, or her! What the fuck?! And she’s not even chubby, never mind fat. But even if she was, why would he even need to throw any adjective in there? I think he was trying to start shit.

  20. Andrea says:

    I *love* this with all my heart. I think we all have been battered and bruised when it comes to weight and body image and want to protect our little ones from that. I have had weight and confidence issues my entire life, and fight so hard to spare my daughter from that. She is 8 and rail-thin, and so many people (including family members) have said things to me about how lucky we are that she doesn’t have my ‘body issues’. Sadly, I am just relieved they are insulting me and not her.

  21. I will roast his entrails. I saw a nice recipe on Pinterest.

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