"These are his first 'H' pants," my wife whispered to me as she held a pair of blue trousers up for me to inspect. At first, I did not fully comprehend. Was "H" a particular style or cut that my lack of sartorial awareness kept me from appreciating? Was "H" a friend or relative who had been so kind as to hand down a nearly new pair of school pants to my son? That seemed likely, since much of his wardrobe has come to him over the fashion transom.
Then it hit me: "H" was for Husky. My wife, the mother of our son, was trying to spare both our feelings by not uttering the word. I have opined for years about the scars I still carry from having to move down the rack to find that particular section. My memories are of clothes that seek first to fit, then to conform to some obscure point of style. To this day, I bristle in anticipation of trying on pants. There are several forms of medieval torture that I would rather have visited on me than being handed a fistful of hangers and pointed in the direction of a changing room. I understand that the clothes I buy should fit, but I am still feeling the quiet shame of husky.
Maybe I'm being overly sensitive. This happens on occasion, but I wonder why, when we are talking about children between sizes four and eighteen, that they couldn't find another epithet. One that isn't quite so Nordic. Or so canine. Huskies are a proud and strong breed, but they aren't getting a lot of dates in middle school.
My own mother will be the first to point out to me that I was not obese as a child. I was, however, wider than I was tall. But one of those is a circumference, and the other is a straight line, so making the math work out there is a matter of aesthetics. My son shares with his father a rather familiar panda-bear-shape, and I expect that as he enters his teenage years, there will be moments of sadness and grief as he continues to navigate his way into his adult form. Even now, he seems to be adjusting in ways that I never did. Husky? It's just a word. A really annoying, persnickety, judgemental word.