Friday, October 21, 2016

This is Us. This is Me.

If you're not watching the new NBC show This Is Us, you are seriously missing out. It fills every need I've ever had in a show. Yes, that need is a definite first world problem.

This weeks episode "The Pool" struck a chord with me, a chord I haven't heard in a long time.

Young Kate's character goes to the pool with her family on a hot afternoon. We've seen in previous episodes how her weight struggles have already begun at a young age. Her mother is trying to restrict what she eats in a couple of scenes, and one point she tells her mom before bed that she *only* ate fruit that day, expecting her to be proud.

The day at the pool, she was *so* excited to wear her new Care Bears bikini. As soon as she comes out of her bedroom ready to go, you see her face light up with excitement. She may know that she is a little bigger than the other girls, but at her age she is still unaware or unaffected by their opinions of her. Her mom on the other hand, proceeds to tell her dad that she shouldn't be wearing that to the pool. I'm not blaming the mother for her caution in letting her daughter eat and dress as she pleases, she probably knows the ridicule that comes with school aged girls. The dad on the other hand, is supportive of his little princess, as if he doesn't see that she's overweight and likely the subject of ridicule.

I have to admit.
I cringed when she walked out in that bikini too. 

NOT because I think she looked too fat, too chunky, too big, WHATEVER the label may be. I cringed because that was me. That is me. I cringed because I knew what she was going to face. I could already hear the remarks. I could already see the looks on peoples faces as she walked by in the Care Bears bikini. I could hear the snickers. I could see the hands covering tiny mouths as they whispered.  I may not be 11 years old anymore. I may not be much bigger than the average woman my age. But I will forever live with those memories as if they are frozen in time, they are painfully easy to recall, and they sting just like they did all those years ago.

Some of you may only know me as an adult. Someone you met when we moved to Oregon, or when I started dating Seth.

Some of you may know me from college. Some from high school. But maybe, if we go way back, you might know me from grade school.

You might know those ugly duckling years. The fat duckling years. The years when other parents asked my mom when they were going to put me on a diet. The years when girls wouldn't invite me to play with them because my fat might rub off on them. The years before I let an eating disorder run my life and made me shed the weight. As an adult I still struggle to not eat everything in sight, hence the low carb diet. It is the only thing that can keep this food addict in check. Serious check. It's basically meat, cheese, wine, repeat over here.

I don't hold any personal grudges any more. I did. I did for many years. And even though I can hardly remember what I ate for breakfast this morning, I remember the names of those girls (and guys too). I remember their precise words. I remember hoping that the glare from the sun against the play structure would mask the tears on my face. I remember feigning sick on some days and begging to go to work with my mom so I didn't have to face those kids. I remember trying to make friends with the recess chaperone because I didn't have anyone else to play with.

When the skinny little "friends" of Kate's wrote a note to her at the pool that day, telling her she was an embarrassment because of what she looked like, my heart sank for her. Not just for her, but for the millions of women that live their lives under the weight of what others think and say about them. It is a great burden to bear. That burden still follows me around as an adult. It sneaks in and tells me I'm not good enough, not worthy enough, not likable enough to be someones friend. It causes me to always be covered up, to fear showing too much arm or muffin top, to wonder if someone can see my back fat sneaking out behind my ring sling as I carry Josie down the aisles of Target.

I am a 26 year old, happily married, mother of two exceedingly wonderful children, and yet I STILL shrink at potential judgement of others. I can't even take constructive criticism. I break at the thought of someone telling me I did something wrong.

Bottom line, As adults, we need to stop judging each other by outward appearance, but rather by the content of the soul. We need to teach our kids that. We need that idea to catch like wildfire so that the bullying stops dead in it's tracks. I know bullying doesn't start or end with weight related things, but I think it's a huge part of bullying as a whole. We need to teach inclusiveness, acceptance, LOVE. Just like we don't want our children to see skin color, I don't want my children to see pounds. We need to set the bar high, to never allow that kind of judgement to pass from our lips, and especially the lips of our children. Just like racist jokes are not welcome in homes, neither should fat jokes.

Parents, I truly believe it starts with us. We hear constantly that we are raising the next generation, how everything we do matters in the long run, so take heed, our tiny human sponges are listening to us. They listen not to what we say, but how we say it. And even if you're not a parent, if you ever, ever get that idea in your head that you are somehow better, smarter, more beautiful than someone who is overweight, shut up and sit down. That idea has caused more pain for men and women than we will ever know.

I don't know about you, but I look forward to the rest of the season of This is Us and watching Kate's character develop. She is fierce, funny, smart, beautiful, and so deserving of the kind of love that she gives out. And if you haven't started watching This is Us yet, go, go now. Run.

I won't spoil the rest of the amazing episode for those who haven't seen it yet. But damn,  Jack is an incredible father to those young kids. This may be the best writing modern television has ever seen.

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