Prologue: A Reason to Love Me
I still remember the first time I realized that my mom hated fat people.
I'm sure that I couldn't have been more than five years old. My mother and I had taken a trip to Lake George for the day. Sometimes when the weather was really beautiful my mom would take me out of school and we would head up to the beach for the day.
"On a day like this, you're not going to learn anything, anyways," My mom would always tell me. On the note she always wrote that I had a fever though.
On this particular day we were sitting on the beach watching the other kids as they splashed in the waves. I had never liked to swim, but all of these kids seemed to be as natural to swimming as a school of fishes.
A few yards off the beach there was a little ice cream stand – one of those stands that charges you four dollars a cone when the cone isn't even worth a dollar. My mom never bought us a lot of extra things, because I didn't have a dad and my family was on a "tight budget". But even with that in mind I couldn't help the fact that my eyes kept drifting over towards that little red and white striped stand.
There was a little girl in front of the stand. She had her pretty red hair in pigtails, and her mom had just handed her a little cup of ice-cream . Something inside me wanted that little cup of ice-cream so bad. It was like it had been made for me. It was the perfect size – it would fit right in my hands.
I kept watching the girl as she ate. Some of the ice cream started to dribble onto her chin and onto her blue bathing suit, and I found that I was fascinated by her wastefulness. If I had had that little ice cream cup I would have made sure every last drop landed directly in my mouth.
It was then that I heard my mom scoff.
As I looked over at her, I saw that her eyes were on the same little girl that my eyes had been on. But they did not show the admiration and envy that I'm sure filled my eyes. Instead they were enveloped in scorn and judgment.
"Little pig," she rolled her eyes.
I just looked up at her for a minute, and not knowing what to say, turned back towards the ocean until she spoke again.
"I'm so glad that you're not like that fat hog, Stella."
I looked over at the girl again. This girl… this pretty girl with the red hair, and the ice cream cup… she was a fat hog? At that time I didn't understand the meaning of the word fat and skinny. Yes, I knew about pretty and ugly, but pretty and ugly had not yet begun to correspond with the words fat and skinny yet. I didn't see fat and skinny… I just saw people.
"People like that," My mother said, gesturing towards the little girl, "don't have any control over themselves. A person that will shove food down their throats, and let the rest drip on their shirt… that is the kind of person you want to avoid being."
Why would I want to avoid being a pretty little girl with an ice-cream cup?
My mom looked at the girl once, and turned her head away with a small judgmental shake of her head.
And then my mother said something that resonated with me.
"I don't know how her mother can love her when she's acting like that."
Even at four I realized that that was a very harsh statement to make, but I promised myself right then and there that I wouldn't ever be that little girl with the ice cream cup.
My mother would always have a reason to love me.