So, yesterday’s post on “Don’t Call My Daughter Big” did pretty well and got a lot of traction.
A lot of interesting points were brought up on social media, which I hope to address in a few years when I no longer have small children and can write longer with more focus on body image, sexism, feminism — you know, all the fun stuff.
Until then, I wanted to publish the precursor to what was published yesterday but which I cut due to word count and attention span (I try to run smaller essays). Anyway, here you go:
Not a day goes by that my 10-month-old daughter hears that she is “big.”
For the sake of fairness, she is big. She’s in the 97th percentile for height and 95th for weight. She’s also bright, alert and incredibly smart. (We’re thinking early decision at Yale.)
Look, I get it. Strangers want to acknowledge the baby which is strapped to my chest. So they say the first thing that comes to their mind.
I’m not immune. I call Kit and her brother “giant” on social media because, well, they are Scandinavian in size and looks. My husband and I love our life of wrangling and adoring our giant children. (Perhaps I am making excuses, but writing captions to photos for friends and family on Instagram is much different than constantly hearing the words “big” “big” “big” from people you don’t know.)
The other day, my 4-year-old son (who is literally a head above everyone in school), said sadly, “Mommy, I’m the biggest boy in the whole world.”
My heart broke a little bit because he’s 4. He shouldn’t even think about his appearance. But he does, because when people meet him, they exclaim, “Oh, you’re big!” when they find out how old he is.
Luckily, being a tall, white male in the world is pretty fucking awesome.
But for a girl, I’m going to go out on a limb here and say being big isn’t a desired trait.
At 5’10,” I too am a big girl. And I’ve hated that descriptor my entire life.
I still remember how my uncle always called me “big girl” and how awful that made me feel. How rotten. How unworthy. How it made me feel “less than” because even as as young girl, I realized that big does not equal beautiful.
My family and I would gamely laugh at the comment and no one would say, “Cut it out.” Or, “Maybe you shouldn’t say that.” No one said anything as my face continued to redden. We just let it happen. (Our unofficial family motto: “Do not offend, even if you are being offended.”)
And here’s the thing: Because no one ever said anything, I got the impression as a young girl that men are allowed to comment on my body without repercussion. That its is fair game. Even now, I feel my cheeks burn at the memory.
Yesterday, when I posted that essay, I was accused of “passing on my insecurities” to my daughter. But what if it’s not insecurities that I hate when people call my daughter “big,” but a white hot rage that I’ve had to listen to men fucking talk about my body and face for my entire fucking life and I’m fucking tired of it and want something better for my daughter?
I dunno. I guess you can say I’m over-reacting but I think that’s pretty sad.