More to Hug

I haven’t been good about updating frequently lately. I’m almost through week one of NaNoWriMo and I’m working on the new novel, so my time for blogging isn’t quite as abundant as it has been.

Today on Twitter, #tweetyour16yearoldself has been a trending topic. I was procrastinating earlier and decided to browse through some of them. Some of them were serious, some sarcastic, and some entertaining (my favorite was Lord Voldemort encouraging himself to choose Neville Longbottom instead). Earlier this week, something was really bothering me. Somehow, thinking about when I was sixteen made me think about it. It bothered me then. It bothered me when I was six. It bothered me when I was twenty-six. It’s bothered me for most of my life. It’s also something I don’t typically talk about with people because it makes me feel …. embarrassed? I don’t know if that’s the right word. It makes me feel something unfavorable. But right now I feel like talking about it. There’s no colorful ribbon you can wear for it. There’s no magnet to put on your car. But people need to be aware…….to think about what they say.

When I was in second grade, I remember standing on the playground and watching the kids play. It wasn’t that I couldn’t join them, it was that I was too shy to ask. I’d observed that some kind of weird second grade trend seemed to be for the girls to take the kickballs at recess and sit on them on the playground. One day, lucky enough to snag a kickball before we went outside, I, too, put my ball down on the ground and then sat on it.
“Hey, don’t do that!” yelled a boy in my class, snickering. “You’re too fat to sit on the ball.”
“Yeah,” his sidekick chimed in. “You’ll pop it.”
They laughed and pointed at me while other kids started to look on.

I remember my face turning red as I tried to fight off tears. I remember going home that night and crying about it while my mom tried to tell me that sometimes people were mean because they liked you. I didn’t believe her then, and I still don’t believe her now. Plus, that wasn’t the first time someone called me fat. That started in kindergarten and lasted the whole way through high school (and occasionally beyond). Every year, without fail, someone would make some kind of really mean comment to me. In sixth grade, I was riding bikes with my friend. We’d been riding all day and we were tired, so we’d started to walk our bikes. As we were going up a hill, a group of high school boys drove past us. One rolled down his window and turned around and yelled to me, “What’s wrong, fatty? Can’t make it up the hill?” My senior year of high school, I was running the mile around the soccer fields with my sister in gym class. This was my absolute least favorite time of the whole year. And sure enough, someone came up behind me. “Move it, fat ass. You’re slowing me down.”

Do these people really think I’ve never looked in a mirror? Granted, at some points in my life,  I’ve tried really hard not to, but come on. I’m pretty sure I don’t need you to tell me what’s wrong with me or the way I look. It should really only be a problem for you if you’re totally shallow and fleeting appearances are all that matter to you. (Also, I’ve heard the comeback “That’s what all fat/ugly people say” about a million times. I think I will throw up on the next person who says “Personality only matters to fat and ugly people.” Then I’ll reply, “No, that’s what mature people say.”)

Ah, welcome to society where fat=ugly.

What has always bothered me, I think, even since I was a little girl, is the assumptions. It still unnerves me to no end when people I don’t know assume they know all about me. I think that people assume that just because someone is heavy, they must sit around all day, never moving while shoveling handfuls of chips and fistfuls of fried food into their mouths. They must be lazy slobs who have no desire to do anything with themselves. Granted, I’m sure that’s true for some, but it’s definitely not true for all. I started playing softball in second grade. I played until the summer after high school, including a season for the school’s j.v. team. I did marching band. I rode bikes. I played outside all the time. Up until I was in college, you could still see the bases that we’d spray-painted on the street in front of our house because we had so many kickball tournaments out there. A few years back, I joined a gym. I went 3-4 days a week for at least an hour. I was eating healthier foods. In seven months, I didn’t lose one single pound. My doctor frowned, said something that continues to scare me, and then sent me to an endocrinologist.

People typically never consider health matters, either. I was on medicine for a thyroid condition for a number of years. Different doctors tell me different things. Some of these things scare me. Some of these things really scare me because I don’t have health insurance (and, as the universe would have it, when I applied for health insurance, they told me my height/weight ratio was outside of their limits. So not only did kids bully me, but so did the insurance companies). So I’m waiting. It’s making me even more anxious to get a job. My father is Diabetic and the disease runs in his family. That could possibly explain some things.

My point here is that I’m not a disgusting person. I may be a lot of things, but that’s not one of them. I don’t have grease stains all over the front of my clothes. I don’t wear muumuus. I shower every day. I take care of myself. I’m a good person. I’m a nice person, if not totally awkward and really shy much of the time. In addition to the assumptions, the shallowness kills me. I’m not sure how some people can’t tell how totally transparent they are. It hurts my feelings when people act like they can’t see me. In the summer of 2003, I was visiting DC for a few days with some friends. One evening, one of my friends and I had some time to kill in Georgetown, so we went into some of the stores. I should point out here that my friend can’t be any bigger than a size two. When we walked in, employees approached her and made friendly, all the while never making eye contact with me. It was like I wasn’t even there. No one even talked to me. That, sadly, also happens a lot. If I’m buying a gift for someone and I go in a store and any employee looks at me like I shouldn’t be there, I leave and never go back. It bothers me when other girls treat me like I’m somehow less of a person – less of a woman – because I’m not tiny. It bothered me when guys got to know me just so I could help them meet one of my friends.

As talk about preventing bullying in schools has increased lately, this is what I think about. And when I think about being 6 or 10 or 12 or 16 or 20 or 27, this is what I think about. Every day this is what I think about. It makes me sad that there are people who just can’t get beyond it. There’s just more of me to hug, is all. I’m sure everyone was bullied or teased in school (although maybe not), so we all have our own stories to tell. Maybe it was whiney or the tirade of “an ugly/fat person”, but this is mine.


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