"Ima, a girl in my gan is the fattest. She walks like this," said Coco-pop, who is fascinated by expressions, body language, and walks.
But I thought that I caught a mocking look on her face. "We don't call people fat," I said.
"But she is,"she insisted. There was doubt now in her eyes. "She is very very fat. She is the fattest."
"Does it make her feel good when someone says that to her?" I tried another tack, keeping my face neutral. As if, maybe she does feel good when people say that. Maybe it's like saying, she has brown eyes. Very very brown eyes. She has the brownest.
Yeah, and maybe I can wrap my kids in bubble wrap and keep them home. Maybe I could stuff their ears with cotton each time someone else says something.
But even if I could do that, how could I prevent them from hearing my own judgments? From seeing what I don't want them to see?
"Ima, you got fat," Coco-pop said.
"Not you, not you," she hurriedly added. "Your belly. Because you have a baby inside." she smiled. She was worried. "Right?"
Did my face fall at her little announcement, made as we snuggled on the couch reading a bedtime book? Is that why she quickly added a disclaimer?
The word 'diet' is outlawed in our house. When a guest innocently told Princess how slim and beautiful she was, he was treated to a twenty minute tirade on my part. Tell her she is beautiful, I said. Tell her she is smart. But don't you dare connect slim--thin--skinny-- to the judge-y word "beautiful."
Because if slim is beautiful, where does that leave fat?
And here I am, 8 and a half months pregnant, and moaning to Outdoorsman--out of earshot of the kids, of course, because we don't mention fat, or diet, or any judge-y words at all, of course of course of course!--how I was never this big before. "I will lose it all," I say. "All of it."
"Okay," he says, raising his hands. "Okay. Relax. You're pregnant."
I do not relax. I envision myself back to myself, my stomach flat, my skin smooth, abs hard.
"This body made all of you," I tell the kids after I say shema and give them goodnight kisses. "Isn't that amazing? And now it's making a little sibling!" And in my head I'm thinking, I can do it. I can get rid of it all; the stretch marks, the saggy skin, the loose abs. I can and I will.
As if my 23 year-old body is hanging in the closet together with my size fours, waiting to be taken down and zipped back up, as if nothing had happened. As if I could slip off this skin I'm in, this skin that bore four children, this body that created such miraculous masterpieces.
As if I should.
And as if I could tell the kids one thing and feel another. As if they could live with the contradiction of my face falling at the word fat, and my careful skirting of it, pretending that it doesn't exist.