Friend: Well, I’m not going to obviously. I mean, she will just have to live with it. She tried on those clothes at the mall when we bought them over a month ago and they fit just fine then.
Woman: But she can’t wear any of them now? Really?
Friend: Yep. Too tight.
Woman: Even the t-shirts?
Friend: Especially the t-shirts. The style is so narrow these days, you know.
Woman: You should’ve got her stretch jeans.
Friend: I didn’t know she was going to gain 15 pounds before school started or I would have.
Woman: Well it’s a good thing you have her here at [aerobics class] tonight!
Friend, turning to young girl next to her: That’s right, huh sweetie? We’re going to be here every night until those jeans fit again.
Girl: [stares at floor] mmmhmmmm.
It was like witnessing one of those scenes that formerly fat people always talk about. You know, The Motivation For Losing Weight Incident. Usually it has somebody close to them, a friend or relative, but occasionally a random stranger in a public place saying something completely rude, obnoxious and blatant about their weight. For some – at least those profiled in the fitness mags and books – it changes their life. They vow to not be “that girl” (or guy) anymore and lose the weight and go on to have a career in motivating other people to lose weight. For others, this is how an eating disorder is born followed by a lifetime of never being good enough.
My gut reaction was to cover the poor girl’s ears and scream at her mother. I cringed and squirmed and for a brief second even fought back tears on the girl’s behalf. But the girl herself wasn’t crying. In fact, she didn’t even seem particularly bothered by the conversation that she had surely overheard.
The thing is, the mother hadn’t called names or even made judgments. Just stated the facts. In a calm and polite voice, even. The girl had gained weight and now her clothes didn’t fit. Given the options, I suppose encouraging a chubby preteen to exercise is probably a good idea. Plus the mom, no skinny minny herself, was working out right alongside her daughter so at least she was walking her talk. All during the class the mom made sure to encourage and help her daughter and the girl finished out smiling.
On the way out, I complimented the girl and tell her she did great in class.
I’m conflicted. Would you have said anything to the mom? The girl? Was this just an example of tough love? Or a tough exterior?
At least it wasn’t a repeat of this scary gym conversation.