“Its because Im FAT!” She belted out. I nearly choked on my coffee, but choked on my words instead. And like a bad movie, the past five years raced through my mind.
We were driving to town, she had missed the bus. The third time in less than a week. I was silently complaining about all the times I had driven her to town, wondering why she kept missing the bus when clearly she had enough time. Teenagers, I had decided, were the worlds greatest procrastinators. Putting off a simple task such as running a few feet to the bus stop, and instead slowly shuffling down the hill as if it were a three day journey through the desert.
She talked. Like she always does, about anything under the sun. Friends, school, life in general, homework, and boys. The newest topic in her vocabulary and one I wasn’t sure I was comfortable with. She always ended that conversation with the final words of “But don’t worry I don’t like any of them.” As if that were somehow supposed to make me feel better. The fact that she had now noticed them was enough to send my mind into panic mode. It also meant that they noticed her. Which really didn’t sit well.
“I don’t fit in…because I don’t have….” and she went on to list a hundred and one privileges I have denied her. Things like online accounts, a drivers license, a cell phone, and R rated movies. What happened to the simple life? The days where she wanted a puppy and would be happy forEVER if I would just let her have a puppy. I silently scolded myself for caving for a puppy. If I hadn’t, maybe she would still want it, and wouldn’t have set her heart on “Bigger and Better.”
Which is where we were when the above statement was blurted out. “I don’t fit in. They don’t like me.” She continued on, working herself into a fit of almost tears, and then stopped. “I don’t even have a boyfriend.” she said in an almost whisper. A wave of relief rushed over me. But she didn’t stop, and instead continued on about how all her friends have boyfriends, and how all her friends have driving permits, and all her friends boyfriends have drivers license and cool cars, and how they go out late and watch those movies. And she doesn’t fit in because she doesn’t have any of those things. Not even a cool boyfriend. Because. Shes fat.
To be completely honest, I don’t even know where she came up with these thoughts. Except I do, because she told me. Her friends told her. That if she wants the boys to like her, she needs to be skinnier. And prettier. And for the love of all things good in the world, buy some name brand jeans and get a cell phone!
Why does this world have to be so complicated? So confusing? So hard? Doesn’t she have enough to worry about without the constant pressure that she just isn’t GOOD enough? I didn’t even know what to say. Or where to begin. And suddenly, it all made sense. Her missing the bus. Her no longer loving school, and no longer begging to be with her friends. Her happy go lucky attitude seemed to disappear over night, and I hadn’t noticed. Because I was too busy being upset over taking her to school…but if I hadn’t…
Getting her to school on time no longer seemed to be a priority. The five minutes I had to get to work really didn’t matter. And instead, I pulled off into a parking lot. “Where are we going?” she seemed a bit frantic. Was I really doing the right thing? I never know anymore. This life, these kids, these teenagers are getting the best of me and I am constantly in a wash of not knowing what to do, because it always seems to be the wrong thing.
We spent the morning, her and I in a little diner carved out in a corner of town. Watching people rush by, hurrying to work. It was mostly empty, inbetween the rush of the day, just her and I. Like old times. Talking about lifes little issues, and the problems that don’t have answers. I watched her, all grown up, sitting across from me talking about real life problems, wondering when. When did it happen, when did she grow up? Why hadn’t I noticed?
I told her the only thing I could think of. That I was sorry. Sorry that she had to go through all this stuff, and that she didn’t have anyone who could answer her questions. Sorry that people put her down. And then I told her that she wasn’t pretty, she was beautiful. And that while I know it didn’t mean much, coming from me, I love her, and she will always be special to me. No matter what. I told her that sometimes people put others down, to make themselves feel better, and that I thought she needed better friends. We talked about all the things I don’t “Let her have” and I told her that if she really felt she needed those things, we would discuss it.
And then I told her to go kick some butt because I knew she could.
Her goofy carefree smile returned, I took her up to school, late, and as I got the third degree from the principle, her and I exchanged a knowing look. She smiled, gave me a quick squeeze and ran off to her class.
I don’t know if anything I am doing is right. I don’t know how to deal with these kind of problems. I can only wish she had someone else to help her along in this life, because I know it is made ten times more difficult with just me there. I hope she knows, truly knows, just how special she is. To more people than just me.