Monday, October 12, 2009

Dear Little Girl

I've been fighting off writing this, even though I knew as soon as it happened that I would. It's scary to write it, more personal than I would care to be. But I can't stop thinking I have something so say, and so I must say it.

I'm in Utah visiting my parents for 30 seconds or so (Saturday-Monday). While here, I usually hit up Ross, as there ain't no Ross in Boston.

So there I was on Saturday, at Ross, waiting in line to purchase several cozy, well-priced sweaters, when two little girls came up behind me, pointed at my butt, and said, "Big butt! Big butt!"

Oh, the things I wish I could/would have said.

I turned around, said, "That's very rude."

Her mother heard me say it, asked the kid what she had said, and a minute later a very embarrassed seven-year-old came up and told me, "I'm sorry."

I didn't know what to say there either, as my smart sister (Kira) has pointed out that telling kids "That's okay" when they apologize gives them the wrong impression: it's NOT okay. Pointing at my butt and calling it big was decidedly NOT okay.

So I just left off the "that's" and said, "Okay."

This has never happened to me before. This random insult from a child.

And I have all these thoughts about it, how weird it all is. I mean, I don't think she meant to hurt my feelings. It was almost like, for her and her friend, the butt wasn't attached to a person. It was just out there, big, and worthy of comment.

But that's perhaps the worst part, that it came without malice. It makes it feel more like the message came from the universe, somehow. Like the kid was this pure source, even though that's probably not true. I mean, truth be told, she was sort of chubby, and I think her mother's butt was bigger than mine, and so, aside from how much it bothered me, it also felt like the three of us--mother, daughter, me--were this bendy triangle of body anxiety. The insult got pointed at me, but it came out of all of our angst, even from the little girl, who is probably just figuring out her butt doesn't look the way it's "supposed" to look. And I was that little girl, so I know what that feels like.

I've been thinking about this kid for two days, wishing I could hate her. But I can't.

And it's weird to wish I could have explained to that little girl what she had done, how she had cut into a wound that's already gaping and raw. How much of my emotional/physical/intellectual energy I devote to worrying about that very butt's bigness. How many YEARS I've worried. How tired I am of worrying. How, in the last year, it's grown with abandon and without permission from me and despite every possible effort to counteract it. How many doctors have thrown up their hands in bafflement and blame. How NOTHING I've tried has helped--and I've tried everything I can think of. How people assume I'm lying when I say that, that I must have cheated or done it wrong or been half-baked about it, or it would have worked. How hunted and judged I feel by everyone in the world, like this is my fault; I can fix it; it's so simple and straightforward and healthy, so why not?

I cried on the way back to my parents' house, called Sam and sobbed. And the poor, sweet man, who is endlessly patient with all of this, just kept saying, "I'm sorry. I'm so so sorry."

17 comments:

Tia and Amara said...

NoNoNoNoNo. It's the worst nightmare for all of us. I'm so sorry too. Sorry if anything I said last night was wrong in light of this. I wish we all lived in rural China or the Phillipines where this isn't such a CONSTANT problem for so many of us. What a time/energy waster like you said. I guess we'd be starving instead over there.

Jan said...

Letting the little girl know that she had made a rude comment was a perfect response. Kuddos to her mother for making her apologize. A simple, "Apology accepted" recognizes the apology but doesn't let them off the hook.
Blessedly, we, all of us, are more than our bodies. And, oh, by the way, you are lovely!

Genevieve Beck said...

I will hate her for you. I'm not even sure what to totally say, but know that my feelings are completely riled up for you.

eden said...

so, so, so sorry. she's totally lame.

and you have a nice husband.

Sad for a While said...

This story reminds me of how many times people told me I looked like a boy when my hair was short. At least, I could fix that. This is worse. But you are lovely, so I hope you can see that or will be able to someday. Also, I like to say, "Thank you for apologizing."

Kira said...

You should have kicked her :)

David and Melanie said...

I'm sad for you. and I'm in Utah too! I'm in Sandy at my sister's. Let me know if you're near by!

Elise said...

Deja, your post came at a really good time for me. I feel like I'm constantly struggling with body/beauty image. I always feel googley-eyed and weird looking.

However. I want you to know that I have never. Not. even. once. noticed anything about your butt.

But I ALWAYS notice your stunning curls and sparkly eyes. Have I ever mentioned that I envy those?

Veganmothering said...

For what it's worth, I teach 14 exercise classes a week, eat a very healthful whole foods diet, and maintain an active life, and I STILL HAVE A BIG BUTT! Seriously, it has shrunk a lot, but I still have curves and extra padding in that area. My body is my body. and my butt is still curvacious. I like to think of it as curvacious. Much more sexy.

And I agree with Elise. I love your curly hair, glossy lips, and how you put yourself together well. You've got style, you've got grace (your Miss United States? you had to watch Miss Congeiniality to get that one).

Sorry that nothing seems to work. Thyroid issues suck. Have you tried thyroid medication? That's one of the few medications that I think is worthwhile, because once thyroid tissue is lost there's no growing it back.

Anyway, your beautiful. Poetic and articulate. And you have a great husband.

ONe last thing (this comment is getting way too long!)I think most women have something they don't like about themselves, even if they're thin or thick or whatever. I'm flat-chested and I have a big butt. Losing weight for me did not change that fact.

Heather & Matt Fisher said...

from one big butt girl to another, I'm so sorry. what made that worse and horrible is that you are struggling so specifically with that issue. If it makes you feel any better, I've NEVER noticed you as having a big butt or big anything. Well, a big sense of style...I often wish I knew how to dress like you do. I go into stores all the time and think how would Deja put that together, shrug my shoulders and move on. I'm not lying, I don't lie. One day, you must share the secrets of your style. Deja, I LOVE YOU!! Can't wait to see you again, and I'm so sorry you had such a crappy crappy moment - you don't deserve it.

Meeshab said...

I agree with all of the comments. Why, why why do we beat ourselves up when everyone of us loves you for you because your fabulous and none of us have ever considered your butt at all because it is not you. YOU are fabulous YOU are amazing YOU spark envy in all of us. You are a multi-talented firecracker!

k. double-u. said...

Oh no! That is one thing that should never, ever happen. Especially when it isn't true.

I'm glad that you don't hate that girl who said it. I was the horrible little girl who called my babysitter fat once, to her face, mainly because she was bigger than I was: I was four years old. Know that the little girl in Ross will probably never forget that moment and will wish, even 20 years later, that she could take it back.

belann said...

I'm so sorry, too. There is a solution to the ache and the worry of all of this somewhere.

Parker said...

Dear Deja,

Little kids with big mouths are the worst. They don't know how to filter. I'm so sorry this had to happen to you.

I once was water skiing at Bear Lake with my friend and her co-workers. I was minding my own business hanging out on the boat when one of the kids on the boat told me I was fat. His parents did NOTHING. I was horrified. I felt like the biggest loser.

I also had a kid ask me why I had a mustache. That was fixable, I went home and did some waxing.

This is the worst one, my dear friend and I were swimming at her apartment pool when a kid started calling my friend a whale.

It's not right and it hurts. That's all, I just thought I'd share.

p.s. I'm so super happy that you commented on my blog today. It really lifted my spirits. We are friends, Deja. I'm here for you if you ever need anything.

hugs,
Kat

Garret said...

Hi Deja, it's Girlie. I totally wanted to cry when I read this. I could relate that feeling. I was made fun of my littleness when I first came to America in high school. I was already very shy, felt conscious about being so short, then someone said it out loud and so I thought it validated my worst fear. THat everyone sees it and thought the same. Then I got married and that unconditional love from your spouse just makes the world go round and makes you feel like a queen! :O) Then you have kids & they just feed your confidence. THey make you feel like you're a superhero and nothing really matters much than protecting them.

I so wanted to go see you in Utah but Garret had a lot of work to do that weekend. Sorry but but we love you and you're always in our thoughts & prayers.

Bryson and Tara said...

I'm so sorry, Deja. I agree with all the comments already made, and would just add that I miss you and am so sorry you had that experience.

Liz said...

Deja! Ok, I can totally relate to this because I have been asked by my niece and my cousin's kids why I have a big belly. I'm only saying this because I think it has more to do with them trying to figure out the world than with there being some kind of truth to it. Like, little kids are building schemas of things and they just haven't expanded their minds enough to realize that like, just because someone is not a size 0 does not make them fat, and even if they are fat (me, for example), it's just not nice to say anything about it. Like when a kid calls a hamster a squirrel, because they haven't learned what a hamster is yet. It doesn't mean the hamster is a squirrel. Hope that makes sense . . . . Love you and you're gorgeous!
Liz