Everyone go read Linda Holmes on “Red Handles” http://www.npr.org/blogs/monkeysee/2014/01/13/262076085/chris-christie-and-pulling-the-red-handle
A lot of people talk about fat shaming (on the street, in school, in the doctor’s office- everywhere where you’re a human and visible to other humans). I always feel weird because I have all the scars of fat shaming- but I wouldn’t consider myself fat, not really. Chubby, maybe, curvy, sure, but I no longer deal with boys telling me they can see my cellulite through my leggings like they did in high school gym class. (I really want to look through my yearbooks and figure out who that kid was and where he is now and then hope he manages a Pizza Hut or something).
A lot of wonderful tumbl-ers have stumbled on to the crazy idea that our society says “I will love you more if there is less of you”. I learned that lesson from my dad. I had to un-learn it, and it took years.
I was sixteen, maybe fifteen. My dad had divorced my mom and moved several states away because he had a substance abuse problem. I was visiting him on Spring Break- the first time we’d ever had a long block of time together. I think I was vainly still trying to wear size 12 pants. I was in jeans, and a blue terry cloth hoodie. I jokingly stepped on a scale in the grocery store and it proclaimed my weight. 160 pounds. “I don’t even look it,” I laughed. (I never look what it says I should look like). I spun to see his agreement and was met with a look of disdain of the type I’d never seen before. “You could stand to lose some weight.” He admitted. It was like a floodgate for him.
Flash to Christmas, my freshman year of college. I’m 18. My dad is staying with us for the first time. It’s weird to celebrate a Christmas with him since the divorce.
"Dad, I lost 20 pounds since starting college, isn’t that great!" I tell him. He looks me over, coolly.
"Good. You could stand to lose 20 more."
Flash to another spring break, where for the weeks before I’m terrified of what I’ll look like in a bathing suit and what I’ll tell my father about my weight and how I look. (PS, I will not even dare to buy shorts until 2005). Somehow the subject of relationships come up, and I mention that no, I don’t currently have a boyfriend and that no one is interested in me.
"You just have about 10 pounds of babyfat still on you. That’s why. No one will want to date you until you lose weight."
Reader, the dumb thing is that I believed him. I believed, at 19 or 20, that I was incapable of love, invisible to men, because of how much I weighed. So I never opened myself up to it, because I thought I always had to lose another 20 or 30 pounds before men would be interested. Okay, so yes, you may be invisible to men who want skinny women. But that’s not all men.
When, in my senior year of college, a boy told me he liked curvy women, I was shocked and astounded. I didn’t think that they actually existed, and of course I developed a crush on him, that lingers to this day.
After I lost my virginity (at my weight!) and my partner scoffed at my explanation “well, you know I’m fat…” and after I kissed men on dance floors and on dates, I sort of just stopped caring.
A friend told me once that his words only had the power I gave them, but it was really hard not to believe the person that helped raise me and loved me and said I was wonderful* (except for the weight).
So, flash forward to age 26. I’m driving my dad to a local seafood restaurant. He’s just come out of the hospital for triple bypass surgery because three of his arteries were at a 98% blockage rate. He starts mentioning that I should lose weight, so I basically tell him the above story.
"We’ve had this conversation before. I’ve asked you not to talk to me about my weight. You know, you said some really shitty things, including that no one would love me at my size, and I believed you. So I basically shut myself away because I thought that I couldn’t get anyone to like me or find me attractive and I wasted my early 20’s on that idea and it sucked."
He was stunned. Because he didn’t even remember saying any of it- and was even questioning me about it. Me. Who had made his words a mantra of my existence. Then he was sorry and full of apologies and that he had no idea of the effect on me, etc. etc. I can’t even remember what he said after that because by then his words had no power. They were, in fact, meaningless.
It is a little bit of my fault for internalizing his words so much- but he was, and is my dad and I was hungry for approval and love.
I guess I’m telling you this story because in every “fat-shame” narrative, I’ve never heard it. So if this is your story, or sort of your story, I hope this gives you a sense of peace. Or a sense that your story is real. And I hope that if you’re a sixteen year old girl and your dad, or your mom, or anyone in your life is telling you these things, I hope you know that they’re lying sacks of shit. People will love you! People will kiss you, and will find you beautiful no matter what size you are.