I’ve been asked that question before. Usually from a child who was trying to look innocent – and failing. That sly look that says they don’t care what I say, they’re trying to make fun of the fattie.
The most recent time it was from a tall, thin teenager who had looked on edge ever since he walked into the restaurant with a couple who looked so like him they had to be related. Something about this stance and his face told me he was honestly curious and not aware that the question is considered inappropriate.
“It’s how I grew,” I answered. I could have added that my weight is similar to my mother’s at my age, same as my height is only a couple inches taller than hers, just as his tall, thin frame was very like his parents. Or that I’d dieted repeatedly to lose weight, and always ended up regaining more than I’d lost. I could have told him that I quit dieting because I don’t want to gain more weight, or that I’d gone from “overweight” to “obese” when a back injury kicked me to the soccer sidelines at age 13. But I wasn’t sure how much of this he’d get, and I didn’t want a long conversation and defining terms and citing references while I was still drinking my first cup of coffee.
The teenager nodded and walked back to his table, where he talked a bit with his parents. Shortly after he came back, looking sheepish, and apologized for the question. Later, while he was in the bathroom, his mother – it was his parents with him – apologized as well, noting that he hadn’t realized it was an inappropriate question. I forget if the word “autism” was mentioned, but the signs were certainly present.
What surprised me and the man of the house was that I wasn’t upset. The boy’s question was honest. He wasn’t trying to make me feel like a freak, and, guess what, he didn’t. I kind of wish now I had given him a better answer.