Dear Joseph,
My daughter, who just turned 12, is quite thin. She has a wonderful personality and is quite popular, but some of the boys tease her because she is not as developed as some of the other girls. Recently, one of her "friends," a very popular boy, said to me, "You should feed Kelly [not her real name] more fat in her diet. She's so skinny she makes me sick."

I was so shocked that a child would have the audacity to say this to me and, worse, in front of my daughter. I responded, "Jason, that's not very nice, and it's very hurtful." My daughter does not want me to speak to his mother and so far I am respecting her wishes. The truth though is that I would really like to talk to her, and let her know what's going on, but ask her not to tell her son that I spoke with her; rather, ask her to find a way to speak to him without being specific. Any thoughts?
-- Mother-in-pain

Dear Mother-in-pain,
An ancient Jewish teaching compares humiliating a person to murder. A person who is humiliated often wishes she were dead, and the damage is frequently is irrevocable. For your daughter to hear this boy say, "She's so skinny she makes me sick," has to be extremely painful, and the pain of these words might well remain with her for years.

A woman I know was told as an adolescent that her backside was so large the sight of it made people feel like vomiting. The woman, now in her 40s, confided that for years afterward, she used to leave her classroom last, so others wouldn'tt see her from the back. Indeed, the thought that one's physical appearance makes others feel nauseous--as the boy suggested about your daughter -- can easily make one feel nauseous about oneself.

Of course your daughter said she doesn't want you to speak to the boy's mother. When we are ashamed, we think silence will make the issue go away, and that calling attention to the issue, will somehow make it worse. But it won't. You should speak to the mother. It's unlikely that a boy insensitive enough to embarrass your daughter will be sufficiently shaken by your rather mild rebuke to stop speaking in such a manner.

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