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Fat Baby in Public

May 7, 2013

Public transit has been a part of my life since forever. I can remember being so little when I took the bus my mom had to use her arms to keep me from sliding off the slick, vinyl seats when we went around corners. At ten came my first solo bus ride down to the mall to watch a movie with some friends. The bus has gotten me to and from high school, first job, second and third job, dates, university, movies, poetry readings, dances and more. I literally take the bus everywhere. Part of taking the bus everywhere is dealing with all the different kinds of people you’re insulated from when you drive: the overly-chatty person who sits at the front near the driver, the drunks, the smelly people, the loud high school and college kids, the obnoxiously loud high school and college kids who can’t refrain from swearing for five seconds, etc.

A double decker bus in BC Transit’s fleet.

On Free Comic Book Day (May the Fourth be with you!), me and the kids were on the long ride from where we live now into Victoria to go to the really big Curious Comics shop in the downtown core. It was a gorgeous sunny day, quite warm already, and we were all in full summer gear — shorts for me and Gabe, a cute sundress for Katherine, hats and sunscreen. Kat’s sundress was a sleeveless number, and because she was sitting in the stroller, it left most of her very chubby legs out for all the world to see. Most people coo over her eyes, her hair, her smile, her overall adorable babyness, and she coos right back. Sometimes I talk with them about her, or their kids, for a little while. Noone comments about what a big baby she is, except to nod a bit when I tell them she’s over 8 months old now. Noone except for the guy at the front of the bus we ended up talking to nearly the whole way.

Gabe was being his usual rambunctious self and Kat was happily kicking away in her stroller while I was semi-making conversation with this guy. Then, out of nowhere, he says “Don’t worry, she’ll outgrow her baby fat.” A dozen different replies flew through my mind:

Instead I settled on “Oh, I’m not worried” with a smile. I should’ve added “I’ll love her no matter what size she is” but I’m not quite that quick. What would you have said? Should I have thrown out some Fat Acceptance facts? Some Health at Every Size® quotes? Maybe I should start keeping a little business card-sized FA/HAES fact sheet in my bag, just in case of future “helpful” comments.

16 Comments leave one →
  1. May 7, 2013 12:34 pm

    “Don’t worry, she’ll outgrow her baby fat.” Wow. I’m not sure HOW I would have taken that, nor how I would have answered. Thinking about it now, and completely detached from the situation and nuance of his statement, I guess I might have said, “I didn’t know I SHOULD be worried…” Or; “As long as she’s healthy and happy, I don’t care what size she is…” Or, I might have punched him in the nose. ::: shrugs:::
    Some people are waaaaay too self-important and take for granted that others need -or care about- their ideas and opinions.

  2. May 7, 2013 1:43 pm

    Oh crikey that is totally one of those moments you would like to be able to plan a retort for! However I think your response was great and also that for the vast majority of people that would simple not cross their minds. Baby sizes are so different, and they are so supposed to be rounded! (What an idiot really). Just a thought – I wonder if he would have said this about a baby boy of the same size…?
    Love the idea of FA business cards to whip out in response to the likes of this man!

  3. May 7, 2013 4:13 pm

    Friends of ours, thin friends of ours, had the fattest baby we’ve ever seen. Everyone called him “Jabba the Baby” even his parents. God bless his parents and pediatrician, they didn’t fret about his size, they just fed him normally and waited for him to thin out. (His mom says she didn’t have to buy any new clothes the first two years, his baby clothes fit him all along, he never got wider, only taller.)

    I often wonder how he and his parents would have been treated if his parents would have been big or if his older sister had been big instead of thin.

  4. JennyRose permalink
    May 7, 2013 4:24 pm

    Babies bodies are nothing like adults. My daughter, who is generally thin, had a big, hard belly for many years. The pediatrician told me that babies organs are disproportionately large for their bodies. They are so different there is no comparison.

    I would like to say something along the lines that she will outgrow her shortness too but that implys his comment is OK. I also would not want to sound abelist. Some statements are just so bufoonish that there is no great reply.

  5. May 7, 2013 8:57 pm

    You did good, girly! It is SO difficult to know what to say in an instant. Not long ago, I was on my way to the garage at my work and was unexpectedly confronted by a co-worker, well-meaningly trying to tell me, “You’re really coming down good,” meaning my weight I guess (I have no idea if I am or not, and don’t care). I just stared at her like an idiot with a puzzled look on my face, half insulted, half in a hurry to leave, and she got that I was puzzled, so then she made these weird arm movements demonstrating how big I am or have been, and kept repeating, “‘Cuz you know….you know….” I just said, “Well, I’m not trying,” and walked away. It really upset me, though, I’m a very emotional person, so I sat in my car for a bit and cried. It surprised me that it upset me that much. I just can’t believe how absolutely mired in our culture some people are, with no clue of what they are saying, or what effect their comments may have on others. So I have to give you kudos for being able to come back that quickly with your “Oh I’m not worried”; and even managed a smile. Good for you! Quick on your feet. Awesome!

  6. violetyoshi permalink
    May 7, 2013 9:37 pm

    Usually something like, “I’ll love her no matter what size she is.” will send these nosey people backing away, like a shocked toddler hearing no for the first time in their life. Since that is what happens when you stand up to busy bodies, they have to deal with the reality everything they say isn’t gold, and not everyone cares to hear from them. Then you can have fun watching them age regress, and act like an upset or frightened child, after being repremanded.

    Of course this is assuming they don’t throw a tantrum, which I’ve seen some of them do, or they’ll glare like an angry child. You just have to ignore them, they want attention like needy children, no one ever taught them that their statements aren’t unwelcome, and so the best thing is to just walk away because in most cases they cannot or are unwilling to learn anything. They must always be right, and if someone tells them they aren’t, it’s on the ground screaming kicking fit time!

  7. May 7, 2013 10:00 pm

    I never, ever come up with a good comeback until it’s too late. I’d probably have said something similar to what you said.

  8. Happy Spider permalink
    May 7, 2013 10:48 pm

    Your description of the bus ride was wonderfully vivid. I loved reading it.

    I don’t know what would be a good comeback to that statement. I am no good at comebacks. However, since you sounded so cheerful in the first paragraph I wish you could think of a reply which would keep you happy. It’s really good when people walk around being happy because they make the people round them happy too, a gain for everyone. If your comeback could somehow leave the other guy happy and less willing to make negative remarks that would be even better. I have in mind that you somehow laugh at how ridiculous his statement is but in a way that encourages him to laugh with you instead of feeling mocked. That does not allow a malicious person to go unpunished because a malicious person will be furious at being laughed at and not being taken seriously.

    Your first comeback sounds like an opening for a conversation about HAES. That’s good if you’re in a proselytizing mood. The second and third comebacks were hostile and would inject negative energy. I liked the fourth one for implying that his statement is ridiculous but I don’t like that it implies that being chubby is only ok if it has a purpose. I really liked the whimsicality of “what is she doesn’t”– no negative energy there– but it seems again like it could lead to a HAES conversation. Maybe if it could be expanded. I liked your comeback ” ‘Oh, I’m not worried’ with a smile” since that shows that his statement is ridiculous but smiling invites him to join you in appreciation of the ridiculousness.

    I don’t like “I’ll love her no matter what size she is” because then you are accepting your opponent’s framing of the situation. You are accepting that size is a relevant thing to be discussing. Would you say “I’ll love her no matter what color her hair is” “I’ll love her even if she needs glasses”?

    I wish there was some way that you could tell the guy to appreciate how varied people are in form: Ha, that would be silly thing to think of. My baby has changed so much and she’ll change so much in the future. She was just an infant and now she’s a toddler and she’ll change so fast. How I treasure every moment with her. How amazing are the many shapes and forms that babies come in.

  9. May 8, 2013 12:40 pm

    Try “Babies come in all sizes, just like people do.” Your tone can be as mild or as pointed as the situation dictates. Then change the subject in an obvious way and move on.

    Of course, easy to say and harder to know what to do when you are on the spot unexpectedly like this. I’ve BTDT. My first child was quite chubby as a baby. We would go for walks in the neighborhood and the neighbors who lived behind us frequently commented what a “big girl” she was (and not in a nice way). The implication was that I was over-feeding her and making her chubby.

    Because we wanted to keep the peace with the neighbors and because they were mostly reasonably behaved, I chose to take the high road at the time and basically ignore the comments. Changed the subject and move on. I think at some point I gave some hints on how I felt about it because eventually they stopped making the comments, but I don’t recall exactly what I said. But I know what I would say now, which is the above.

    I do remember how ticked off I was on someone fixating on a BABY’S size, for heaven’s sake, and for trying to make me feel guilty or insecure about how I fed my child. But they are products of the culture, which is pretty obsessive about this stuff. Oy.

  10. JeninCanada permalink
    May 8, 2013 4:24 pm

    Thanks everyone for the AWESOME replies. I’m going to try and mentally file those away for potential future use!

  11. Ashleigh permalink
    May 9, 2013 2:29 am

    My mother told me that once, while she was standing in line at the grocery store holding me in all of my baby-glory, a woman turned around, looked at me, and suggested she put me on a diet. A. Baby. On. A. Diet.

    My mother told the lady that she should focus her energy on something more productive than the figure of a baby too young to walk.

    Honestly, in this position, you would be completely within your rights to respond with a calm – although possibly sassy – retort, amounting to some phrasing of “mind your own business”. A firm, polite comment like that will sometimes teach a person that they shouldn’t go around saying everything that pops into their minds.

  12. Elizabeth permalink
    May 9, 2013 1:31 pm

    My sister was told she was prediabetic because her baby was eight-pounds-plus. This was in the era when pregnant women were supposed to gain something like 20 pounds, which, of course, we understand creates underweight babies. Then she was told to put my nephew on a diet when he was an infant. This was 50 years ago, so today’s idiocy was alive and well then.

  13. Dizzyd permalink
    May 9, 2013 4:09 pm

    HS, Elizabeth – too true
    Ashleigh – way to go, mom!
    Violetyoshi – too funny! I’ll be picturing grown ‘adults’ pouting or on the floor screaming for the rest of the day.

  14. May 11, 2013 2:46 am

    Reblogged this on Shaping the Family PhD Research Blog and commented:
    I keep returning to this blog post, (in my mind and on WordPress!). In relation to my PhD research,I keep thinking about what kind of discourses the man who made this comment about a baby must have been drawing on. This is not to apologise for his really very ignorant comment, but just to wonder really what he understands about fat which makes him think that this comment was necessary.

  15. May 11, 2013 2:48 am

    Hi, I’m not sure about re-blogging etiquette so sorry if I got this all wrong (my first re-blog). I have re-blogged this – please let me know if there is any aspect of this you are not happy with and I’ll sort it. But I do hope it is okay!

    • JeninCanada permalink
      May 11, 2013 4:28 pm

      Looks fine to me! Thanks for sharing the love.

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