The Fat politics in our families at Christmas....
We had a 'micro' Christmas yesterday- by which I mean we had a Christmas visit from our family who live in Yorkshire and we went to a wider family party in the evening. It's funny isn't it, how spending time with family can REALLY press your buttons- or is it just me?!
Let me explain.
We needed to exchange gifts and on realising I'd given my brother a big bag of Christmas presents to take home, my nephew gave me a MASSIVE cuddle (for the first time ever). I was secretly rather thrilled and
then he said to me "You're chubby" with an awkward smile
like he was poking fun at me. It certainly wasn’t a compliment. I was a bit taken aback-he'd said it in front of everyone-and I replied something along the lines of "Yes, more of me to cuddle". I think I clocked my sister in-law giving him a 'look' afterwards but I'm not sure. And then we carried on with the day.
I would love to say that I wasn't bothered by this interaction but I'd be lying if I did. I was upset and I still am, the next morning. So why is this so?
I can rationalise it and think that it is true- I am 'chubby', I have put weight on recently and I'm cool with it. I wasn’t cool with being told about it by my nephew though. It stung. His comment on my body was personal (but, accurate) and I felt the judgement.
I felt like I'd been fat shamed by a seven year old
which might be a harsh thing to say, but that’s what it felt like.
Why do we think its ok to comment on people’s body’s?
The other thing that I struggled with was feeling so powerless to say anything to him afterwards or to deal with it. If he had been my child I would have had a chat with him about it- about how bodies are different shapes and sizes and that is OK and that’s how it’s meant to be. I would want to remove the judgement, and to help him understand that I am fine as I am and that I don’t need comments about it. Trouble is, I don’t expect he had that kind of conversation from his parents, so he won’t know that it isn’t ok to do that next time.
Anyway, guess what I did as soon as they had gone? Went straight to the biscuits, and no I wasn’t hungry!
Later that day we went to a family party and I witnessed another family member commending my eldest daughter on how slim she was!!! OMG. I couldn’t believe my ears. I stood there, cringing and said “Yes, but it’s not about what we look like is it, it’s about what’s inside.” And I looked at my daughter who knew EXACTLY what I meant, not that the other person did, sadly. And she went on to qualify her remarks further, that she’s lost her “puppy fat” and it was just excruciating because
she was being praised PURELY FOR HER SLIMNESS. Aaaargh.
And there’s more that I won’t go into the detail of here- A lot of banter and teasing another girl by her brother who said she was ‘fat’ which she isn’t and more banter from the same boy towards his uncle who he also called ‘fat’. All in fun, but all not ok (in my opinion). All in all, a rather challenging few hours for me.
Don’t get me wrong, I love my family BUT, I’ve had enough of people thinking its ok to comment on people’s bodies. IT IS NOT OK. I wouldn’t accept this from strangers, so why am I accepting it from family members? Would it be ok if people passed comments and laughed about other people skin colour, or religions, or about other ‘differences’ like say a disability? No. This is a subliminal discrimination, against people who are (or, have) fat and actually, we ALL have fat, just different amounts of it. And we AREN’T FAT like we aren’t arms, or teeth, or fingernails. We HAVE FAT, we have arms,/teeth/fingernails…..
Also, there is the wider piece about realising this is the society we live in. I need to be able to cope with it as does everyone else that doesn’t fit the (extremely narrow) cultural ideal….and I guess this isn’t going to change anytime soon- though I dearly wish it would. I need to remember I am not the scared woman I once was. I CAN SPEAK UP and speak my truth. Maybe I should have yesterday- but would that have ruined the evening? I don’t know.
My husband, trying to help, said “Lisa, you can’t change the world” but you know what, I’m bloody well going to try.
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