Chris Cactus was thinking about fat children on his blog over the summer and contrasting the current crop with his own experience. He got quite a nasty reaction to what seemed to me an uncontroversial post, so I am treading softly here.
Chris’s post started me thinking about the fattest girl in our year in secondary school. One day a group of us were sitting around talking about clothes sizes and she was there. I was fascinated – what would her clothes size be? She was enormous. When she told us her size, it was all I could do not to gasp in amazement. In fact, I was so surprised that I remember to this day what size she said she was. She was a size 12 (that’s 8 in American sizes) and, obviously, in retrospect, not enormous at all. But it makes me realise how skinny we must all have been. It was just normal that teenagers were skinny. That was just the way it was. It wasn’t good or exciting to be skinny, it was normal, ordinary, under-whelming and certainly nothing to be pleased about.
A lot of us cycled to school but certainly not all of us. Cork’s first McDonald’s opened when I was 16 and it was a source of great excitement and interest but I think I only actually crossed the threshold once. I only got sweets and crisps at the weekend, and only then, if we visited my granny who had a stash in the kitchen. Stopping for an ice cream was hugely exciting.
I think that a big part of the problem is that we are so much more affluent in Ireland now than we were in the 70s (although that may be about to change, of course, so watch this space for skinny children) and children expect to get a lot more of everything. Also, I feel that we are not half as good at saying no as our parents were. And our children are getting fatter as a consequence of their expectations and our anxiety to please. What do you think?