Thursday, September 07, 2000

All of the hubub about the little fat girl taken from her family in New Mexico has gotten me thinking about my childhood, and some of the things that I had experienced as an abnormally fat child. I really haven't taken an active interest in the events surrounding the sensationalized *abduction* of the NM child, so I don't know much about the whole story, just sketchy details. Consequently I feel I can't acurately form a strong opinion about the state's action. Obviously it's a difficult situation for all involved and that probably goes without saying.

Anyway, the point of this post is state/school interference and the fat child from my personal experience.

My first memory about this was in the early side of grade school when I was pulled out of class a the beginning of every year to go down to the nurses office to get weighed. Of course, only the fat kids were called down to the office at that time. I suspect that at the beginning of every year, the teachers were asked who in their classes were *too* fat or *too* thin. This went on for a couple of years and I was always embarassed to get weighed, especially in front of the other fat kids who were also in the nurses room. I can recall the coldness of the room and the pepto colored couches on either side of the room. Towards one side of the room was the entrance to the actual office of the nurse. Some years, the weighing was done in the nurse's office, but with the door open, and a couple of times the scale was in the room with the two couches while the other children watched. The looks on all of the kids' faces were horrible. I think we all knew why we were there from the moment we entered the room. Of course back in the classroom, the kids in the room also knew that the fat kids were being taken out to the *pasture*. The didn't know what was going on, of course, but they knew that we were different and completely unacceptable by societal standards. What a way to alienate the fat kids, eh?
Long about 4th grade, I had finally understood that the power of refusing to do something that I wasn't comfortable doing. My mom had always told me that, good thing to know, eh? Anyway, that year I took an empowering stand and refused to be weighed by the nurse. She was dumbfounded. Aghast too. A combination of the two, most likely. Poor Ms. Perazino had lost her power over me. What was really cool was that when I refused, other kids refused too. YAY! It was a great moment. Ya had to be there. ;-)
I believe that in years following that I was still called down, but I don't believe they ever requested me to step on the scale again.
Come junior high, not only was I called down to the nurses office at one point, but they contacted my mum and called a public health nurse to come to visit my home during the summer months. The public health nurse came to see me and my mom to talk about food portions, etc. I remember thinking that the little rubber half cup of baked beans seemed like a little amount...I guess I was a baked bean nut back then. She also during her visit asked me to step on the scale. I refused. I think she wanted my mom to force me on the scale, but instead she supported me in the decision. Way to go mom! (On a side note, my mom was fairly thin all of her life...she hovered between size 10 and 14 most of the time. When she was ill I believe she got up to a size 20...nowhere near to my size.) Anyway, that refusal was another victory for me and my wee self esteem.
In high school I was contacted one time about my weight by the nurse. A huge issue was not made of my weight...that I knew of...

Long about 19 years old when I was taking care of my ailing mother (she died of emphysema related complications when I was 20...), my mom and I talked about a lot of things that she normally protected me against. She spoke one time about the calls she would get from the high school nurse and counselor about my weight. I had no idea they even contacted her at that time. Anyway, the counselor and/or nurse made comments to her that I would "never amount to anything" and "never have a *normal* social life" or life at all unless I lost weight. What was really curious about it in retrospect was that I had a very active social life, I was involved in a ton of after school activities, I was the editor of the high school yearbook, I was the treasurer then president of the Thespians, I helped start the video yearbook, I had a decent grade point average, etc, etc, etc. This was in a school of 2,100 kids, so no small feat to be accomplished with so many others waiting to fill in the gaps. What were they basing this diatribe upon? Their own failings in life that they blindly based upon one's weight? Anyway, I'm sure as a mother she hated to hear those things. I felt bad for her when she told basically be told that she had failed as a mother 'cuz I would be such an unproductive citizen when I left the school. What a horrible thing to hear on the other end of the phone, eh? I felt so bitterly angry at the Stillwater School district for doing that and believing their own diatribes so much that they would call parents and harass them. How simply wrong they were.