Must Read: When Author Jennifer Weiner’s Daughter Used The F (Fat) Word

Bestselling author Jennifer Weiner (pplflickr/Flickr Creative Commons)

Wow. Allure magazine carries mainly fluffy features on beauty and style, but it also runs some top-grade essays, and this is among the best I’ve read.

If you’ve ever been in a bookstore, you’ve seen one of the many Jennifer Weiner bestsellers, and if you’ve picked them up and turned them over, you’ve probably noticed that the author looks kind of pleasantly zaftig.

But there’s nothing pleasant about Jennifer Weiner’s searing description in Allure of her lifelong struggle against hunger and fat. She was prompted to write about it by her naturally thin third-grader daughter, whose litany of insults against a girl who is her enemy includes “She’s mean, she’s bad at math, she’s terrible at kickball. And…she’s fat.”

What do you say, as a mother who has been wounded all her life by others’ attitudes toward her weight? How do you get your daughter to understand? My own daughter is naturally thin and I’m eternally solid, and all I’ve been able to come up with thus far when she has commented, say, fairly neutrally on the thickness of my thighs is, “Well, I like them fine. They’re strong.” But what I think and don’t want to say is, “You are so, so lucky, you can’t even imagine…”

Jennifer Weiner writes:

I opened my mouth, then closed it. How do I walk the line between the cold truth and helpful fiction, between the way the world is and the way I wish it was? Should I tell her that, in insulting a woman’s weight, she’s joined the long, proud tradition of critics who go after any woman with whom they disagree by starting with “you’re ugly” and ending with “no man would want you and there must be something wrong with any man who does”? Do I tell her I didn’t cry when Gawker posted my picture and someone commented underneath it, “I’m sorry, but aren’t chick-lit authors supposed to be pretty”?

Read the whole thing here to find out how she ultimately responds, but if you’ve ever struggled with weight, stock some Kleenex first.

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  • LizP

    Great essay by Ms. Weiner. I once read that you should treat the “f” word like you would a racial slur. So I’ve done that with my daughters. But the irony is what is the big deal with the word? What’s wrong with some fat? It seems that in our efforts to raise healthy kids many are growing up with unhealthy obsessions.

  • saidit0k

    It is quite perplexing and also dangerous how society accepts overweight-ness. People carrying extra weight need to stop lying to themself and do something about the growing obseity problem in America. To your other point, though – children will be children. Parents have a job to do in their own way they see fit teaching right and wrong.

  • psychologist and mother

    1. Jennifer Weiner, in that pic, looks pretty. She’s no scarecrow in gobs of make-up, sporting false eyelashes and fake “melones,” as today’s standard requires, but she’s pretty.

    2. A little girl calling a mean girl out for being fat isn’t a taunt against fat women; it’s a settling of accounts. A fat mean girl, you say? Sounds to this psychologist like the child has homelife issues. Telling your daughter that oftentimes kids who are mean come from homes that are filled with anger or neglect can help develop empathy in your child. Suggest your child try to do something friendly towards the mean girl, maybe invite her over to swim or for a birthday party, or tell other kids not to make fun of her because she’s fat. Turn it around into a learning experience, not some sort of politically correct drama.