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When a Little Boy at the Grocery Store Asked Me, 'Why Are You So Fat?'

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“Look Daddy, that fat lady has bright orange feet!” Those were the words that greeted me when I drove the electric shopping cart out of the grocery store to wait for my driver to bring the car around. (There are never enough disabled parking spaces close to the doors.)

He was about 4 or 5 years old, wearing a bright orange baseball cap, holding on to his daddy’s hand on the way into the store. “Sshh, don’t point, don’t stare. Come on, now.” Daddy wouldn’t even glance my way — if he had, he would have seen me wink at his son and get a big grin in return.

“Why Daddy? She’s really fat and she really has bright orange feet. Why, Daddy? Why?” I laughed out loud; that, and the tugging on his hand finally forced Daddy to turn and look at me, his face turning red. “I’m so sorry, ma’am.” I smiled at him, but spoke to his son. “Yes, I have bright orange feet. I really like my orange shoes. You like orange, too?”

“Yes. Yes. Yes!” he chirped, tugging at his baseball cap. “But why are you so fat?”

Enough!” Daddy was really red by this time. So I spoke directly to him, “Don’t worry about it. I’d like to answer his question, if that’s OK?” Not waiting for a verbal reply, but relieved he hadn’t just swept his son up and carried him away, I leaned over and said to the boy, “I’m really fat because I have to take medicine that makes me eat a lot.”

He looked very thoughtful for a minute. Then he gave me that big smile again, “I hope you get better soon so you don’t have to take that icky medicine anymore! Bye!”

Daddy gave me a smile to match his son’s and said “Thanks” as they headed into the store. I looked down at my bright orange feet and was still laughing when my driver pulled up.

I wrote this because I wanted to share a happy moment in my life. Too often we forget to laugh, even when someone comments on our bright orange feet. It would have been very easy to get angry or upset at the question about being fat. But this child hadn’t made a judgment as to why I was obese, he just wanted to know why. So I took that moment to make a “teachable moment” not just for this curious little boy but for his father, too.

I hope he remembers me. I won’t forget him.

Originally published: July 20, 2016
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