“You’re just a fat tub of lard.”
I can’t remember what I even said or possibly did that provoked this comment. I know that whatever it was certainly didn’t seem to warrant such a response, but really what WOULD deserve such a comment?
I just remember being completely shocked. One of the popular girls let this roll off her tongue like it was nothing in front of a small group of other popular girls right before Mrs. Sharp’s 7th grade science class began. My face burned with embarrassment and humiliation as I made my way to my seat. I then had to sit through an entire class and try to focus without bawling my eyes out.
This happened over 20 years ago and what I felt in that moment is forever etched into my brain.
I’d like to say this was an isolated incident, but sadly I’d heard variations of this comment before this and also after this. However, not all of the hatefulness was so direct.
As I got older sometimes the comments would come as sort of a back-handed compliment. If I had a dollar for every time I was told I had a “beautiful face” or that I was “pretty for a big girl” or if I’d “just lose a few pounds…”, I would be a very rich woman. As completely screwed up as it was, I knew that these people were actually trying to be complimentary. I knew this because not only virtual strangers said these things to me but also some of my closest family members.
In 8th grade I joined the track team. Not because I wanted to run, HA!, but because one of my best friends told me how fun it would be for us to go to track meets and meet boys. Oh my…I did not know what I was in for. Between running my butt off and doing millions of crunches, I managed to drop a lot of weight. Now my classmates and loved ones marveled over “how much better I looked”. So while it was nice to be thinner, these comments just made me wonder why my appearance was such an issue for them before.
My life goal as a child was to be a cheerleader and I was made aware that I couldn’t possibly expect to be a cheerleader if I was chubby. I made the squad my freshman year and I felt on top of the world because I thought this was the answer to my prayers. It wasn’t. There were still nasty comments made.
In high school my friends and I, so determined to attract boys and feel validated, started taking metabolism booster pills. I survived basically on water, rice cakes and cans of tuna. If I went to the kitchen for any reason I would punish myself with hundreds of crunches. I’d go to bed with a burning stomach and feel proud of myself as I stroked the more chiseled parts of my body. No matter how much I worked out and how little I ate, I could never get under 130 pounds and that felt like a failure to me because I wanted to weigh 120 pounds or less. It didn’t occur to me-nor would it have mattered- that I was muscular as a result of all of my working out. It also didn’t matter to the jerks who still thought I wasn’t skinny enough because I didn’t have hip bones that protruded through my clothing.
Throughout my school career I made straight A’s, won numerous academic awards and had a great personality that attracted a fair share of companionship. However, whatever my achievements were paled in comparison to the fact that I wasn’t thin enough.
My physical appearance meant more to others than all of my other different positive attributes, and as a result, I felt that way about myself too.
I can’t tell you how many times I let people-especially boys- treat me like crap because I was so desperate for acceptance and love. I settled for less than I deserved because I thought that I was so fat and ugly that I just needed to take whatever I could get.
Throughout college I’d still hear the comments of being pretty despite “needing to lose a few pounds”. I heard these comments uttered everywhere…from middle-aged female co-workers to guys my own age. Why did these people- GROWN ADULTS- still have the audacity to comment on my weight as another adult and think that it was somehow not only socially acceptable but any of their darn business to begin with?!
I’m a mom of two now. I weigh more now than I ever have in my life and I’m not happy with it. I’ve struggled with PCOS and bad habits the past 20 years and it is freaking hard for me to lose weight, although I need to for health reasons.
I love how many body positive movements there are today. I wish that there had been these women around during my formative years that could help me see my self-worth was not determined by numbers on a scale or a size printed in my clothing.
Still, despite this progress, there are people who continue to label others with weight issues and reduce them to a single descriptor. Now many of these critics like to claim some sort of moral superiority and say that being body positive is just glorifying obesity and that somehow gives them the right to comment rude things about strangers on social media. Because not hating your body if there is excess fat clearly means that you don’t care about your health, you know.
I’m here to implore you, that before you decide to comment about someone’s appearance perhaps you should think about it.
Is what you are going to say uplifting? Is it relevant? Is it any of your business to comment regardless of whether what you plan to say is complimentary or derogatory?
Think first and then if you deem it is going to somehow make a difference 10 years from now of even five minutes from now, perhaps go ahead and say it. Maybe contemplate if what you are saying is going to hurt someone in a way that 20 years from now they are going to reflect upon it and still feel pain when it replays in their mind.
Please compliment females-especially little girls- about how smart they are or how creative they are. Acknowledge how funny they are or what a brilliant artist they have become. Let them grow up being proud of who they are and what they can do and not just praised for what their outsides look like.
And for the love of gosh, if you feel so compelled to verbalize that a “fat girl” is pretty just say she is pretty and leave it at that. No other qualifiers are needed or appreciated.