99 Words of Body-Shaming

This week I had the unfortunate luck to witness a truly horrible scene in a restaurant that I like to frequent when I am in write-a-million-words-a-month mode. Usually when I visit this restaurant, the servers (who all know me and know my caffeine of choice) show me to the same table (complete with an outlet) that is in a back corner. They are fastidious in their attention to my caffeine levels, never letting the sweet nectar get too low, but otherwise leave me alone for hours at a time. The restaurant experiences a fairly healthy turnaround in terms of customers, but it’s never too busy and seems to provide just the right levels of ambient noise. Perfect, right?

Well, not this last time. As I said, I witnessed a horrible scene when a little girl and her grandparents decided to sit in a booth near me. For twenty minutes I was subjected to body-shaming in its cruelest form: from a loved one. The grandmother not only took food from the plate of her still-in-a-booster-seat granddaughter, but repeatedly told the youngster that, if she ate [fill in the blank], she would get fat and not fit into her favorite dress and not have any friends.

I became so disgusted I packed up my computer and left. I also shared this scene on one of my social media channels, and Charli Mills over at Carrot Ranch was quick to point out that it sounded like the spark of a flash fiction. Not surprisingly, this week’s flash fiction prompt is about anger: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story using the emotion of anger.

Challenge accepted…at the very, very last minute (naturally!). But I really wanted to explore the anger from a different place, so here goes:

Lessons from Mom

Martha snatched the greasy garlic bread from the plate. “No chubby cheeks for you.” She spooned carrots onto the five-year-old’s plate.

Her granddaughter’s face burned with humiliation. Let her scream and cry. Martha wasn’t afraid of a scene. She was terrified the girl would end up fat and alone, like her grandmother.

Martha’s mother had been more concerned about clean plates. There are children starving in Africa. If she’d really cared, she wouldn’t have sentenced her daughter to life in a size 24 prison.

Martha opened her mouth and shoved the garlic bread in, hoping she’d choke on it.

Comments

  • Oh, wow, great twist to what you witnessed. So much at work when it comes to body-shaming and the fears behind it. I read a great article tonight about the 100 women photographed naked at the Republican Convention (outside) in Ohio. The women were various ages, colors, sizes and fitness yet overwhelmingly they spoke about how “same” they felt coming together in this work of public art, as if they dropped their gaze of judgement as saw each other all as women in the flesh. Really moving. Your flash if fabulous! Glad you were up for the challenge! Poor kid. Chances are, she’ll rebel and binge in secret.

    Charli MillsJuly 20, 2016
    • It’s interesting to me that sometimes the worst bodyshamers are people who, one would think, would understand how terrible bodyshaming is—often because they have been on the receiving end themselves. But I guess it is like all forms of abuse: If that’s what you learn is “normal” and appropriate, it’s hard to unlearn it (especially when pretty much every visual medium in existence is adding to the bodyshaming trend, either overtly or on the sly). I think this grandmother in the flash has a bigger story to tell. I might have to file her away in my “to write” stash 😉 Thanks for the prodding. I needed it this week — I am doing Camp NaNo, with a goal of 75k words this month. A group of friends and I are doing it together, all with different goals, but if we don’t hit our writing goals, we agreed to make a hefty (i.e., painful to our bank accounts) donation to two groups supporting writing among females. I’ve written a ton this month (working on two books simultaneously) but still have a ways to go. Your suggestion to turn this into a flash gave me a much-needed break from the other works (and today’s post netted me an additional and unexpected 400 words toward my monthly goal [we count words sightly differently]). And now…off to write more words~

      C. JaiJuly 20, 2016
  • Having read the flash first without the context, I was moved by the deft mixing of emotions.
    Sad that you had to witness this, glad you could use it to power your writing.

    AnnecdotistJuly 20, 2016
    • Thank you for such a lovely comment! It’s funny because, when I went to hit “publish” the first time, I realized the only anger in the flash was my own, so I stopped, took a deep breath, and tried again. I appreciate your feedback. 🙂

      C. JaiJuly 20, 2016

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