Several weeks back, I attended a Broadway show with a friend. In between numbers, I whispered to my friend something about one of the cast.
"Which one?", she asked.
"The big one," I replied.
My friend looked at me curiously. "I'm surprised you said that," she said, all-too-familiar with my work.
The show went on, as did our hushed dialogue.
"Why?" I asked, "I didn't mean it negatively. I was just trying to identify her." And, I was, in a sea of tiny, ballerina-bodied cast mates, simply targeting the feature most quick to differentiate. I also could have said, "The one with the long, black hair" or referred to her as the part she was playing, but this was honestly the first thing that came to mind, and when you're talking during a Broadway show, sometimes brevity is key.
For the record, the "big" one was probably as Size 12. She just stood out. And, to me, there's nothing wrong with referring to someone as "big," or "fat," or "large." (I actually much prefer these to "obese" or "overweight.") They're simply descriptors. . . just like long, black hair.
So, was I wrong? Should I have found another feature by which to identify her, or was I (un)consciously working to destigmatize big?