Sucker Punch

T waltzed into the bathroom as I emerged from the shower. I hid my annoyance at the intrusion and half listened as he chatted in my direction. Suddenly he bellowed, “I HAVE TO POOP!” “Kay, go ahead.”

He continued talking as he took care of business and I continued my morning routine. Eventually he hollered, “I’M DONE!” No idea why he needs to proclaim his plumbing issues at the top of his voice, but there you have it.

“Great!” I replied, kind of pissed that I have to feign enthusiasm as I wipe someone else’s ass. He assumed the position and grasped my naked thigh for balance. I noticed he was staring at it. When I finished he looked up at my face and said, “You are really fat.”

“Listen you fucking asshole. You come into my shower time which by itself is enormously irritating, you fill the bathroom with the horrid smell of your shit, and then you zero in on the thing I’m more self conscious about than any other and go right for the kill? FUCK YOU! FUCK YOU, YOU NASTY LITTLE SHIT!”


I didn’t say that.

But I really wanted to.

I took a breath. “Wow. Wow, T. You really hurt my feelings. I’m very upset. It is incredibly mean to call someone fat. You really made me feel terrible. It is unkind to comment on anyone’s weight. You shouldn’t call someone fat. You shouldn’t call someone skinny. It just really isn’t any of your business. Any by the way, it doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter what a person looks like or how big or small they are. What matters is who a person is on the inside.”

He considered me. “Well, aren’t you fat?”

I stood there. Damp and naked and vulnerable. I wanted to cry. Of course he does not understand that my self image is garbage. He doesn’t know that when I look in the mirror I see someone who is morbidly obese. He can’t comprehend mental illness. “Yes!” I want to shout, “Yes, I am fat and disgusting and an embarrassment! You nailed it, my son! You should be as ashamed of me as I am of myself!” And the anxiety, that bitch, she whispered in my ear that technically my BMI is in the overweight category. I’ve got another 10 pounds or so to go before I really can be considered “normal weight”. Wouldn’t it be the most genuine and honest to tell him I am fat?

I stood there and decided to not unload my insecurities on my four year old who wasn’t actually trying to be an asshole. Who was just calling ’em like he saw ’em. Who was learning about new concepts and trying them out in conversation. Who was being a completely normal kid.

“No.” I said. “I’m not fat. I’m not skinny. I’m in the middle. But like I said, size doesn’t matter.”

“Oh. Well, I’m in the middle, too.”

“Great. Now go downstairs.”

It isn’t like I haven’t been waiting for this day basically since he was born. I mean, there was no chance he’d call me skinny when he eventually learned about body types. So now it has happened. It stung like hell. Being a parent is suspiciously like being a grown up. I didn’t lash out, I didn’t wallow. I tried to teach him. I told him what I believe. Unless I am considering my own body. When I look at myself I become the meanest of mean girls. But today for the sake of my son I quieted that horrible bitch inside me, for a moment I tried to cut myself some slack.

It sucked. But life sucks sometimes. And I guess if he is going to call anyone fat I’d rather it be me. I don’t want him to contribute to anyone else’s body image baggage. And hopefully he won’t. Hopefully he saw my hurt and he’ll make different choices in the future.

Jesus fucking christ, parenting. Some days you ask for an awful lot.

t lion

This is a good kid. He is trying to figure the world out. Which is impossible to do without stepping on some toes. But his heart is in the right place. I’m proud of him. Photo by Ellie Leonardsmith.

blanket assault

Cousin chaos. Just after the photo was taken T tackled his Aunt Kelsey with the blanket. Photo by Ellie Leonardsmith.

red light

Z got a red glass window somewhere and propped it in front of a window in his shop. For a few amazing minutes in the late afternoon this happens.


15 thoughts on “Sucker Punch

  1. Ouch. Ouch ouch ouch. You did great with that one. I honestly don’t know how I would handle that. My daughter isn’t old enough to say much more than ga wow dabah. Partly I wonder “Where the hell do they get this stuff?” I mean how is it that at their age they already are talking about people’s bodies in such culturally loaded ways? And then I partly think that we probably read way more into it than they do; that he won’t even ever remember that conversation and had no idea how loaded it was. And yet your answer was so important. Really well done. I hope I can meet my own daughter’s questions with such straight forward and tactful answers. Body image is so so hard. Before I had her, I would wish for a little less tummy. Now that I’ve had her, I think I was nuts to even think that–I looked great. But I can’t use that example somehow to tell myself I probably still look great. I just think, man I wish I still looked like that. And I want so hard not to telegraph this to my daughter as she grows up. I don’t look forward to these complexities, but I hope I can navigate them with some self-control and grace. Again, good on you for managing to get through that one. And I do love what T said: ” Oh. Well, I’m in the middle too.” Would that we could all be so matter-of-fact.

    • Thanks. I wish you much luck navigating the waters of self image with your daughter. That is the hard work. My friends with girls make a huge effort not to criticise their physicality in front of their daughters. I certainly need to do a better job with that in front of my sons.

      It really is amazing how early they pick up societal cues about gender and attractiveness. But as parents I believe we can influence their beliefs.

      Man, parenting is way harder than I thought it would be. Truthfully my feelings were crushed.

  2. Oh mama. I brace for this day. I know it will happen here and I am not ready. My heart skipped a few times reading this. What a crushing blow. You handled this SO well. I know I’m not to comment on appearances but please know that you are beautiful. I remind myself of that too when I need to. Lately I’ve needed to a lot 😉 But you are beautiful and the way you taught him in that moment when your feelings were so crushed speaks to the amazingly strong woman and mama you are. Wish I could give you a hug right about now.

    • Thank you. As I said, I was extremely presumptuous with you and it was beyond kind for you to take the time to read.

      As I was trying to teach him the other stuff really was going through my head-the yelling, the swearing, the lashing out. So I didn’t feel strong if you know what I mean.

      But thank you again. Your comment means a lot. And I’d still like to give the lady who hurt you a piece of my mind.

      • It wasn’t presumptuous at all. Not at all. Like, at all. I am so glad you shared it with me. I just shared it of the page. I hope that’s ok.

  3. Another thing to remember is that fat isn’t a value judgment necessarily, just a descriptor. My little boy once heard me talking about dieting and he asked me NOT to get too thin. He said then I wouldn’t be comfy. That was all fat meant to him, someone soft to hug and lie on.

    • It totally was a descriptor with him. He had no idea it would hurt me. I hope he is beginning to learn that his actions have consequences and even if he doesn’t mean to hurt he certainly can. I mean, that is an incredibly huge lesson to learn and I don’t think he got it in one moment on Sunday morning, but it is the beginning of a discussion.

  4. Thank you so much for sharing that. I remember when my older daughter would comment on people she saw at the grocery store or wherever. I tried to get her to understand the same message. It doesn’t matter what you look like on the outside. But then I’d find myself making a comment about someone’s cute hair or an outfit that I liked. I’m not looking forward to my younger daughter going through this stage. I have breast cancer and had to have a double mastectomy. I know that the scars are scary. When I move, the reconstructed implants wrinkle and look strange. I have no nipples. I know there are going to be comments about this thing that I feel so vulnerable about.

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