Little kids do not use the words, "fat," "skinny," "weird," etc. in the same (possibly) barbed and treacherous way used by us jaded and bitter adults. For the most part, kids are innocent of the baggage carried by these descriptors, and they utter them without intending ill will. But still, I think it's best not to let mine slip into the habit of using these sorts of easy adjectives.
I'm pretending it's for their own good, but I'm looking out for myself, too, for woe is the mother whose kids make potentially awkward or horrifying declarations while grocery shopping or lunching in a pleasant cafe. She is highly scorned, this mother, she is...bad. So in an effort to avoid migraine-inducing social situations and the possibility of being stoned in the public square, I recently performed my maternal sappy talk duty describing how the world is so bleeping fantastic because people come in all shapes and sizes, but how it's not always polite to refer to these shapes and sizes using words like —, —, —, and especially not —.
My coaching has produced mostly positive results, but it's sometimes difficult to communicate with our new word choices. Today, for example, Lea and I sat at a sidewalk table on Burlingame Ave. eating our breakfast, enjoying the sunshine, and chatting. She then looked at a woman who had passed by a few times and said, "Her name is Karen."
"It is? How do you know?"
"That man with the circle shape called her Karen," she said.
"Oh. What man with the circle shape?" I glanced around for a guy holding—I dunno—a hula hoop, maybe, or a t-shirt with a globe design on front or something.
She whispered conspiratorially. "The man with the circle shape, Mom."
"What's a 'circle shape'?"
"Mom! It's when you don't have a straight shape."
She was growing increasingly exasperated with my inability to understand what she was saying, so I was thankful when the guy showed up. "There!" she said. "The man with the circle shape getting into the silly car!"
The car was, indeed, silly: a taxi-cab yellow Hummer. And the gentleman was—duh!—rotund. "Oh. I get it," I said.
She sighed. "Finally."