Nope, that’s not a typo. I’m not here to talk about fat shame (or shaming). I’m here to make a confession.
I’m a fat sham.
Obviously, I am fat. There’s no denying that. That’s not what I mean. I just don’t feel like I really fit in with the big girl culture. All I’ve done is become gradually more and more sedentary, failed to watch what I eat, and have therefore gained weight over the years.
Recently I have been involved online with various Facebook groups and pages which promote – and rightly so – equality for those of us who weigh more than the medical professionals would prefer. And I’m still on board with that, but through these I’ve discovered that a large percentage of people who find themselves overweight in adulthood can trace it back to various things from earlier in their life, be it right back to childhood or something at the start of adulthood.
This is where my sham-dom starts to show itself as I can blame nothing (that I am consciously aware of) from my childhood or teen years. My childhood was not perfect, of course, but I had no major traumas or upsets, and no bullying save some minor stuff for a couple of years, and that wasn’t about my weight anyway (I see now that I was average weight and size, or not far above it, throughout school even though I didn’t think so as a teenager).
Neither do I view myself negatively, like a lot of my plus-size peers do. My body, yes, but what’s on the inside? No. I think I’m a pretty decent person, if I might make so bold. Sure, I have faults, neuroses and raw nerves as much as the next person, but do I hate myself for them? No – it’s just all part of who I am.
My weight only started to creep up once I went to university at age 18 and, as far as I know, it’s purely down to the two reasons I cited above. Sure, I never had much luck with boys and I always attributed that to the fact that I was big – even though I know now that I wasn’t – but other than that nothing happened to shake my confidence (although perhaps this was enough as it happened in those fragile teen years), and certainly never had any attacks made on me due to my weight.
And that brings me to the reason I am writing this.
Recently, I have seen a BuzzFeed post doing the rounds called “15 things every ‘big’ girl is tired of hearing”. You can read it here, if you wish to do so.
I duly clicked on the link posted by friends, expecting to nod and sigh my way through it. But on reading it I was surprised (and pleased, I have to admit) at how little of it I could relate to, and it got me thinking. Am I really fully qualified to class myself as a Fat Woman, and am I really the right person to shout from the rooftops about how we should all love our bodies and to hell with what other folk think, say or do? Or am I just overweight and need to do something about it?
Let me illustrate this by using the points in that post.
1. “Have you ever thought about Nutrisystem…or some other diet?”
Nope. No-one has ever said this to me, apart from an occasional doctor saying I need to lose weight. (No shit, Sherlock!).
2. “Are you wearing that?”
I’ve never been asked this.
3. “You’re going to be huge when you’re pregnant!”
Another “no shit, Sherlock” response here. That is if I’d ever had to use it.
4. “Do you even exercise?”
I’ve never been asked this either.
5. “You are too young to be so overweight.”
There are age limits on this now? But again, I’ve never been put in the position to retort.
6. “If you cut your hair too short, it will make your face look bigger.”
The closest I’ve ever had to this is a hairdresser telling me that going too short wouldn’t suit my face shape. Now, to be fair, that could have been a tactful way of saying my face was (is) too fat for very short hair, but I’d like to think they’d be as honest with a slim person if a style wasn’t going to suit them either – but that could be wishful thinking on my part. (But to be honest, I’d rather be given an opinion like this from someone who know what they’re talking about, and if I’d still wanted to go very short with my hair, I could have insisted, but I opted to trust their judgement in this scenario.)
7. “Do you have to shop at the “fat girl” stores?”
This is probably so self-explanatory that no-one has felt the need to ask!
8. “I don’t believe that you ever eat healthy.”
Luckily, most people I associate with aren’t the healthiest of eaters either, so I don’t get this sort of thing said to me!
9. “Black is a good colour on you. It’s slimming.”
I’ve never had this said to me personally, but society has always deemed black to be slimming and so I, along with a lot of others, adopted it as my main colour.
10. “You were much skinnier in high school.”
This is very true, but no-one has yet pointed it out.
11. “Are you pregnant?”
I’ve been asked this once by a “delightful” eight year old girl when I was working as a teaching assistant, but as she was the same person who, on a particularly windy day out in the playground, informed me that my hair looked like straw I opted not to take her comments to heart!
12. “Is it harder for you to date because of your size?”
You’d really have to ask the men who are busy not asking me out on dates.
13. “Skinny girls can get away with that, but you can’t.”
Assuming this means fashion, then fine. Skinny people DO suit some styles better than non-skinny people. But I support everyone’s right to wear whatever they want and not be criticized for it. Again, I have yet to have this said to me personally.
14. “Aren’t you scared your health may be at risk?”
This is another thing that a doctor has said in the past – although not as a question. Just a statement that it IS at risk, and fair enough. Being overweight does put me in to various “at risk” categories, and there’s no getting away from it.
15. “Are you happy with the way you look?”
Since you ask (which no-one has), no I’m not. But that’s my business, no-one else’s. In fact, this another thing that makes me a traitor to the cause – I’m big and I don’t like it. I’m supposed not to care, to flaunt my curves, but I do care, and I’m not flaunting anything! You can read more of my musings on this in a previous blog post.
So you see, based on this evidence I don’t really qualify as a big girl. And don’t get me wrong, I’m thankful that I haven’t encountered people rude or ignorant enough to say these things to me, and I hope I never do. But is it really my place, however much I believe in the cause, as one who has never really suffered the brunt of society and it’s prejudices, to tell those who have that they should ignore the haters and move on? To learn to love themselves, and whatnot?
Because I’m really not sure that it is.