I am fat.
I have always been fat.
When I was a chunky toddler people would tell my mom how cute I was and she had my picture taken at the fancy photo studios in the department stores. She took endless pictures of my cute dimpled ass as I raced across the living room. She filmed me eating cake. She rewarded me with candy for good deeds.
When I was a fat child people began to tell my mother I would become obese soon if she didn’t do something. She would pat my hand when people were thoughtless. She would buy me ice cream sundays to help me to feel better. When I was 7 she took me to Sears to have my picture done in a pink dress that looked like a dollop of strawberry icing with my red hair all done up in banana curls like Nelly from "Little House On the Prairie". I remember wearing white patent leather Mary Janes and holding my mama’s hand as we went through the store. I remember thinking I looked exactly like Nelly from "Little House on the Prairie", only better, on account of Nelly being such a wicked child and I had just helped watch my little sister that very morning.
When we got to the studio another mother was in front of us with her own daughter who looked like a real-live princess in her white satin dress with the big pink bow in the back. She didn’t have banana curls in her brown hair, it was instead naturally curly and ran all down her back all the way to that big pink bow. I think that was my first pang of female jealousy. She was a slight girl with a light dusting of freckles and I had wild red hair and suddenly I could feel the rolls of fat underneath my strawberry frosting dress. When she looked at me, I smiled. I said “Do you want to be friends?”. She just turned to her mother and whispered “fat”.
My mama never had my picture done again.
When I was a fat teenager, I was still popular. I had lots of friends and people didn’t pick on me like in the movies. I made sure to be available to my friends for whatever they needed. I kept lip gloss and extra money in my purse and extra pencils and pens in my locker alongside my diet pills and my gum and my empty candy wrappers. I smoked cigarettes when it was cool. I drove them all wherever they wanted to go. I snuck out of the house in the middle of the night. I debased myself and made them laugh. But they were friends. They weren’t laughing at me, they were laughing with me.
In my junior year I got a boyfriend. His name was Evan and he was fat too. Everyone thought we were the perfect couple. Evan liked to pinch my double chin and share diet tips with me. After 3 months of being a couple he forced himself on me in his parent’s den one afternoon when we were skipping school. I ran home with bare feet and called my best friend Patty. When I told her what happened she told me she was glad I got laid. She said I should go to the drug store and get a test just in case.
I did. When I tested three weeks later it was negative.
I went to prom with Evan.
My mama decided to practice tough love with me. She began to install pad locks on the pantry doors and wrote down everything I ate. She took me to the fat doctor and he put me a strict diet. My mama told me, “Fat girls don’t get husbands.” She told me, “If you don’t lose weight, you’ll die.”
I stopped eating.
When I was fat young adult I grew to hate women. I hated my mother the most of all. I hated them for using me and for not standing up for me when I needed them most. I hated women because I was one and I hated ME. I went on crash diets, I drank away the pain, I dated men who hated me.
I abused myself.
Now, I’m still a fat adult. I’ve gone to therapy, I’ve had surgery, I’ve gone to therapy again. I’ve lost over 120 pounds and on the outside, I’m not a fat girl at all. On the outside, I’m one of them. I’m a skinny girl. Inside though, there she is. The fat girl still lives there and I know I need to make peace with her.
These days I have friends who are women. Some, like me, are fat girls. Some are ugly girls, some are nerdy girls, some have buck teeth or thick glasses or big feet. Some are beautiful and have never, ever been a fat girl. I am learning to live with myself, with help from these women. I hope someday to finally look in the mirror and just say:
“There I am. Just me.”
Personal account submitted by a Jane Doe in Birmingham, Alabama, written with cooperation by Mellissa Ybarra.