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Language Log

Saturday, May. 19, 2012 - 6:55 a.m.

Went to the musical instrument museum yesterday. I had no idea there were so many kinds of horns. The museum was HUGE. Q finally got to see a real slide trombone. She was SO excited.

Afterward we went to our friends' parents' house for supper. My uncle brought my mom down, they had supper too, she came home with us.

So we're sitting by the pool, Q sprawled in my lap all sleepy because she didn't get much of a nap, and my uncle says, "She's fat!" I don't know whether he's trying to be serious or is trying to make an affectionate joke, so I pat her belly. He says, "Her thighs, too! They're big! You're feeding her too much!" He seemed serious. I was flabbergasted. I said something like, "She's fine." and my friend piped up, "She's just right." and then my mom said, "Well, I have a whole 1/2 inch of extra fat around my entire body I'd like to get rid of." and my uncle pointd at his own stomach and said, "Well, I guess I shouldn't talk!".

NO! No, you shouldn't! I didn't even know how to respond. I've been fuming about the whole thing ever since. I mean, first there's the fact that Q IS 2, and the amount of baby fat she has is cute and entirely appropriate for her age. But I don't want to respond with a quick, "She's not fat!" because I don't really want her to think I think there's something wrong with being fat. It's not what you weigh, it's what you can do-- that's going to be my mantra. I'm doomed, of course, because the messages in our society say so strongly otherwise, but still, that's my story and I'm sticking to it. My only consolation in this whole thing is that as her mother I am the one single person with the greatest influence over her body image and eating habits. But still. I am not everything, and make no mistake, I am pissed. This is a world where preschoolers think they need to diet. My uncle never got the memo about how we don't talk about weight in our house (at least not around Q), but my mother has REPEATEDLY, and she still had to say something self-demeaning about it.

Gonna have to have another talk with her I guess. Gentle guidance! Just like with my toddler. ;) The trouble is to not let it get into my own experience and what I think she did wrong there-- that's hurtful and doesn't benefit us. But I gotta find a way to be crystal clear about how she is to speak about it around Q.

Frankly, I'm a little worried about how this is going to be in the next few years. I categorically DO NOT want anyone telling Q there's a thing wrong with the way she looks, whether she becomes chubby or not. Because it's not how much you weigh, it's what you can do. Introducing body shame reduces what you're willing to try, reduces pride in what you can do. And that resonates for, oh, decades. No, no, no. My mom isn't as bad as they come in this regard, but she's a product of her time and is obsessed with weight, and it comes through in how she talks about everyone.

Didn't really expect it from my uncle. Now to try to figure out how to pass the word to him without getting in a big fight. My uncle is rather, well, stubborn and speaks his mind no matter what people think, and likes to be in charge. He's also 85 or so, very set in his ways. But let me tell you-- I've enjoyed getting to know him since we've been here, but Q is more important by far. If he can't learn to act unstupid on this point, well....

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