No More Hate

With children comes parenting

October 4, 2012

No one is perfect. We all have our flaws. However, some must be reminded of their flaws more often than others. I used to get bulled for being skinny back in Walnut Street Elementary School. But I would much rather be bulled for being skinny than fat.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 16.5 percent of children ages six to 17 were overweight in 2005-2006. And this number has been steadily increasing since the 1980s.

Allure writer Jennifer Weiner’s article “The F Word” touched home on this topic. She was one of those girls who would constantly receive the fat jokes. She had to suffer endless let-downs because of her weight.

She describes her journey by specifying different segments of her life. First, it was six years old. Then, it was eight, 10, 15 and 18. Each age held unique experiences, yet they each returned to the dreadful F word: fat. This one was my favorite of them all:

I’m 15, five-foot-six, 145 pounds, most of it breasts and muscle thanks to three-hour varsity crew-team workouts every day after school. My parents, in the process of separating, have shipped me off on a teen tour to Israel. The group is filled with a full complement of mean girls from my own high school and from a neighboring town, a wealthy Jewish suburb where Fiorucci jeans and Benetton tops are the order of the day, neither of which my parents would have bought me even if they had fit. There are five girls named Jennifer making their way across the Promised Land with my group that summer. “Oh, not the fat Jennifer,” I hear one of my tour mates saying matter-of-factly to another as we hang out by our kibbutz swimming pool, holding his hands out a good foot away from his hips to indicate my girth, “the other one.” So that is me: not the Jennifer who loves to read, or who listens to the Smiths and is the most sought-after babysitter in town. Not the Jennifer on the honor roll, the one who can swim a mile without stopping: the fat one.

I am incandescent with shame, knowing that fat is, by far, the worst thing you can be. Fat is lazy, fat is gross, fat is sloppy…and, worst of all, fat is forever. Michelle has a full-on Frida Kahlo moustache. Kim has terrible skin. But Michelle could wax and Kim could go on Accutane; I am going to be fat—and, hence, undesirable, unlovable, a walking joke—for the rest of my life.

I know that’s a long bit, but it was my favorite age. Fifteen troubles all teens. You’re in high school, trying to figure out who you are, but there are all these people already telling you who you are – or who to be. Unfortunately for Weiner, she was characterized as the fat girl instead of everything she truly was.

While Weiner may seem like the focal point of the story, her daughter Lucy is the focal point actually. She uses this damaging word toward a classmate who bullies her, causing her mother to give her the talk. I enjoyed the paragraph where Weiner describes her daughter. She uses just enough detail: “my blithe, honey-blonde daughter, leggy as a colt in cotton shorts and a gray T-shirt with Snoopy on the front.”

Weiner paints an image of a regular nine-year-old girl. The details of Weiner’s childhood paint an image of another regular girl in school. While one was taunted for being overweight, the other was taunting an overweight girl. Oh. How the tables have turned.

My favorite paragraph of all, however, is Weiner’s mental response to the talk with her daughter. It’s what any parent (I’m assuming) must worry about. Every parent must want the best for his or her children. Weiner lets her fear of what’s to come for her daughter shine.

We’re both quiet, and I don’t know if I said the right thing; I may never know. So as we sit there together, shoulder to shoulder, thigh to thigh, I pray for her to be smart. I pray for her to be strong. I pray for her to find friends, work she loves, a partner who adores her, and for the world not to beat out of her the things that make her who she is, for her life to be easy, and for her to have the strength to handle it when it’s not. And still, always, I pray that she will never struggle as I’ve struggled, that weight will never be her cross to bear. She may not be able to use the word in our home, but I can use it in my head. I pray that she will never get fat.

I admire Weiner’s honesty throughout this piece. I admire her detailed examples and her words. I admire her strength as a child and as a mother. Let’s all try to astray from the F word.

Why not use the other F word instead?

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