“I feel so… FAT,” I heard a ten year old girl sigh into the mirror in a department store dressing room today. My heart sank. She obviously wasn’t saying it the same, excited way I had exclaimed earlier this morning as I admired my lumps in the full length mirror. She seemed disappointed that her body had failed to fit into the sequined dress and so did the woman with her. At that point, I wanted to sweep her up like a chubby mother goose and tell her about the fabulous, secret world of self-love in all forms.
Since the day I was born, I was too big. I grew up in the south where the only thing bigger than the cookouts were the personalities and let me tell you, I got the best sides of both. My mouth is just as big as my heart and belly. Apparently that’s scary for people; especially grown white men.
I remember the first time someone tried to use my weight against me. I was in the 1st grade and I was a cheerleader. A boy on the opposing basketball team decided that the fat cheerleader needed to be destroyed; with a basketball to the face and laughs. I’ll never forget that day because it was the day I decided that the only way to make up for my failure of a body was to apologize for it to the world in as many ways and I could. I apologized for my existence; in my walk, my talk, my clothes, and every other way a girl could. These ways ranged from skipping meals, quitting all activities that would force me to interact with males, wearing clothes meant for December in the middle of July, and for a while, losing my voice. The voice that I’ve come to be so incredibly proud of. I remember this all, because on my worse days, I still feel like that little fat girl in the cheerleading uniform; that little girl who wouldn’t fit into the sequined dress no matter how much she pushed and prodded at her own soft, forgiving flesh. No matter how many basketballs, or words, were hurled at her.
Today is a different story. It’s taken years, but I’m no longer afraid of the space I take up; metaphorically and physically. I do not maneuver my shoulders in crowds to stay out of the way. They are broad and if you run into them, I guarantee I will not be the one injured. I sit with my legs spread in a comfortable manner on trains; much like the pompous business men beside me. I let my arm flab flap in the wind when I wave to my friends from across rooms whilst wearing tank tops. If that bothers you, you can look away. It’s no concern of mine. Today, I am a woman who is fat and great. I am a woman who is fat and who is not unable to sleep with anyone I want, if I want, when I want. I’m lovely and everyone should be just as aware of it as I am.
I can’t fathom why body type is a defining factor of the respect you deserve as a human. It’s another way for corporations to make money off of women’s insecurities. Like wrinkles or age spots, or even skin color, body fat is considered a sign of imperfection and something to get rid of. It’s considered a sign of bad hygiene, bad personal health, and bad character. We have been conditioned to think fat people, ESPECIALLY women-presenting fat people, though most traditionally non-masculine-presenting people are not free of is, are less than. It’s ridiculous.
You can be healthy at any size, not that you owe health to anyone. Your own health is your own business and no one has a right to make you feel bad about it; strangle them. I’m sick of fat people being denied medical treatment because this stigma of thin = healthy goes so deep in the medical community. Not only do life threatening physical ailments go untreated due to the age-old excuse of “You need to get into better shape,” but mental illnesses and very scary disorders go untreated because fat bodies do not fit the “mold” of the diagnosis.
Thinking thin is better is deadly to fat people and to non-fat people. I’ve known very thin people, girls mostly, who have lost tons of weight due to very aggressive eating disorders and throughout the entire ordeal were fed “compliments” of “Oh, you look so good. Have you lost weight? It’s fabulous,” even though, it clearly wasn’t fabulous. We live in a society where you can be losing handfuls of hair every day and unable to stand up sometimes, but if you lose any amount of weight, you’re succeeding.
They would rather us be dying than be fat, and we’ve convinced ourselves that we should rather be dying than be fat. When we show any sort of pride over ourselves or our bodies, they call us vain and make us feel terrible once again. And you know why? It’s because they want us to be weak. If we’re weak; if it hurts to stand up; if our voices are soft and breaking; we will not fight. There is no winning as a teen girl and there is less winning as a fat teen girl. God forbid you have anything else inside of you that people dislike. Like a mental illness, or a passion for people of your own gender; or no genders at all. We are born with a debt to pay and the only way to pay it is to alter ourselves and offer the remains to our abusers. Dowries may be illegal, but I know girls who pay them every day to any man that passes them on the street.
I’m here to tell you that your debt is paid. You never had any debt. This whole world has lied to you from day one. You don’t have to give anyone anything. Everything has always been yours. You owe yourself happiness and you deserve to be comfortable and love being in your own skin. You deserve to be able to decorate it like a beautiful altar to the baroque models of years past. No matter what the media and little boys on basketball teams have tried to tell you, FAT is not a bad word. FAT is not a synonym for unloveable, gross, or not good enough. FAT is simply a body type. FAT is my body type. FAT may be your body type. Your happiness is worth more than someone’s snot-nosed sneers.
Remember fat girls, everything you do is fantastically monumental. From the day you were born, the earth has quaked under your feet in fear. Whether you emerged onto marble tile, or encrusted cement; you are absolute royalty. The only reason the lessers try to shame us into submission is because they know we could crush them if we wanted.
Smother self-doubt with the soft, dimpled flesh of your thighs. Slaughter beauty standards with a swing of your wide hips. Abolish accepted gender roles with your short haircut and lipsticked pout. Blow kisses at your own reflection in storefront windows as you saunter past. Invest in a pair of steel-toed boots to break the toes of jerks everywhere. Try on that sequined dress again, darling, but try the next size up.
By Cheyenne Addison, Young Bluestockings Essay Finalist, Parkview Arts and Science Magnet High School, Little Rock, Arkansas
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