As a plus-size mom, other parents often ask my advice on body-related issues. I use it as an opportunity to fight fatphobia.
When I pick up my daughter from school, other parents seek me out for advice on body-image issues.
At first, it annoyed me because I'm not the voice for all plus-size people.
But it's an opportunity to teach parents how to talk to their kids about their body image.
My daughter is in kindergarten, so every afternoon I march across the playground blacktop to pick her up from school. Her classroom is on the far side of the Denver school grounds, and when I amble my way through hugs and after-school meltdowns, people look at me. I'm a fat textile artist who makes my own clothes in vibrant colors and patterns; I'm hard to miss.
While waiting for the teacher to release our children, parents mingle outside the classroom door, engaging in small talk, commiserating, and discussing the upcoming PTA fundraiser. It's not unusual for other parents to seek me out for advice on body-related issues during this time.
The first time it happened, I was charmed
A mother I'd never talked to — but seemed cool in her progressive T-shirt — leaned in close and explained how her son had audibly commented on a man's size while in the checkout line.
"I just panicked and said nothing. What should I have done differently?" she asked me.
Flattered, I assumed she viewed me as someone who might know what to do in tricky situations — someone safe to confide in.
That is until a different parent asked something similar soon after, wondering what to say to their daughter who was insistent that fat people couldn't play sports.
In both cases, I delivered my most sincere feedback: Talk about how all bodies are different, provide examples of diverse bodies accomplishing varied tasks, and be mindful of the language being modeled both in person and in the media they consume.
This is all advice I feel confident providing, and yet I started to feel uncomfortable as I fielded similar queries for guidance.
I'm not the voice for all plus-size people
These encounters rankled me when it became clear I was being asked because of my bigger body.
Before asking me about her second grader who was preoccupied with the size of her own thighs, a woman complimented my dress: "I love this print, but I could never pull it off, I don't have the right body type. How do you find the confidence to wear it anyways?"
It wasn't such a compliment after all; it was her inability to comprehend my corporeal peace. This is why the advice seekers bothered me: Their questions were often steeped in their own fatphobia, and they expected me to shed some light on the mess.
But just because I'm fat doesn't mean I'm the expert.
My child helped give me a new perspective on the issue
Recently, my daughter and I were climbing into the car after school, and I could tell she was anxious. Eventually, after recounting a funny anecdote from gym class, she asked if she could tell me something that might make me sad.
"You can tell me anything no matter what," I assured her.
With a deep breath, she described how a boy in her class told her that I had a big tummy. I nodded and asked how that made her feel.
She chewed on her lip between bites of Pirate's Booty before answering. "I was worried you might be sad because it's not kind to talk about someone's body without their permission." She shrugged before adding, "But I just told him that all bodies are different."
As she parroted this phrase, one I'd been repeating for years, I realized that the parents' inquiries for advice were less an annoyance and more an opportunity.
These parents are wanting to do the right thing, so I hope we can do the work together
Plus-size is the American average, yet our country likes to pretend otherwise. Thin protagonists reign supreme, and while there have been incremental gains, fat characters and celebrities are often relegated to humor or pity. For parents who want to unlearn anti-fat bias and raise their children without the adversity of fatphobia, there aren't many resources.
When parents ask me these questions, their words might be steeped in the harmful standards of yesteryear, but their heart is in the right place. They're interested in moving forward.
Despite my initial reluctance to being profiled, I've discovered broader benefits. These parents are passing the message to their kids, who together with my own child can sustain the work. If we can cooperatively shift the culture around bodies — even incrementally — toward neutrality for our children, then I'm happy to continue being the spokesperson for joyful, bigger bodies.
Read the original article on Insider