I stopped in my tracks. I could literally feel sudden anger boiling in my blood. My anger was not directed towards my daughter, of course, who before she asked, “Mommy, am I fat?” was talking about the movie Ice Age Continental, but more directed at society at large today.
Why did she ask me this, I wondered. When I asked my daughter, “Why did you ask me that?” her answer was, “I don’t know.” Yes, at ten years old my daughter was worrying, obviously, about being fat, and yet she didn’t know why. And I don’t know why either. But I wanted to blame someone!
She’s not really into teen magazines. The shows she watches are pretty lame. Did she get this from school? Or, worse, from me? I don’t think she gets it from me, though, because the word “fat” in my house is pretty much banned, on the same level as her saying, “Fuck.” In fact, I rather her use the word “Fuck” than “Fat.”
I don’t walk around saying things like, “That will make you fat!” Or, “I feel fat today.” Or, “I better not eat that. It’s so fattening!”
In fact, I refuse to own a scale in my house. When I am in hotel rooms, I totally ignore scales, as if they were contagious. I’m not curious at all about what I weigh.
But not only was I angry, when my daughter asked me, “Mommy, am I fat?” I was really, really, really sad. It was such a different feeling when she asked earlier that afternoon, “Can I go on the Jet Ski by myself?” which made me feel deliriously happy that she was so courageous.
When she asked, “Mommy am I fat?” I just wanted to cry. I think, in fact, I did tear up and had a hard time swallowing suddenly.
I wanted to cry, not only because my two year-old son feels like he weighs as much as my ten year-old daughter, but she is as thin as a toothpick. Thanks to a ton of exercise, which she loves – swimming, skiing, and bike riding – along with her genetics, which includes an extremely fast metabolism, which she gets from me, she is so skinny that I often direct her to the ice cream store and ask if she wants one. Sometimes she does. Sometimes she doesn’t.
My daughter does not have a sweet tooth, so she, too, eats extremely healthy, not because I force her to, but because she just truly likes vegetables and hates candy.
My daughter is so skinny that she has been stopped a handful of times to be asked to be a model in runway children shows. Each time, I’ve said ‘no,’ because I believe she is too young to be directed into the modeling world, where she’d probably end up eating cotton balls for meals.
If she does one day, when she’s 18, wants to be a model, fine. But not now. Not when she’s ten.
In the adult world, my daughter would be a size zero or minus-zero (that exists, right?) All her bikinis need to be taken in to a seamstress to make them tighter, so they don’t fall off her butt and the top doesn’t fall off her shoulder’s. Her jeans fit her in length, but I still always need to get the waist taken in, as I do with her school uniform skirts for school.
I think hearing my daughter ask, “Mommy, am I fat?” was one of my most saddening parenting moments I’d ever yet experienced. Maybe all mothers are asked by their daughters, or sons. at some point, if they are fat. But when they are only ten, or younger, it haunts you in an unforgettable awful way, like a nightmare you can’t wake yourself up from.