Fat Hamster

The Next Family

By: Tanya Ward Goodman

My daughter wants to be a cobra for Halloween. She’s wanted to be a cobra for weeks now, and I’ve been waiting to see if she changes her mind. But here’s the thing about my daughter: she rarely changes her mind.

So I’m going to make a cobra costume. I’m not sure exactly how I’m going to do it, but I am going to do my darndest.

Last year, she was a hamster. I bought a yard of black fur fabric, which shed polyester fuzz all around the house, and sewed a kind of sack with armholes and an attached hood with ears. When she put it on, she looked a lot like our (now deceased) hamster, Sunshine.

“I look fat,” she screamed.
“Have you seen the hamster?” I asked.

She showed me how I could make a few modifications to make her look less fat. These modifications included trimming about twelve inches off the costume’s length and cinching in the waist. These modifications would have resulted in a kind of “Playboy Hamster.” I put my foot down and she relented.

I’m not sure if the costume felt bulky or if my daughter truly had (at the ripe age of 5) weight issues. We live in Los Angeles so anything is possible, but I always thought the trauma of “looking fat” would come later. Or in a perfect world, never.

When I was growing up, I spent a lot of time pinching parts of my body and worrying over my thighs and belly and hips. My mom wore all black because it was slimming and tried a million diets. She ate only grapefruit for a while and then cottage cheese on toast. She Weight Watched and Jenny Craig’d and her weight went up and down and then settled back into the same place. I inherited my mother’s full hips and legs, but also my father’s height. For me, weight has been less of a concern than for my mother, but it is still a nagging worry. There are days when I feel like my clothes don’t fit, when I wish I were taller or thinner or just different, but I try not to make a big deal over it, especially in front of my daughter. When she pinches the flesh of her thigh or her calf and says, “I hate this part of me,” I kiss the softness of her skin and say, “I love it. I love it. I love you.” I remind her that her legs are strong running legs, strong dancing legs.

The cobra is a thinner beast than the hamster. And my daughter at six is a thinner beast than she was at five. She has grown four inches and lost her baby belly. She is beautiful. And I am here to tell her that. Every day.

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