Addressing Body Image in Harmony Blues

I don’t know what it is about junior high that makes kids so raw and impressionable. Hormones, probably. But whatever it is, things that are said to kids in junior high have the special ability to stay with them for a very long time. They often shape the person for the next five or ten years at best. Sometimes those things stay with that person forever. I tell you this to be aware of the power you have, whether you want it or not. It can be used for good. It can be used to harm. And it will be used for either one of those things, even if you’re not aware.

In Harmony Blues, Brittany is faced with how to handle things that are said about her. She’s actually like quite a lot of kids her age, still growing out of the baby fat that has been with her her whole life. She’s very aware of how she looks, which means she is very aware of the comments made about her, whether intentional or unintentional.

Here is an excerpt from Harmony Blues. I hope girls (and boys) will read this story and feel encouraged by the camaraderie they feel with Brittany. I hope they take comfort in the realization that they aren’t alone in how they feel about how they look.


“Ooo, The Melting Pot?” Brittany squealed as they pulled into the parking lot. She had always wanted to try this fondue restaurant. Cammie had told her that their Dark & Dulce chocolate fondue was a-maz-ing. Brittany didn’t really like dark chocolate, but maybe she’d like it melted over strawberries.

Mom smiled at her and pulled into a parking spot close to the door. Brittany hopped out, her breath making puffs of clouds in the cold Colorado air. They stepped into the restaurant’s lobby and saw Dad sitting in a chair, checking his phone.

Brittany bounced over to him. “Dad! Guess what! They picked my painting to be displayed at the capitol building over Christmas! Can you believe it?”

Her dad finished what he was doing on his phone, put it to sleep, then looked up.

“What? Well, how about that?” Dad said, standing up. He pulled her mom into a side hug and kissed her forehead. Then he approached the host stand and told them their party was complete. The hostess smiled and lead them through the dark restaurant to a booth near a window, where Brittany slid into the seat across from her parents. The hostess explained the hot plates in the middle and how they would be used to warm up their fondue. Brittany took it all in with wide eyes. This was so exciting!

“How did your surgery go?” Mom asked Dad as soon as the hostess left.

“Just fine. The anesthesiologist had a hard time getting the meds right, so we had to wait for that. I definitely won’t be working with him again. Thankfully we were done in time so we didn’t miss our reservation here. I would have liked a bit more cushion to get cleaned up.”

“Well, you beat us here anyway,” Brittany said. “I wish you could have been at the art show, so I could have showed you my painting!”

“I snapped a picture of it,” Mom said, showing Dad her phone.

“Huh. Look at that. Why isn’t it in a frame?”

“It’s in a mat that we put on during art club,” Brittany said, disappointed that was all her Dad had to say . But maybe the picture on the phone didn’t do it justice. “Can we go to the capitol building over Christmas? You could see it in person there!”

“We’ll see,” Dad said. “Now it’s time to celebrate.” He grinned at Mom and Mom grinned right back at him. Brittany flushed with pleasure. Their server arrived with their waters and took their order. Brittany quickly looked over the menu. She was about to suggest Cammie’s favorite when she saw Chocolate S’mores—milk chocolate melted with marshmallow cream and topped with bits of graham crackers.

“Oh my gosh! Can we get the chocolate s’mores one? Please?”

“No, I can’t stand the thought of graham crackers,” Mom said, wrinkling her nose. “Let’s do the Yin & Yang.” She handed her menu to the server. Brittany checked the menu. Dark and white chocolate.

“And can you just bring fruit, please? None of the cakes or brownies or marshmallows or anything like that. Our daughter doesn’t need those fattening things, right?” Dad said. Brittany’s flush deepened. She had always been on the heavy side and she hated when her dad pointed it out.

“Michael, please. I really need some brownies,” Mom said.

“Oh, right. Sorry, just some brownies on a plate for my bride,” Dad said. The server nodded then slipped away. Brittany slumped down in the booth, tugging her shirt down over her slightly chubby middle. She swallowed hard and took a drink of water. She had learned a long time ago that she just had to shake these things off. She didn’t want to fight with her parents tonight, especially since they were at this incredible place celebrating her art.


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