One of my day jobs (yeah, I have two) is in a fabric store. Today they had me on the cutting table, so I was interacting with all the customers who were buying yardage. At 5’8″ and 250ish pounds, I have no shame in admitting that I’m a fat girl, and the aprons they have us wear do nothing to pretend otherwise. One of my last customers was a woman with her daughter, and the woman had that toned look that means she works very hard on her body. The little girl couldn’t have been more than 4 or 5, and as I was measuring the mother’s fabric, the child pointed at me and asked the question that made everyone around cringe. “Mommy, why is the lady so fat?”
Now, a reasonable mother would have said something like, “Because people come in different sizes,” or “It’s not nice to talk about people’s bodies.” That’s not what this mother said.
“That’s why I don’t let you eat too much candy.”
I was so stunned at the rudeness that my mouth hung open for a moment. I was too shocked to respond the way the comment deserved. The only thing I could think to do was address my response to the child.
“I’m fat because there’s something wrong with my leg, and I can’t run and play like you do, because it hurts really bad all the time. That means my body can’t use the food I eat, so it turns it into fat instead.”
“It hurts? That’s really sad.”
“That’s why it hurts people’s feelings when you talk about their bodies. There are lots of reasons people are different, and you don’t know why.”
Her mother glared at me as I handed over her fabric, but she couldn’t really say anything. As luck would have it, there were two carts partway filled with apparel fabrics to go back on the shelves. Being a rather vindictive bitch, I made a point of putting hers in the one farther from me, so that I’d have to walk the 10 feet or so over to it. There was no way she could avoid seeing my “I’ve been on my feet for six hours when I was already having a bad pain day” limp.
I really don’t feel a bit bad about overstepping my boundaries there. I’m proud of myself for not raging at the rudeness, but at this point, the disrespect bothers me more than someone commenting on my weight. Yes, I have an above-average amount of adipose tissue, but that’s way better than having a below-average degree of respect for others. I just hope that the little girl, and maybe even the mother, will remember that there are a lot of reasons people are different, and be a little kinder.