I was in an antique shop when I saw this mask. I was really drawn to it and couldn’t help but smile as I took in the details. After a few minutes of admiration, I decided to let this little pig cry “wee wee wee” all the way to my home.
As I drove off, I imagined putting the mask up to my face, and the thought that immediately hit me was “You call me a pig, like that’s a bad thing.”
As a kid, I didn’t outgrow my baby fat. I was a heavy-set kid who, like a lot kids, was teased a lot about my weight. I was teased by kids at school, by friends in the neighborhood, and my family. I really don’t recall my family calling me by my name. Instead I was addressed by “Tub-of-lard”, “Fatso”, “Butterball”, “Chubbo”, “Gordis” and so on. Even when my sister would call me “Margolis” I just assumed that meant fat. I absolutely hated walking into a room, lest I hear “Hey Butterball!”
As if females don’t have it bad enough with body image issues. You can imagine how I formed my own body identity after growing in this type of incubation tank. Years later, when I was an adult, they would say they were kidding. But who kids like that with a child? I was 4. You would never call a grown adult those names, so why do you think a defenseless child could handle it? It’s so sad that kids are easy targets for people’s bruised egos.
40 years later, those words still hurt and I still avoid my family for fear of what comments they may make about my weight. Sure they don’t call me those names now, but “you’re getting heavy” or “You’ve lost weight” really leave me feeling like I want to turn around and walk out the door.
So this mask really did find me. In the Chinese zodiac, I was born in the year of the pig. For years I shuddered about this fact. But it’s only been recently that I’ve looked at the qualities of pigs. They are loyal, smart, clean, and are a symbol of good fortune. Sure they’re gluttonous, but that’s not the whole of who they are. Even healthy pigs are chubby as it is the nature of their bodies.
I suppose I’m taking back the word/name pig. When I say, “You call me a pig, like that’s a bad thing.” I am talking to my family, my childhood peers, and myself. Pigs are beautiful, loyal, smart, and loving creatures. They have bountiful bodies, and so do I.
In truth, I am a person. I am not a pig. But being called a pig is not a bad thing when you realize that it’s the intention of the person hurling names is the real issue. It has nothing to do with me.