So this happened today: On my way to work, a man yelled at me “Holy shit, you’re so FAT!” I smiled at him and replied “Yes, I am and thank you for noticing. You’re so sweet!”
My reaction was apparently not what he expected because he appeared confused and muttered something that sounded like “buy more donuts” as he walked away.
I posted about the exchange on Facebook and got a lot of “you go, girl!” type comments. And I do feel proud for standing up to and verbally disarming a bully.
A few years ago, though, he would have gotten the desired reaction. A stranger would have reduced me to tears or blubbering some lame response like “I can lose weight but you’ll be a jerk forever”. And he would have notched another victory in his fat shaming campaign.
What changed? For starters, I learned to embrace the word fat. It’s a word that describes my body just as short describes my height, brown describes the color of my eyes and brunette (or graying) is the color of my hair. It’s annoying when I call myself fat and am scolded for it. “Don’t put yourself down like that!” or “You’re not fat!” Newsflash… I’m certainly not thin.
I was raised to hate the word because my mother hated the concept. She flaunted her slender body and couldn’t understand why all the crash diets, extreme exercise and giving me the pills her doctor prescribed to curb her appetite didn’t achieve the desired hourglass shape she felt her adopted daughter should have. (By the way, my birth mother was “short and heavy”.) There was constant shaming and threats of a lonely life if I didn’t lose weight: no one would ever love a fat woman. It was no wonder that I clung to an abusive relationship with a man who manipulated my low self-esteem and lack of confidence.
The journey to loving the image in the mirror took a long time and the assistance of great people… some of whom I’ve never even met. Take, for example, Eleanor Roosevelt who once said “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent”. Reading that quote for the first time and understanding what it meant was a bit of a mind blower. From that day I decided not to give anyone or any word that kind of power.
It’s not easy especially when they’re cruel and mean but it’s worth seeing the look on their face when a person tries to shame me in person and I deprive them of the satisfaction. Yes, I am fat and you don’t have my consent to make me feel bad about it.