Name Calling

Lately, my life has been one big ball of emotion. Most days I feel good, excited about what’s coming, filled with that kind of scary anticipation that makes your heart beat faster and your knees weak. There are down days, days when my overactive imagination and my tendency to analyze and internalize every little thing backfires and I’m left with a churning stomach of worry and doubt. But that’s just me, and that passes. It’s the drawback to being so emotionally connected to everything I do. But outside of that, things are overwhelmingly positive. And the positive attitude and excitement about my general life direction gives me the space and calm to write down things that I might otherwise let simmer in my head and drive me crazy. So here we go. That was a just a general status update and introduction. On to the heart of this, which not surprisingly came together one day when I was scrolling on Twitter.

I follow a page on Twitter (I’m pretty sure it’s run by a guy) called PostBigFines. The purpose of this page is to post pictures and show appreciation for plus size girls. There’s a little that gets lost in translation because the term “fine” is completely subjective and firmly in the eyes of whomever is looking at the picture at that particular time. It also furthers the example of men wielding the power of deciding beauty and judging who belongs in said category, not to mention that some people are just mean and don’t know how to live and let live and just ignore things that aren’t their preference. But on the whole, I think the heart of it is in the right place. The women on this page are gorgeous, with awesome outfits and great hair and flawless makeup. They range from the slightly thick-thighed to the all around chubby and I have secret girl crushes on a lot of them. The pictures show a sex appeal and confidence that radiates… it makes me happy. It makes me envious. Anyway, the reason I bring them up is because I was reading an editorial/ blog by a girl named Sesali B (@BadFatBlackGirl on Twitter) who was expressing her own opinion on the page and the overall acceptance of womens’ bodies on a broader scale. When I read what she wrote, I found her on Twitter and followed her immediately (I think that’s the absolute beauty of Twitter. There are so many people to learn from). Anyway, I was happy when I saw her page and her thoughts because one of the first things she said was that she was a “self-identified fat girl.” That almost made me jump for joy inside a little. Why, you ask? Because I’ve been one and I’ve been told it’s not a good thing.

Now, before I start I already know most of what people are going to want to tell me about validation and how you almost never need it from other people the way you think you do. I also know that having this stem from inside me reveals issues within myself that I need to reconcile–and I will. But back to this “fat girl” thing. It always struck me as funny that I looked at something as a triumph and other people could see it as a failure.

I’ve been this size for a while. And I’ve been plus-size my entire adult life. So there isn’t a fat joke I haven’t heard, or a name I haven’t been called. I’ve gotten the side eye at buffets and been afraid to post my meals because I didn’t want people to think that all I did was eat. I’ve been through ALL of that. And it’s not over, because the insensitivity and meanness of people doesn’t go away. Everyone has something they want to keep inside. Something that’s so personal to them they want to hide it. But being fat? There’s no way for me to hide that. Can you imagine? One of the biggest sources of pain I’ve ever had in my life is something I can’t hide. And that’s why I take the rest of my weight manifestations so personally. I keep the mental and emotional sides close to the chest. I don’t talk about it, I don’t want to. I don’t post pictures of green smoothies, and before and after shots, and talk about my exercise classes. And it’s not because I’m ashamed, or sad. It’s because I want to have SOMETHING for myself. Because my thighs, and stomach are out there constantly for the world to see. Not being able to run far or fast, losing my breath–those are all physical manifestations that everyone can see ALL THE TIME. There’s no way for me to get away from it. So I decided that the rest… was my business.

Now, the other part of this was that years ago I wanted to take back some of the power I had given all the mean people who made fun of my weight. And my mother told me that the only way to do that was to embrace it. See myself as beautiful, see myself as valuable. Own whatever I am, and be proud of it. Be amazing at it. That day, I became a “fat girl.” Confidence has always been a struggle for me and my weight was always a part of that. So I wanted to make that better, ease that burden. I wanted to feel like whatever I am, no matter what it is, is great. So when people called me fat, I responded with, “And?” I went to college and met my best friends, most of whom are the sexiest, most amazing plus girls I’ve ever met. My Stinky, my best friend Dana, used to say, “I’m fat, all my friends are fat and we like it.” We even gave our skinny friend Nikki honorary “fat girl” status because of her bond with us (and because she can eat most grown men under the table). That felt amazing to me. And I realized it was because I was confident. I embraced myself. I owned the word and as long as I did that, no one ever hurt me with it. And that radiated. It showed. Because college was the place I got more male attention that I’d ever had in my life. It was the place I found myself. It’s still the best time of my life. My world view was bigger and I felt better.

Anyway, fast forward to some years later and that self-identifier has become both a gift and a curse. Because I expanded my circle of friends and this is not college. I’ve been told in more recent years that me saying I’m a “fat girl” is a way of putting myself down and that I should stop. I’ve been told that it stems from an inner self esteem issue and that I need to get to the root of it because that’s what’s ultimately affecting my somewhat stale love life. My brother literally cringes when he hears me say it. And then he’s angry with me afterwards for referencing myself that way. He can’t stand it. And before I knew it, I was under the influence of everyone around me and  “fat” was making me feel bad again. I can’t call myself a “fat girl” because then I get a lecture about putting myself down. And then I wonder if I really am. I start to think about my self-esteem. And I can’t use Dana’s language about “all my friends being fat”, even though many of them are in fact thicker or plus sized–because THEY don’t like it. They don’t want to be seen as fat.  “Fat” is bad to them. It’s a curse word. It’s the opposite of good. Now I’ve noticed that a lot of them don’t mind being “thick” girls, because for some reason, that’s better. I don’t see it. To me, “thick” just means you have one thing on your body that’s fat, instead of multiple things.

My thing is… I don’t want to feel like that about a WORD. I’m a writer. I know words have power. But how can I ever be effective at learning and sharing as many perspectives as possible if ONE word can cripple me? I don’t want to “fat” to be my heart breaker. That doesn’t make any sense to me. I liked being a “fat girl.” I liked having “fat girl” friends. I liked that the word didn’t hurt anymore. And lately I feel like I’m surrounded by people who have been projecting the hurt and meanness and negativity that “fat” makes THEM feel, onto me. But I’ve had my turn with that. I didn’t have a baby, or a life crisis or a bad relationship and then suddenly put on some weight. I’ve been fat since I was ten years old. So I’ve had quite enough years cozied up with other people’s negative projection of the word. AND I DON’T WANT THAT ANYMORE. Time for get my own perspective back. And be proud of the moves I’ve made. This fat girl’s doing pretty okay for herself…

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