Fat taboos

I dearly wish that it weren’t taboo to acknowledge fatness (without assigning horror, blame, evil…. to the word).

If I see someone crocheting in public, I can say “I crochet too, and I love that yarn, where did you get it?” without risk of offending.  Yet if I see someone approximately my same size, I can’t say “What a lovely blouse, would you mind my asking where you bought it?” without potentially offending the person for indirectly implying a size comparison.  If the person isn’t HUGELY fatter than I am, the question is almost guaranteed to offend.

And God forbid talking to another large sized person (except in fat acceptance clulbs, weight loss groups and on fat acceptance or weight-loss websites) about the special challenges of being a large sized person.

Hubby and I were recently eating in our favorite Thai restaurant owned by a Hmong family. It’s a very small family place, and we’ve become very close to the family. Occasionally the owners’ children are in the restaurant. They’re all extremely well-behaved, and the four year old is an absolute doll. She’s allowed (by mutual agreement between my husband and I and her parents) to come sit with us while we eat.

She’s fascinated by my husband’s freckles and the fact that I have only a few and she (and her family) have none.

The last time we were in, she was fascinated with our glasses, so I let her try on my glasses, and she started talking about all the ways people look different including belly size and such, and I was very matter-of-fact that “yes” my husband and I are very big people, and that she is a very little person, and that yes David is taller than her daddy, and I am rounder than her mommy, David needs a cane to help him walk (she loves to borrow his cane and walk around the restaurant)…

It dawned on me only after we left, that some people may consider the conversation “wrong” both in our allowing the child to ask such questions without reprimanding her or at least distracting her, but also in our straight-forward, happy-to-talk-about-it answers.

To me they were innocent and wonderful question, and I enjoyed talking to her about all the ways people are different and the same.

I believe her parents did overhear most of the discussion, and they didn’t appear to be offended by any of it, so I suspect that the taboos about talking about a person’s size might be different (or they just suspect we’re a bit on the odd side, which we’ve already acknowledged).

I just wonder though if I made her life easier or harder by being so nonchalant and comfortable with talking about things that many people in our society consider taboo. Will someone freak out on the poor child if she asks them a similar question.

Not long ago a (very chubby) child in the Walmart made a comment to her sister that I had a big butt. The child was old enough to know this probably wasn’t a nice thing to say and her mother made the girl apologize and I was mortified.

Not because of the comment, I’m not afraid or ashamed to talk about my being quite a bit different than the average person. Fat isn’t a bad word to me, and I really am uncomfortable with children being punished for talking about it. Especially for a very chubby child, I think it sends a really messed up message. “Fat is really, really bad. So bad you’re not allowed to even talk about it or acknowledge that it exists. If you are fat, you are therefore also very bad, and you can’t talk about it.”

As a chubby child by kindergarten, I remember being very confused about being fat. I knew I wasn’t supposed to “notice” that anyone was fat but me. I wasn’t supposed to say much about being fat, yet everyone in my family and even sometimes adult strangers were allowed to talk about MY fat (and they usually did it with sad or angry faces), but I wasn’t allowed to talk about anyone else’s fat or even my own in most situations. But then at 8 I was enrolled in Weight Watcher’s meetings where everyone did talk about being fat (even women who had never had more than 10 lbs to lose). Talk about confused!

Sometimes I’m still confused. The taboos don’t make any sense (but then again taboos almost never do).

Leave a Reply