Words get in the way

The words came out easily like she’d said them so many times. The words flowed out of her mouth like her own breath.

I don’t believe you. I don’t believe you were ever skinny. You’re just so, well, you’re not skinny.

I sat there in the car as we waited at a red light, staring at my own 10-year-old daughter. Was that her small voice that just pushed my self-esteem down a flight of stairs and then set the whole house on fire?

The thing is, though, her voice wasn’t small. This time, it was firm and robust. There was nothing gentle about the way she said it.

She stared back at me with a sheepish grin and then put her headphones back on and listened to her music. Like nothing ever happened.

What the fuck was that all about it?

The anger and sadness swirled inside of me – it was ready to explode out of my own throat. My breath quickened and there was an asthma attack waiting to smack me in the face. My cheeks puffed in and out. I got defensive, like some little kid being challenged to a playground duel.

I could barely see where I was driving. Even though the air conditioning was cranked up in the car, I was sweating and needed to open the window.

I was skinny once! I proclaimed and then felt stupid for even getting into a debate with her.

When? Like when you were ten? She laughed quietly, her tone relaxed. I did a double-take to make sure it wasn’t Cersei Lannister sitting next to me instead of my daughter.

I, I… I stammered, trying to hold back the tears. I was losing control here.

The entire drive home, I thought about how I’d prove I was skinny once – it wasn’t even that long ago, goddamit! There were all those pictures on my phone and computer. There were the photos all over the house. Oh yeah, I was going to show this 10-year-old what was up. Then she’d have to eat her own stupid words.

But then we got home. She rushed inside with her brother while I walked in with the toddler. I watched her with her brother and sister; she was amiable and kind. Carefree. So who was the stranger in the car?

What was it about her words that bothered me so much?

It was the meanness that emanated from her that I’d never witnessed before.

It was the calm manner in which she threw out an insult.

It was a realization that, perhaps, she only saw me as a black and white figure and didn’t even know about all the other shades that make-up who I am.

It was how she so nonchalantly categorized skinny people as good and heavier people as some lower species.

To my young daughter, I was only her fat and old mom that tended to her every whim.

I couldn’t speak to her the day it all happened, fearing I’d yell and say something I could never take back.

We spoke a few days later. She had a smile on her face as I walked into her room and she closed the book she was reading. I sat down on her bed and just hugged her while tears stained my face. We sat like this for a few minutes. My words sat on my tongue, not knowing where to go.

I reminded her of the exchange we had the other day.

Those words and how you said them hurt me tremendously 

The words filled the space between us like a breath in cold air.

She bit down on her lip and I knew she felt bad. She looked down and just hugged me. I’m sorry. I didn’t, I wasn’t... Her voice trailed and splintered. I heard her sniffle and breathe in deeply. She rarely cries.

So here we were, mother and daughter crying, regretful of so many things.

Where do we go from here?

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