Fatass (A-Z Challenge)

One evening about three years ago, I left my apartment in the Haight in San Francisco to go meet some friends for dinner (or maybe it was just wine? Lol it was usually just wine.) at their place, which was about a three minute walk away. I reached a crosswalk at a four-way stop sign intersection, where there was a white pickup truck stopped across the street. I began crossing the street, and the truck suddenly lunged forward; I thought it was going to kill me. I jumped back, shaken and panicked, the truck stopped about a foot away from me. The driver, a white dude around age 30, stared at me angrily, as if it were my fault that he’d almost run me over. Still shaken, I yelled something along the lines of, “You almost killed me, you asshole!” He revved his engine and sped past me, yelling out the window, “Watch where you’re going, you fatass!”

I stood stunned in the intersection for about five seconds, and then I started walking–and crying.

I cried all the way to my friends’ apartment–heaving, sweaty sobs that wouldn’t let up despite all efforts to control myself. I think I frightened every hipster in Cole Valley as I staggered unsteadily down Cole street, but through a combination of muscle memory and luck I somehow managed to make it to my friends’ place and rang the doorbell. They buzzed me up, where I immediately collapsed on the couch, wailing and saying I wished I was dead. And in that moment, I truly meant it. I wanted to die, because some asshole in a pickup truck almost killed me, and, more importantly, called me a fatass. Let that sink in. A dude called me fat, so I wanted to die. I almost wished he’d hit me.

My friends (a married couple, two of my best friends) were bewildered. They obviously agreed that the dude was an asshole, and they consoled me, calling me beautiful and a good person and all the great things friends say, and they were wonderful. I was so lucky that I was with them that night, because I honestly don’t know what would have happened if I’d been home alone. I don’t remember too much after finally calming down, presumably because I got really drunk. The next day I went to work as usual, if a bit hungover, (I was still at Google then) and tried to forget all about it.

I failed.

That moment occupied my thoughts for weeks, making me cry repeatedly. Even now, from time to time, I still replay that incident in my mind, and feel a huge combination of shame and anger. Ashamed that I was apparently fat enough to invite insult from a stranger who almost ran me over; angry that he’d insulted me; ashamed that I’d broken down like that and said such horrible (if true) things about suicidal ideation in front of my friends; angry that I let this guy get to me and couldn’t just brush it off. Sometimes I go weeks without thinking about it; sometimes months, but at least three to four times a year, I remember that guy and it’s like I’m standing in Cole Valley crying my heart out all over again.

Lately, I’ve been reading more and more about the body positivity movement. I think it’s a great thing, but it’s been really hard for me to internalize its messaging. The images that surround us and the expectations that are forced on us (“us” meaning mostly women, but men get this shit, too) regarding body shape, weight, and general beauty standards are out of control and pervasive. I get this. I also know, from my own experience and from #Science, that no matter how much I diet I will never be anything below a size 8, and that would be pushing it, so loving myself the way I am is the right way to go. I also know that I am not a repulsive-looking human to most people. I know that my physical health is good. I know that we are all perfect the way we are. I’ve read the blogs and watched the vlogs and am a regular commenter on feminist sites to the chagrin of bros everywhere. I know that I will be happier if I can let go of my body issues, eat well and exercise, and just let my body be what it is. I know that this will be a wonderful thing.

So why, three years later, am I still so upset about what one asshole with sub-par driving skills had to say about my body that I let it screw with my head–and my eating habits? Why does the word “fatass” still fill me with self-loathing and the urge to throw up or binge? Why do I sometimes conjure up an image of his face (though I never really got a good look at him; my subconscious has filled in the details, I guess) in my head and feel so much rage that I imagine inflicting serious physical harm on him? Seriously, I’m not kidding. I fantasize about punching him in the head, kicking him in the balls, stabbing him in the chest with a knife, shooting him between the eyes with a gun. I hate this stranger so much because he made (who am I kidding, he still makes) it easier for me to hate myself, and then I give into his words and hate myself some more. I call myself a “fatass,” and not in an affectionate, self-deprecating way. I look in the mirror at my thighs and my stomach (and this is after losing some weight over the past few years, ironically!) and cry at how much of me there is.

There are many reasons why I do this, I suppose: society is a bitch, my depression and anxiety are shitty, being a perfectionist is the worst, a history of hearing fat-phobic and sexist comments from people (men and women, but in my case especially men) my whole life has not helped. I also carry guilt for having, thinking, and once or twice even expressing similar sentiments about fat people in the past. What right do I have to let go of my feelings about this one-time incident when I’ve thought equally mean things about other people, even if it was years ago?

I wish I could overcome these barriers to self-love, but where I stand right now, even with all the reading and self-educating and therapy and life changes that I have experienced in the past three years, it is still really fucking hard. Some days, it feels impossible. For every time I eat a piece of cake and don’t care, there are four instances when I cry out of guilt over eating a piece of bread. The bad days still far outnumber the good days.

So, you may be thinking, what the fuck is even the point of this post, Jackie? Just to depress us? No. I think the point is to acknowledge, in writing, where I am and who I am right now in the “journey” of self-love. I am a girl who is still thinks that being fat is the worst thing I could be. I am a girl who sometimes eats cake and doesn’t care. I am a girl who sometimes cuts carbs and feels great about it. I am a girl who reads body positivity blogs and loves the shit out of them. I am a girl who looks in the mirror and hates herself. I am a girl who puts on my favorite black dress and thinks back to that asshole on in the white pickup truck and thinks, “He wishes he could get a piece of this fat ass!” I am the girl who still imagines punching that asshole in the stomach.

Maybe by talking about this and telling you all that I want to punch him in the stomach, I’ll be able to let some of that anger go. I don’t know; we’ll see if it works.

think, I hope, I want that my progress to date will be enough for now. I know that when I die, no one is going to give a shit about the size on my pants, or what I weighed, or whether people thought I was hot or not. No graveyard ever sports headstones reading, “She died thin!”

I will try to remember that. I will try to remember that I am enough. I hope you remember that, too.

 

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this post in the comments. xo

15 thoughts on “Fatass (A-Z Challenge)”

  1. Believe me…you’re not the only one who feels this way. There are many; you just don’t know them. I, too, have felt like this. I’ve had a hard time letting things people say go. I’ve pictured myself hurting them as well. It’s human nature–harm those who have harmed us. Hey, my Marcy book series is about killing off bad people. That’s another reason I enjoyed writing it. I had to cut back, though. I didn’t want people to think I was completely insane! 😉

    Anyway, it gets a bit easier the older you get…I mean to let things people say go. It’s hardest when you’re young. It’s also hardest when they hit you where it hurts the most. What I always try to remember is those who are the cruelest are usually the ones with the most self-esteem issues. They are unhappy, so they want to make others unhappy. I’m not saying this fact makes their comments any easier. I’m just saying it helps when I’ve calmed down and put what they said into perspective, where I dump it and them in the garbage. It also helps that I’ve almost lost my life a couple of times.

    Your friends are right;you are beautiful inside and out. Try to remember that when the “assholes” of the world insult you. I like to believe there are more good people out there than rotten, even though I know that’s sometimes hard to prove.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. this post really resonated with me (and made me tear up at this event i’m supposed to be hosting lol #work). i have so so so many thoughts, but i’ll try to keep it brief haha – you know that’s hard for me

    1. I HATE HATE HATE HATE HATE that the first thing that men do when they are confronted by a woman (whether it’s being called out for doing something stupid – like the asshole who was driving – or when you reject a guy on Tinder/Bumble/Snapdate/whatever), they always jump to critiquing a woman’s appearance because they KNOW that that is one of the most vulnerable aspects of womanhood. I hate that this world has made it so that we feel that pain and have so much anxiety around weight and beauty. I also hate that men know that and they use it to cut women down. ARG THE PATRIARCHY!

    2. (This probably should’ve been #1), but seriously – you are a beautiful person. Like outside AND in. I know that I shouldn’t have to say that and that it feeds into the whole beauty bullshit that women deal with, but honestly I’ve always thought you were gorgeous regardless of whatever size you are. And your makeup/nail game is always on point! More importantly, you are such a wonderful friend, daughter, and sister, and I’m SO happy that we’ve become so close over these past 9 years.

    3. I struggle with the same shit that you do – some days I’m like OMG YAY BODY POSITIVITY WOO HOO! and then other days, I’m like – OMG I’M A FAT COW WHO IS GOING TO DIE ALONE. It sucks, but I am happy that at least I have some days of happiness/acceptance because maybe as time goes on, there with be more of them.

    4. I am insanely interested in issues of body positivity as they relate to race and socioeconomic class. Growing up black (and with mostly POCs as friends), I don’t think I really felt bad about my body until I went to Brown and was in mostly white circles. I know that black women struggle with body image as well, but I think there’s something different about the culture. But I wonder what happens when you grow up, leave your little enclave, and you’re no longer around people who look like you. Does that make it worse than if you had grown up with those same pressures? Or is it better because deep down you have a foundation of loving yourself? I have no answers, just questions, but wanted to ramble on. lol

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    1. Omg I love all of your thoughts, thank you!

      I think #1 is part of the anger I have at myself – like, I know this random dude (who has probz killed people with his driving at this point; fucking dudes) is just using the patriarchy to his advantage and I STILL let it affect me, but I am trained to let it affect me because #patriarchy. Like FUCK THE PATRIARCHY!

      Thank you so much for #2 and you know I’m right back at you. And I knew you would get where I am coming from (re #3) because we’ve talked about it before, but thank you for saying that because it’s nice to know I’m not crazy or alone.

      And for #4 I just want to apologize for, like, white people. We suck. But seriously, it’s really a good question–where does it come from for someone in your position? And how do we keep it from happening to our own daughters? I don’t even know. I also have no answers.

      In any case, love you and your comment as usual. Good luck with #work and #event.

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  3. First of all, and as everyone has already said, you are a beautiful, magical unicorn of a being and I love you.

    Secondly, I can relate so much to these feelings (though in a different context), thinking back to an incident in high school when someone called me “a retard.” I was helping to act out scary things at a haunted house a friend of mine used to host in his backyard, and when it was my turn to lie in a grave and jump out as people walked by, these middle school aged kids looked at me and said, “oh my god, they got a real retard for this!” I was pulverized. I already had my eyes closed, but I didn’t move until a bunch of people had walked by, and I hoped none of my friends hiding in the bushes had heard them say it.

    I think about that night all the time, though it certainly wasn’t the first time I felt insecure about the way I look. I think about what people might notice about me when they first meet me, or if people I’m acquainted with don’t like me because I’m not pretty or stylish enough. I, too, have moments where I feel like “dayum I look good today!” but as much as I wish they would, they don’t outweigh my feelings of insecurity about my appearance, and more importantly, what people think of me because of it. Yes, I have been dating someone who thinks I am at least “decent-looking” (funny story, for another time), but even those reassurances don’t make me feel better about what all of those judgy people who don’t actually matter (except that they do…) think of how I look. And it’s so dumb because who cares??? I am a smart-ass, adventurous, funny woman and the people I care about and respect feel the same way about me. I have successfully run a book club for 2 and a half years, damn it! And my 7th graders love me, which is basically proof that I, too, am some kind of magical unicorn.

    In conclusion, people are shitty and we should all believe it when people who know and love us tell us we are beautiful inside and out, while at the same time not actually caring that much about our appearance because #feminism. I will say this, that people I have encountered throughout life who have nothing valuable going on inside look much less attractive to me on their outside, too. Intelligence, humor, kindness, generosity – these are true things of beauty that only make your outside more magnificent. Thanks for sharing your magnificence with me! ❤

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Addendum – why do people seem to think that people who are intellectually challenged look a certain way?? That doesn’t even make sense! The most intellectually challenged people I am aware of just look like Trump supporters, after all!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. LOL so true. It’s almost hard to pick them out of a crowd–luckily, they’re always wearing some sort of racist message on a t-shirt so it helps when you want to avoid them!

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    2. I’m so sorry those kids were assholes, and that adults can be, too. You are also a magnificent unicorn, as I hope you know, and I am lucky to know you.

      It is so hard, I agree, to reconcile our genuine passion for #feminism with real insecurities. The conflict is a product of a society that is mostly programmed to make women (and men, too, but still mainly women) feel like shit about their looks so they’ll buy a bunch of products to lose weight or fix their skin/hair/eyes/breasts/hands/whatever to be “acceptable.” It’s a rigged game that no one wins because everyone gets older, and “old” is definitely not part of the beauty ideal our culture holds up for all to admire!

      Ultimately, as you say, we have to focus on what’s on the inside–and I agree that people who are kind and great and wonderful are always more physically beautiful to me than the most conventionally “gorgeous” person who is actually an asshole. I am lucky to know so many gorgeous people whose true beauty, vs. prettiness as demanded by society, comes from within–and you are among them 🙂

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  4. I have been thinking about this a lot lately. One of the reasons I started my blog was to look at myself more positively. I spent so much of my life hating myself and how I look; now I do a blog that features pictures of myself. It’s very empowering. But, yes, I still struggle with my self-esteem every single day. It’s good to talk about this, though. I don’t have any words of wisdom, unfortunately.

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  5. My husbandso brother called me fat once and it hurts because he knows I’m sensitive about it. He knew I was working out everyday because I lived with him. He said it to hurt me. I’ve tried to let it go but it’s hard. He said I was a fat bitch in a comment on facebook. I’m definitely not a bitch and didn’t say anything to him to deserve that. No body deserves to be called names. I also think that the word fat has become the worst thing you can call a girl but why? Is being fat really that ugly? I think bigger girls can be just as sexy as thinner girls. I want to let go of what he said but it’s hard. I totally get what you are going through.

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    1. Wow, your husband’s brother sounds like a mean and unhappy person. I’m sorry he was so mean to you. I know what you mean; it’s hard to let go. I have to say, since I wrote this blog post I’ve been feeling better about myself… Sometimes, I think taking about it helps. “Fat” should just be a descriptor, not an insult, and I’d rather be fat than cruel or rude. Your brother in law is the one who should feel bad about himself! I hope this can heal and that this post helps you in some way, and thanks for sharing your thoughts on it. ❤

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      1. Yeah fat doesn’t make you a bad person and everyone had a different definition of “fat” I’ve been called fat twice in my life and it hurt. I’ve also been called beautiful and hot more times than I can count but I’ve been ignoring it. We tend to minimize compliments as girls and we shouldn’t. I loved your post and it did help me. I feel better today than when. I wrote that last comment. Baby steps 🙂

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