I have things to say. I've had things to say for a long time, but haven't had the emotional fortitude or energy to say them. Saying these things means I'm opening up the potential for criticism and internet trolls, and trying to resist letting them affect me is much harder than Wonder Woman deflecting bullets. They may not pierce the skin, but they leave a lot of bruises. But I can't stay quiet.
A few weeks ago, I was at a stop light. My windows were rolled up and I was talking to Steve about something of no significance. The truck beside me had 2 guys in it, who cracked the passenger window and started spurting out something. It was like the game when you're a teenager and you dare each other to say “penis” the loudest. You start soft, then start saying it louder and louder until others notice and then you cackle with laughter. (If you don't know this game, you're probably utterly confused, so just disregard and keep reading.) I wasn't paying that much attention, but I had a feeling of unease. I tried to shake it off and kept trying to listen to what Steve was saying. Then I heard something with more clarity as they rolled the window down entirely and started turning the volume up on their words.
“Haha, you're so fat!”
“Look how fat you are!”
I kept my eyes on the stoplight ahead and stopped listening what Steve was saying as I started to get upset. The light finally turned green and I gunned my car ahead, trying to put it out of my mind. Steve didn't hear them and I didn't want to talk about it, so I didn't mention it to him until last week.
I was so conflicted, and it had to do with my association with the word “fat.”
Let's get one thing straight – I AM fat. Fat is an adjective – a physical characteristic. I was mad at myself for getting upset that they called me something I actually am.
It comes down to the intention. They were doing it to offend me. To get some sort of reaction. I could have responded with “yeah? And your point is???” but instead, I just felt like someone had cut me down to nothing. They got me.
Lindy West says in her book, Shrill:
Being fat is like walking around with a sandwich board that says, “HERE’S WHERE TO HURT ME!”
They succeeded in hurting me in a way that I've not felt in a long time. Lest they get too excited over their victory, I should point out that after overanalyzing this, I think they succeeded because my armor has worn down over time. They just happened to be the ones to strike when my defenses were down.
This whole culture of bashing people you don't know, both in person or online, has gotten out of control. People have written about my divorce, saying it's no wonder my ex cheated because of my weight. People have said I must still binge eat all the time because I'm not losing weight. I can be on a walk in my neighborhood and have someone yell something at me from their car. Like I don't matter – like my pure existence is affecting their lives directly.
I've been blogging for 8 years now, and started as a weight loss blogger. Over the years, I've shifted away from talking about weight because I want to be able to exist, write, and share without a value being placed on whether I was successfully reducing my size. I realize this may have confused people over the years who started cheering me on by the pounds and then saw me stop talking about them. I was tired of questions about what I ate, what diet I was on, what my workouts were, etc. It's mentally exhausting to be in recovery for binge eating disorder, having autoimmune thyroid disease, and a 30 year history of dieting and have people ask if you've lost weight continuously.
I want to exist without a value judgement dictated by my weight. I want those people who were kind as they saw my body in action to not be the ones who would then go and snicker at seeing me in a swimsuit.
I want people to treat me with kindness and respect, whether I'm doing the thing on the left or the thing on the right.
It's hard to not let these things get to me, and that's saying something since I've spent years in therapy and talking about my size, but the insults and digs can be debilitating. I want to go out without fear of having someone stare at me as I eat dinner, or give me a strange look if I'm in a clothing store where nothing will clearly fit me. Why is my presence so offensive?
Snap judgements are a horrible thing. The sandwich board that is my body may tell people where they can try to hurt me. But you know what it can't tell you? A damn thing about me as a person.
My body can tell you I'm fat. It can't tell you what I ate for breakfast, how often I exercise, how I treat other people, what I do for a living, my energy level, my medical conditions, my dieting background, my accomplishments, or my failures. Yet somehow people can look at me and make enormous assumptions and pass judgement and spout hate without recourse.
It's not even just overt meanness like the guys in the truck. It's also inherent in how we talk to each other. I was at a picnic over the weekend and someone asked what I blogged about. I replied with “plus size fashion, some fitness, body positivity… stuff like that.” The response? “That's great, but what are you going to blog about when you lose the weight?”
That's when I realized I had to publish this post. Not just because of the mean guys or gals, but for the ones who can only see this weight as a burden, or something I'm trying to beat out of me. Or even just for those who are unaware of how their words matter, even without negative intentions. It's also for the other fat people, who have been made to feel like they are less worthy because of their size. Or those who shudder when they hear the word “fat” because of all the negativity around it. I can't pretend that every time I post an outfit picture that I'm the most confident person ever, or that moments before or after the picture someone didn't yell something derogatory at me. (Though compliments are much more common shout outs, thankfully!) There are many days where no matter how hard I try, the self-acceptance is hard to find.
I don't want to be an “after.” I spent my whole life trying to be an “after” and waiting for the acceptance that comes from it. You know what happens when we spend our days searching for the “after?” we miss the joy in our lives as they are. I may lose weight, and I may not. My worth shouldn't depend on if I do or if I don't. No one's should.
This post has sat in my drafts in various forms for several days now, as I searched for the words to try to button things up. I asked myself, “What do you want from this post? Why are you saying these things?”
The only answer I could come up with is that I just wanted to share. I don't want sympathy, nor do I know that anyone will think twice next time they make fun of someone after reading this. I simply reached a breaking point because justifying my body, its size, and its worth is just not something I'm down for. I need to reclaim the word “fat” for myself, and strip it of the vitriol that normally accompanies it. So this is me, existing. Fat and all.
If you are thin or of average size, have an open mind, and would like to read more about life as a fat person, here are some good, quick reads.
- Airplanes suck for everyone, but the fat anxiety is horrible- read Natalie's story – this happened last week. And if you want to know why I've been hesitant to speak up about these issues, simply read the comments here.
- 3 Tiny Ways That Thin People Can Shift Their Language To Support Fat Acceptance from Ravishly
- This article from Glamour with Shonda Rimes is a good example of the reactions you get when fat versus when thin.
- Intro to Body Image Work from Isabel Foxen Duke
- Fat-Positive Activists Explain What It's Really Like to Be Fat from Vice
- Activist and writer Lindy West as a guest on the Sporkful podcast – a good, honest conversation to listen to
- A great photo example of why you'll rarely see me say anything about food