I couldn’t believe it had come out of my son’s mouth. Loud, clear and unabashed he blurted: “Wow, Mom, she is fat.”
Ugh. I know we’ve probably all overdosed on being politically correct, but “fat” is a hot button for me. Not because I ever was fat as a child or want to teach my children euphemisms for every unpleasant piece of life—but because “fat” hurts. It diminishes. It limits someone to one dimension when they are really so much more.
My son had just seen a photo of a friend of mine he has never met because she lives overseas. He wasn’t trying to insult her; rather, he was making a factual statement. She is overweight. She is also funny, empathetic, smart and one of the best moms I know. “Fat” just doesn’t cut it.
So, I sat my son down. And told him a few stories about April. How in my teen years we used to tool around town in her car, talking about boys and homework and unfair curfews. How she was the friend you could call at any hour, day or night, when you just needed to talk or cry or laugh. How we lost touch in college and beyond because I made the mistake of being too busy building my new life to respect the old one. How she married a man she met in college that she thought was her Prince Charming but turned out to be more of a frog. And how, throughout it all, instead of relying on her wonderful wit and grit, she ate. A lot. Because that was easier than facing what she had to do, which was leave him to save herself.
As with most 12-year-old boys, my son understood, but not to the extent I hope he does when he becomes a man. A man who sees what is inside a woman, not just outside. Who will dig a little deeper when he meets a smart, funny, kind girl who happens to carry around a few extra pounds. Who will see beyond those pounds to what is underneath. Because pounds can be shed. A person’s essence can’t be. Thank God for that. Because in that sense, April is perfect just the way she is.