The F Word

I found a video clip of the 4th little traveller on my phone over the holidays. He was furious with his older brother and had taken the time to sit on the stairs and record a message for him. The message was clear:

Fred – you are fat and moldy.
You are so fat and moldy.
You are so fat and moldy.
And I hate you.

He was not a happy traveller.

By the time I’d found the recording and asked what it was all about, the fourth traveller couldn’t remember.

“But he’s not fat darling, he’s almost underweight?”

“I know – but that was the worse thing I could think of saying. I was really mad at him.”

In the western world, we train our children from an early age not to use the F word. We tell them it’s insulting and hurtful. We love to talk about fitness, healthy eating and the importance of a balanced diet, but whatever you do kids – don’t ever tell Grandma she’s fat.

As it turns out for the little travellers, Granny is overweight. In their toddler years, they did the same as many other small children, they asked the un-askable “Why is your tummy so big?” or “Are you having a baby?”

We’ve all heard it right? My own children have asked me post pregnancy if I had another baby in there, or why my bottom jiggled; there is no denying the fact that even when it comes from the cutest toddler mouth, it still stings a little.

Over the years the little travellers have built up a repertoire of F words. Granny Max told them once that she was “comfortably plump” and I’ve used words such as curvaceous and rubenesque when talking about myself. The general discussion at our house is eat your vegetables, enjoy playing sport, and recognize that we all come in various shapes and sizes.

But when is it okay to get specific about weight?

We were halfway to Australia when we had a stopover in Hong Kong. A quick trip to Disneyland was organized, and as I stood in line for one of the rides a Disney employee approached me looking very official.

“I’m sorry Madam, you can’t go on the ride if you’re pregnant”. I told her with great indignation that I was not pregnant, uttered a few profanities to my husband and then quietly died of embarrassment for the rest of the day.

But here’s the thing, I did look pregnant. I was wearing a dress with a belt that sat very high, (forgive me it was 2006), I’d worn that same dress very comfortably as a pregnant woman. It wasn’t that I was huge, I was just wearing a very unflattering dress. My weight was not the issue.

The woman was just doing her job.

There’s been a recent run of stories in the media of women giving birth on planes. It’s a common conversation between expat women. Letters are required from doctors to board, and it’s one of those last minute things that we all keep our fingers and toes crossed for ‘please God, let me get on that flight and make it home safely’ we’ve all heard of the women who were refused entry onto an aircraft.

I’ve boarded a flight at both 34 and 39 weeks pregnant (I know!) one was long haul, one was a quick up and down 45 minute affair. If you’re reading this and wondering how in the hell I got away with it – I was very naughty and very desperate.

Giving birth on a plane is no fun – I know this because I’ve met someone who’s done it. My very first baby group in Jakarta consisted of a woman who had boarded a flight in Sydney with the intention of landing in San Francisco. She did eventually get to San Francisco, after spending a lengthy unplanned stay in Indonesia with her newly born premature baby. Her description of people holding up blankets while flight attendants and her husband hovered above her, debating whether to turn the plane around or continue to Indonesia sounded anything but idyllic. There was no relaxation music, massage or meditation, she was merely happy that as she rocked back and forth the engines dulled out her screams. I know that flight staff are trained for an emergency, but one minute you’re asking if it’s chicken or beef and the next you’re covered in vermix? It seems like a big ask to me.

I work with the general rule that unless I can see a baby crowning from a mother’s vagina, I do not ask the “are you pregnant” question. Although, if I worked for an airline and it was me that had to deliver the baby? Maybe I would. Today’s article about the 21 year old Jetstar passenger who was asked that exact question, has left me wondering if we are about to approach dangerous territory. Surely if one person is insulted, we will now have to take the politically correct route of asking each passenger the same question.

Or do we just realize that someone made a mistake while they were doing their job? Sure, the mistake was insulting, but newsworthy and unforgivable? Let’s just apologize and move on.

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