When I was little, I was big. Not obese, but chubby. My dad’s childhood nickname for me was “Big Sue”, and I know you’re all envious of that. My sister was thin and sickly, so the contrast with me (“healthy as an ox!”) was all the more obvious.
Throughout elementary school, I dreaded being weighed in school for my report card. This occurred at the beginning and end of the year, and I will never forget the sound of the big scale being rolled down the hall. My friend Miriam was also “chubby”, and we would often spend recess discussing our fear that we had heard the ominous wheels.
The school nurse would set up the scale in front of the classroom, and call us up one by one to be weighed. She would then read our weight to the teacher, who would write it on our report card. The fatter you were, the softer she said your weight.
In retrospect, I doubt anyone was listening all that carefully, but in my mind you could have heard a pin drop. I was just mortified to be fat.
A related thing is hating my big feet as a child. My mom would take me to a shoe store for school shoes, and I would select a few that looked cute. Whenever the salesman would bring them out in my size, however, they usually resembled boats rather than the cute little samples in the window. I think one thrill of adulthood is that I can try on shoes on my own without the awfulness of being waited on by a salesman. I never wanted to hurt the salesman’s feelings by saying I didn’t like the shoes, but on the other hand … how could I convey how awful I thought they looked? My mom would keep asking, “Do you like them or not? Don’t say you like them if you don’t!” Agghhh! What to do? The stress!
My mom once told me that my big feet were probably the needed foundation for my big body. This was NOT the thought I was looking for! With my big body and big feet, I would never get to sit in the front row of the class picture!
When I went to junior high, I was finally tired of my extra weight and decided to take charge. I went on a diet, completely cutting out desserts (my very favorite food), potato chips, and other things. Within about a year I had lost 20 pounds.
I was thrilled at my will power and my new normal-sized self. To this day, I look back on that time as one of the most empowering events of my life. Since anorexia and bulimia were both in their heydays at the time, it’s probably only by the grace of God that I avoided them, but in all honesty I’ve always had a practical view of things and I just can’t see myself going to that extreme.
Thankfully, I’ve been able to avoid being overweight since then, and I think much of the reason is the absolute hate I felt for being fat as a kid. I don’t remember other kids teasing me, but I just was intensely uncomfortable being overweight. Along that line, I’m very grateful that my kids all are normal weight. The struggle of being overweight is something I’d love for them to be able to avoid.
Oh, and in case you’re wondering? I wear shoe size 9. Funny, because it doesn’t seem so big anymore. Are our feet becoming larger? Last year, our neighbor girl wore size 10, and she was in fifth grade!
Did you have a childhood nickname? Did you like it?
To look backward for a while is to refresh the eye, to restore it, and to render it the more fit for its prime function of looking forward. ~Margaret Fairless Barber