I was a skinny kid. Photos of me from back then are all pigtails and smeary glasses and I’m usually covered in mud. And I’m sometimes brandishing things like frogs or buckets of mucky water, for whatever reason. I probably had a plan for those buckets. Maybe I was going to put the frog in them. I don’t know.
Then puberty hit. You can’t fight science, people. I come from hearty peasant stock on both sides of my family. Dad’s side are all, in his words, “built like tops – big on the top, skinny on the bottom.” (I attempted to explain to him that’s not exactly how tops work, and also we don’t spin very well, but he was all “WE ARE LIKE TOPS!” so who am I to argue with him?) and my mom’s side are all built like the Goddess of Willendorf. Curvy doesn’t even begin to explain it. Genetics decided I needed a little of both, apparently.
Now, Dad had been heavy growing up, and teased about it mercilessly. He lost quite a bit of weight when he married my mother (who was, and remains, thin; she’s the only one in her family that is.) Dad saw that I was starting to gain weight and immediately feared that I was going to be teased about it at school.
His solution? Constantly watch everything I put in my mouth, tell me how disgusting being fat was, tell me I needed to be working out and/or being active every single minute of every single day, tell me I was never going to find anyone to love me if I was fat, and call me things like “elephant.” If I got upset about this, he was genuinely confused. “I just want you to be happy,” he’d say. “I just want you to be pretty and thin.”
Now, I don’t know what size you’re imagining me in high school, but if I remember correctly, I was about a size twelve. A twelve. I was probably around…oh, I don’t know. 140 pounds, maybe? 150? Just about the thinnest I’ve ever been in my adulthood, anyway. I certainly wasn’t fat. And I’m fairly tall. 5’8.
I WAS COMPLETELY NORMAL.
However, years and years of being told, by the person you love and admire most in the whole world, that you are ugly, fat and worthless, take their toll. My self-esteem, never overly good to begin with, wasn’t getting much better.
Senior year, I was tired of being so ugly and fat (although I was neither – I look at photos of myself from that time and think “GOOD GRIEF, WHY DIDN”T YOU REALIZE HOW GORGEOUS YOU WERE?!?!”) and went on a crash diet. This diet was basically a bowl of cereal at breakfast and a can of Chinese vegetables at dinner. Sometimes some chicken. No lunch. This was what I ate every day for about 8 months. I worked out for hours at a time daily. I lost about fifty pounds. I could see my hipbones and my ribs and my cheekbones. My collarbones were so prominent I would sometimes accidentally bump them and leave bruises.
It was the first time my father ever told me I was beautiful. He followed it with “See? All you had to do was lose weight. I knew you were beautiful underneath that.”
I was starving. I had headaches constantly. I was tired all the time. But I was THIN. Boys were paying attention to me. One of my teachers told me, “Don’t you dare ever gain weight again. Don’t you DARE” which at the time I was all “Aw, nice!” and now, looking back, I’m all, “Um. CREEPSTER!”
I think you can see where this is going. Can anyone maintain that kind of diet and exercise regimen in the long-term? And not get scurvy? And not go CRAZY? I mean, I couldn’t eat ANYTHING. I was counting the calories in CORNSTARCH. I’m not even kidding you about this. This is not a way to live a life.
I gained the weight back over about a year. I felt terrible shame. I’d let everyone down. I was disgusting. I was ugly and fat again. I had no self-esteem; I didn’t like to go out in public, I didn’t like to go out with my friends, I didn’t date because who would have me? I drank a lot, though. Liquid courage, right? Mmm-hmm. Works every time, except when you start needing it for everything, ever. Like getting out of bed in the morning, or to get to sleep at night. Or for everything in between.
I’ve fluctuated in weight ever since. Sometimes I’m heavier; sometimes I’m lighter. And here’s the thing; as I age, it matters less to me. I still don’t love what I see in the mirror every day; I still see photos of myself and think, “Good grief, that’s an unflattering photo.” I still have residual shame. I still think “If only I was thinner, life would be easier, in a million different ways.” But it’s not a daily thing. It’s not even all that often anymore.
And before you start to hate him, Dad understands, and has repeatedly apologized, for what he did when I was younger. I often think most of parenting is a fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants affair. He really, truly thought he was doing the right thing. He thought he was stopping me from the ridicule he’d experienced as a teen. He didn’t realize – and did anyone, back then? – the long-standing effect that kind of treatment would have on my psyche. I’ve forgiven him. He doesn’t say a word now. And he’s said, without prompting, many times since, that I’m beautiful – no matter what size I am. He loves his daughter.
We live in a culture where it is not allowed (well, it still happens, but it’s not appropriate) to make racial jokes, or jokes about someone’s sexuality, or mental illness. But we’re still allowed to make fat jokes. Because fat jokes are funny. Fat PEOPLE are funny, right? Because, well, we CHOSE this. We chose this because we eat ALL the Twinkies and chips and cake and pie and sit around all day doing nothing. We chose this, and because we are fat, we are lazy and we also smell. Of course we do! And sometimes we fall. Ha ha! How funny!
So the best thing to do is make fun of us. To shame us. Because, as this VERY scientific study proves, it’s the only way to make us get off our lazy asses and get thin. Thin and therefore healthy. Oh, because, I don’t know if you’re aware – if you’re fat, you’re immediately unhealthy. There’s no such thing as a healthy fat person. We’re all one HoHo away from our first (or second, or third, or last) coronary. So the thing to do is shame us. According to this “prominent bioethicist” (I don’t see “ethics” coming into this at all) what you should say to any fat people you know, I mean, if you care about them at all, is “If you are overweight or obese, are you pleased with the way that you look?” Because of COURSE they’re not! And they just didn’t realize it until you shamed them! Oh, what a favor you are doing for them. They will thank you on the finish line of their first triathalon! They will shout your name from the top of Kilimanjaro!
Or they might tell you to shut your nosy piehole. Because I’m going to tell you something right now, and if you take anything away from this, I want it to be this.
My body, his body, her body, their bodies – anyone’s body but your own – ARE NONE OF YOUR FUCKING BUSINESS.
I don’t care if you’re fat-shaming them, thin-shaming them (yes, it exists, please read sj’s amazing post about it, and the comments, and I know from personal experience, as I have a dear loved one who has constantly been picked on about being too thin, which she can help JUST about as much as I can help my body shape, so it’s real) or ANYTHING shaming-them, or if you say you’re doing it because you’re worried about their health, or what, exactly, your impetus for putting your nose in someone else’s business is. You have no right. None. You have no right to tell them they should lose weight (unless you are their doctor, and even then, sometimes, it gets worrisome, because there are some doctors who prescribe weightloss as an easy out for everything from asthma to a sprained toe because they don’t treat the patient, they just see a fat person and think, “I KNOW WHAT’S WRONG IT IS FATNESS!”); you have no right to say things about their lifestyle choices, their clothing choices, who they’re dating, what they’re eating, how loud they’re talking, or anything whatsoever. Keep your eyes on your own test, buckaroo. I’m sure you have something you’re not proud of. Would you like someone walking up to you and saying, “Man, that’s a huge nose you have there. You should get that surgically reduced. You know, for health reasons.” Or, “I noticed you have a very small penis, Man I’m About to Have Sex With. Have you thought about getting that surgically enhanced? You know, for health reasons?” IT WOULD BE THE SAME THING.
Here’s some Fun With Fat-Shaming. Don’t even think I didn’t research the hell out of this.
First, we have Kate Upton. Who is, I think we can all agree, STUNNINGLY GORGEOUS.
Well! Were you also aware she is “well-marbled,” “thick,” “vulgar,” and – this one’s my favorite – a “little piggie?” Or – well, how about a whole paragraph of hate? Sure!
Huge thighs, NO waist, big fat floppy boobs, terrible body definition – she looks like a squishy brick. Is this what American women are “striving” for now? The lazy, lardy look? Have we really gotten so fat in this country that Kate is the best we can aim for? Sorry, but: eww!
YES! She has been called out as too fat to model by a VERY reputable blog site called Skinny Gossip. Two things I loathe! People who judge others’ bodies and gossip! (Also, she tagged the post with “fatties” and “thunder thighs,” because, well, why not?)
Guess why she’s not model-material? BECAUSE SHE’S NORMAL-HUMAN SIZED. Well, no. She’s actually quite a bit less than normal human sized, as normal humans are, what, a size 12 now? 14? Something like that? I don’t think she’s that size. But she’s not waif-thin, and apparently, Skinny Gossip thinks that’s what size you have to be to model clothing.
Psst, Skinny Gossip, MIND YOUR OWN BUSINESS. She’s stunning. And it can’t possibly make you feel any better about yourself to call people pigs, can it? Really? Do you sleep well at night knowing you put something like that out there in the world? That kind of hate?
The company’s rationale? Coercing employees to submit to health testing will provide incentive for workers to get—and stay—in shape.
Huh. “Coercing.” Forcing, really, because the fine is $600 and they don’t pay much above minimum to work at CVS. And what happens once you take the test? Do you have to see a counselor about your totally fat fatness? Are you told if you don’t lose weight, you’ll be let go? Are your test results posted in the breakroom next to a photo of a bag of Cheetos with a red circle and a line through it? WHO KNOWS.
Or, how about, let’s fat-shame our children with this new ad campaign? Because there’s nothing that kids need more than to be shamed. I mean, it’s worked out so well for me, right?
Please read the article that accompanies this photo. It’s kickass. It has excellent examples of fat-shaming. HEARTBREAKING examples. And, sadly, TRUE examples. People think it is ok to walk up to perfect strangers in the grocery store and QUESTION THEIR FOOD CHOICES.
(True story: I had a woman come up to me in the grocery store and tell me she worked for Herbalife and they had an excellent line of diet pills I might like to try. First thought: shame. Second thought: WHO THE FUCK DO YOU THINK YOU ARE. Second thought won out over first thought; I told her I was not at all interested in a pyramid scheme for products that don’t work in the first place, and I was sorry she felt the need to walk up to strangers and judge their body type, and walked away. She was offering them to the next woman that walked past as I checked out. So apparently my words meant nothing.)
So, anyway. Yes, that’s an ad campaign for (well, against, I guess) childhood obesity, targeting overweight children. Because they probably aren’t aware they’re fat. So let’s do a whole ad campaign for it. That’s a good way to help kids with positive self-esteem. Way to go, guys.
Of course, there’s also good old Southwest Airlines, who expect their fat passengers to spring for two seats. And even their not-so-fat passengers. Whoever THEY deem as a little too fat. They SAY it’s if the passenger can’t put the armrests down, but as Kevin Smith found out a few years ago, that’s not it at all – it’s racial profiling, only with your weight. It’s fat-profiling. He was able to put his armrests down; the passengers on either side of him told the flight attendant they had plenty of room. They still kicked him off the plane. And when he got back on a later flight that they hurriedly put him on once they realized who he was and that he was tweeting millions of people about this practice, they fat-profiled another person, then put her in his row, so she’d tell him about it, and he’d know it wasn’t just him, and feel better.
Yes! Because nothing makes us feel better than to be shamed in front of a crowd of people than to do it to someone else. NOTHING. (I read his book Tough Shit recently which went in detail into the incident, and my heart just broke for him. Because no matter what you think of Kevin Smith – you all know I think he’s fantastic, but you can hate him if you want, just don’t tell me about it, ok? – when that happened, he was just an average guy, being fat-shamed in front of a full airplane of people. Worse, he was a FAMOUS guy being fat-shamed in front of a crowd of people, and if it was an average guy, it might be a laugh or two, but with a famous person, it’s news, you know? He took control of the news and labeled it “too fat to fly” himself – he’s very good at self-deprecating – but it hurt. Of course it did. Because no matter who you are, where you are in the world, being shamed for your body size is not something you can laugh off. It just isn’t. The shame should be on Southwest Airlines, not the people they’re profiling.)
Then there’s this. I can’t embed a Facebook thread, so sadly, you will have to click. Here’s a screenshot, though, because pretty pictures, right?
Now, you have to click to see the comments. The comments are really what makes this. Because this STARTS OUT as normal, then this person shows up who hates fat people. HATES THEM. Only, no no! She doesn’t HATE them. She has MANY FAT FRIENDS! (Does this sound at all like someone who makes a lot of racist comments, then says, “What? I’m not a racist! I have MANY MANY BLACK FRIENDS!” Yeah, to me, too.) So she starts writing things like “no, it’s a known fact that all fat people are unhealthy and many doctors refuse to operate on them because, well, they’ll just die on the table. Because, well, fat, you know?”
Don’t worry. There are some kickass commenters on there. They give her the smackdown. She doesn’t ever shut up, but they win intelligence. She doesn’t win anything but idiocy and mouth-flappery.
This is, by the way, called “concern-trolling.” It’s like being a troll, only you’re pretending it’s because you CARE. Isn’t that nice? A whole new way to be a douchecanoe!
Sara, from Laments and Lullabies, wrote an amazing post recently about fat-shaming, which you all should read. Her post, and the terrible comments on that Facebook post up there, were what finally made me realize I needed to write my own post. Here’s her post. You should all a., read, and b., comment. Oh, and c., follow her blog.
There are more. There are so many more. But this is edging into way too many words for a Saturday territory, and also I’d like to get to bed at some point.
I will leave you with some bullet points. Because, who doesn’t like bullet points, am I right?
- Other people’s bodies are none of your business. Keep your words off them. Unless you’re telling them they’re beautiful. Everyone likes that shit. Even if they pretend they don’t.
- Pretending you’re “worried about someone’s health” is not an excuse for commenting on someone’s weight, whether they’re heavy or thin. Again, see the first bullet point. Even if they’re naked with you, their size is none of your business. Whose business is it then, Amy? THEIRS. No one’s but theirs.
- Making fat jokes is a., not funny, and b., lazy. There are actual funny things in the world to point out. Like misspellings. Who doesn’t like a good misplaced apostrophe or missing comma? The answer to that is NO ONE.
- To reiterate what we learned in the first bullet point: before making a comment about someone’s weight, please think the following quietly to yourself: “What is my least-favorite attribute. Now, would I like someone to loudly mention it and say it is ugly and/or unhealthy for me to have, and publicly shame me about it?” The answer to that question is always no. ALWAYS.
- Also: if you think you are too fat, and everyone’s judging you, and you’re ugly, and OMG I CANNOT LEAVE THE HOUSE, guess what. No, seriously, guess. Hardly anyone even notices. The only people that do are assholes. And who cares what assholes think? I hope you don’t.
- Finally: I’m going to tell you something I’ve learned in my old age. Ready? Shh, don’t share this one around, it’s kind of radical. WE ARE ALL BEAUTIFUL. I know! Every single last one of us. Fat. Thin. Tall. Short. We’re a lovely bunch of coconuts. Except – there is one thing that makes you ugly. Guess what that is? Hatefulness. Being hateful. You can’t be beautiful with hate in your mind, soul, or mouth. So get rid of that, and guess what? You’re gorgeous again. And everyone will see it. I can see it right now! Whoa, babe, dial that back, you’re blinding me with it.
We’ve become a culture of shaming. We’re rape-shaming and we’re slut-shaming and we’re thin-shaming and we’re fat-shaming. It’s repulsive and this shit’s gotta stop. Like, immediately.
Stop shaming anyone. Including yourself. You are beautiful. The people around you are beautiful. No one should be shamed for how they look. The next time you look at yourself in the mirror, be amazed at how gorgeous you are. And tell the people around you how beautiful they are. Don’t allow them to blow it off and say things like, “Oh, I look like a cow in this top” or whatever, either. Nope. Not today, buckaroos. Tell them they’re beautiful AGAIN. Until they actually believe it.
Then, all of that stuff? Do quadruple that for your kids. Make sure your kids enter the world with the strongest self-esteem possible. They’re going to need it, and you can help them with that.
We might be surrounded by shame, but we can combat that with love. Is that the opposite of shame? Don’t care. For our purposes it is.
Love you guys. You’re gorgeous. Every last one of you.