Fat Bastard: I can’t stop eating. I eat because I’m unhappy, and I’m unhappy because I eat. It’s a vicious cycle. Now, if you’ll excuse me, there’s someone I’d like to get in touch with and forgive… myself. Fat Bastard: [Farts] Sorry. I farted. It’s a long road ahead.
There is one particular moment that stands out in my personal history that is, what I believe to be, the single-most awful moment of my life. I say this in terms of how it has affected me emotionally through the years, following me. Lingering. Unwelcome. It was so painful, in fact, that I have shared this moment only a handful of times. It has always felt heavy and shameful – the way it was meant to make me feel.
I was in fourth grade at St. Luke grade school in Shoreline. We were coming to class from recess. I was a hall monitor that day, charged with making sure my peers were quiet while walking up the cement stairs to our classroom. The last trickle had passed and I turned to follow. Two boys – Micah and Egan – looked back at me and then Micah said “Ya fat tub of lard” and they laughed and walked inside the door to 4B.
I don’t remember anything else about that school day or the moments leading up to sitting at the kitchen table with my parents begging me to tell them why I was sobbing hysterically. I couldn’t speak. The words wouldn’t come out past the tears. I felt humiliated. Broken. Shameful. Sad. So incredibly sad. And I hated myself. After a while they gave me a pencil and a notepad and I wrote those words down and showed it to them. Ashamed and so worried that it was how they would see me too.
This moment was so horrific, and I have such an intense and real recollection of that day, that it has me in tears as I recount it. Not because it hurts me now, but because as I remember it, I remember how it felt to be that little girl. I remember the feeling of such self-hatred and shame and I feel sorry for her. I feel sorry she didn’t know better than to believe it mattered, that it defined her, that it MEANT something, anything. And I feel angry that I have let it mean so much for so long. I forgave Micah – personally and without his asking – years ago. He was a stupid kid who didn’t know better. He was the first of many people, though, who would say things to me with the sole purpose of causing pain. It’s an adolescent marker. We talk a lot about those in therapy – the things we do that are childish. The things we’re supposed to grow out of as mature adults. The things that so many of us are, often, unable to leave in the past so here we are, swimming in a world mixed with mature adults and childish adults and so many of us a mixture of the two.
I was walking to the car after dinner with my sister and her family several months ago. As I passed through a crosswalk, three teenage boys walked toward me. One of them looked at me and then said “fat chick” and they all laughed and disappeared behind me. I wasn’t offended or crushed or mortified or anything that I was that day in the fourth grade. But it did take me back to that moment and I wondered, “what is that supposed to make me feel?” I wanted to go back and ask him, the teenager who felt it important to call me out on the street in front of his friends. I wanted to know from him – what do you expect me to feel about that? Is it supposed to hurt me? A stranger you know nothing about? Is it supposed to make you look cool, pointing out an obvious physical trait of a stranger on the sidewalk?
I understood that this moment said more about that boy than it did about me…because he didn’t know me. He didn’t know anything about me, and I was an easy target. It’s as if calling out the most obvious imperfection should mean something. It did 25 years ago, but I didn’t know better then and neither did those boys. But somewhere along the way I understood that who I am on the outside says so little about who I actually am. It doesn’t tell anyone that I love my family and friends, that I am intelligent, curious and funny, that I hold down a job and support myself, I pay my bills on time, I’m responsible, I love hard and passionately, and the countless other bits and pieces that make up this one human being.
I feel so frustrated by the way society treats fat people. Like people often feel it is their right to shame us, to tell us how we’re supposed to look and eat, and behave like they know anything about who we are. I’ve heard it all – the judgments – fat-ass, lazy, loser, worthless, gross, unsightly, recited by the same kind of people. The people who think hey have some right to decide something, anything, for another person, as if they know anything about us.
Just recently, some New York film critic caused a buzz with his comments on the appearance of Melissa McCarthy in his review of her new film Identity Theft. Not content to offer a poor review of the movie itself, he also made cruel comments about her weight, calling her a female hippo and referring to her as tractor-sized. I don’t really know why it matters so much to people what size someone else is. I know Hollywood and the media have a weird obsession with women who are slight and small, but this has so little to do with the talents of anyone unless that talent is whether or not they can fit into this man-made box of constructed social ideals. Why do we care?
And now, as I venture into the world of dating, it’s another place to recognize how deeply people care about the way we look over who we are. Online dating sites like Tinder offer us the opportunity to judge someone’s face without knowing a single thing about them. OK Cupid is filled with people looking for some physical ideal. Seattle is filled with the typical northwest outdoorsy lesbians that judge people on whether or not they think they’re capable of hiking up a mountain or running a marathon. I’m not saying those things aren’t admirable or worthy attributes to share with a partner; what I’m suggesting is that people judge size before they even stop to think about whether or not we could be capable of those things. I’d love a partner who wants to take me on hikes or train with me for a race. I loved (and hated) walking the Breast Cancer 3-day and I felt incredibly proud of that accomplishment. Fat people don’t just sit on their couches eating Cheetos and watching the Food Network. We aren’t worthless and, more than anything, we aren’t invisible.
I am judged every day for my size. Every. Single. Day. In the end, however, the people that judge me lose out on knowing what beauty I have inside me, how my soul shines and the incredible joy I have in my heart. No one can take that away from me, and I wish I had known that in the 4th grade, when those kids made fun of me and I felt ashamed and worthless. I was beautiful. I was a gorgeous little soul that deserved love over judgment. It’s a shame…that people then and even now would look to judge me instead of finding the human being that lives inside me. Perfect in my imperfections. Trying hard every day to be a good and compassionate person. You can judge me, call me fat, think I’m ugly, lazy and worthless, but in the end, it will say more about you than it ever could about me.