Have you ever read those testimonials which “fat fighters” type organisations publish? There are usually pictures of very glamorous women who have been all but swallowed by a comically large pair of trousers (which until recently were a tent). Often they’ll have a speech bubble coming out of their mouth which (in comic sans) say something along the lines of, “I thought that I had put on too much weight when I got wedged in my friend’s front door”, or “I knew I had gained too much weight when a chair collapsed when I sat on it”.
I used to have a bit of a chuckle too, but then, not too long ago I had to replace some patio chair’s whose legs fell off just as I sat on them (they were very old, and brittle plastic seats, so I’m not really entirely to blame am I?), and then a few nights ago I thought that I would have to call the fire brigade with their jaws of life, to cut me out of a football jersey which I had managed to shoehorn myself into, in the process defying several of the cornerstone principles of physics. In what can only be described as one of the greatest displays of escapology since the passing of the great Harry Houdini, I was able to break free from my spandex prison.
I have been aware for more than a little while that my weight is (more than) slightly over what it should be. To my great shame, I can remember teasing the fat kid at school. In my defence I wasn’t the only one; I was desperate to fit in, I found that it was just so easy to go along with the crowd. This is probably the same defence that was used at Nuremberg and so as an adult I realise that this is rather pathetic. Those kids with big bones weren’t the only ones who were on the receiving end of our unkind jibes though. Anyone who was slightly different copped it; the children with ginger hair, the kid who always smelt a bit funny, the child who spoke differently to the rest of us, and finally the kid who started puberty more than a little later than the everyone else in their year.
It doesn’t stop at school though. One of my favourite pastimes used to be comb-over spotting (I have seen some crackers in my time)
What goes around comes around though, now I am the fatty (so much so that I am commonly compared to Daddy Pig), and one of my children has ginger hair. In addition I have recently had to shave off all of my hair, as I don’t think there is anything quite as pitiful as a balding man trying to arrange his hair in an attempt to fool the rest of us and falling a long way short of fooling anyone. Sadly my hair is disappearing at a rather alarming pace and so I now have about half a millimetre of stubble gracing my head!
I’m not a great believer in karma, but I am starting to worry about who or what else I‘ve mocked and whether it’s going to come back and haunt me. I think that it’s very unlikely that I am likely to become French or German, but perhaps one of my children will end up married to one of our European cousins.
When I was at school, I was terrified of standing out from the crowd simply because I didn’t want to get picked on. I secretly admired those who were bold enough to make themselves stand out, but then when I reached university, I realised that other people’s opinions of me didn’t really matter, and with the same token, my opinion of others is neither here nor there.
Never-the-less I am frightened for Boy-Boy as he approaches school age. Not only has he got a beautiful shock of red hair, he has also wears hearing aids. He also has a few behavioural idiosyncrasies which will certainly help him stick out like a sore thumb.
I would like to think that children now are more enlightened than they were when I was young, or that schools are better equipped to deal with bullying. Sadly, I’m not convinced that either of these is true, and so it is up to us as parents to teach him to rise above it, or to give him strategies to deal with any unpleasantness. I think that it is really important that he knows that he can talk to us about any and everything, and that we will always love him.
And before you judge me for being a nasty little bully as a child, it is perhaps worth mentioning that I was the “very late bloomer” whose life was made thoroughly miserable through most of my secondary school.