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.
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.
I 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