Saturday, 29 June 2013

Miss Fatty and Miss Watermelon


Stick thin arm of a Japanese school girl
Painfully thin

“I’m such a fatty” she says, tracing a huge invisible belly with her hands in case I don’t understand her Japanese. She’s seven years old and built like a whippet. Her older sister and older sister’s two friends nod understandingly. “We should go on a diet” they agree. I kneel down and put my hands around the littlest girl’s waist. My fingers almost touch. “Look how tiny you are!” I say. She laughs. We joke around as I pretend to miss-hear their names and repeat back silly words instead: “Watermelon? Your name is Watermelon? Nice to meet you Miss Watermelon.” We begin making nicknames. I become “Hot Teacher” because I constantly complain about how hot it is. The littlest girl names herself Debu-chan, Miss Fatty. I tell her I’m going to call her Hana-chan instead, Miss Flower. She beams and hugs me. Later she jumps onto my back. She weighs so little that I only realise I am holding her when I notice a foot tapping against my hip.

Japanese father carring baby walking with toddler on the beach
This is what I want childhood to look like. Facing the horizon, not the mirror.
I read so many stories about little girls and body image and how to talk about this stuff, but when I find myself on the spot and trying to make myself understood in Japanese and in a context that will make sense culturally I always fumble. I wish I had told her that her stomach muscles are amazing and that she can to handstands and cartwheels and finish the monkey bars faster than anyone else in her class and that all these wonderful things her body can do matter so much more than how it looks or what numbers are attached to it. But instead I just told her that she was beautiful. And it’s not good enough.

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4 comments:

  1. Love this post. Especially the photo caption.

    Nicole S (chatted on Hafu fb)

    :-)

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    1. Hey, sorry for the slow reply, looong week. If you have any kind of advertising filter on your browser (ad-blocker for firefox or similar) you wont see any affiliate links. Actually pretty cool that the ad-blockers can tell the difference!

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