Fat-shaming is a topic I wish I had discovered in elementary school. I wish I had known that there were fat-positive people out there, and I wish bullying was addressed as a problem and not an acceptable byproduct of a “problem.”
I had a conversation with my dad about two years ago in which we debated whether or not it was okay to detect deficiencies during pregnancy, which turned into a conversation about genetically modifying one’s child.
As the conversation escalated, I asked my dad if, had he known how being fat would affect my life, if he would have changed me before I was born.
He said yes. Absolutely.
I was shocked. While being fat had been the source of a lot of pain growing up, it had shaped everything about me. My sense of humour, my compassion, my politics, and my values would all be different, I was sure, if I hadn’t gone through those traumatic events in my past.
I understand every parents desire to want the best life for their children and to protect them from harm or social scrutiny. I get it, I really do.
But I can’t ever imagine looking my kid in the eye and telling them I would have changed them if I could. And I don’t think that’s what my dad was saying. I think his reaction is what any parent is unfortunately forced to choose when a society refuses to fit its people, and instead expects its people to fit it.
I believe that because I don’t think my dad could have known how much being fat has affected my life. All he has seen is a bunch of ignorant 10 year olds pushing a fat kid off the bus, or stabbing her in the hands for being a “fat know it all,” or ostracizing her during gym class and birthday parties.
And how could he know? Being fat has made me hide both my thoughts and myself.
Being fat is something that is going to affect me for the rest of my life. I will always have days where I don’t want to leave my apartment or go to a party because I don’t want to be seen. I will always have in the back of my mind a constant visual of what I look like which will control every move I make. I don’t think I will ever feel free in a bathing suit and I will always think twice about what other people are thinking.
I know all of this because it has already affected my entire life. I have held back from joining sports teams or going to pool parties. I have said no to going to clubs and I’ve said no to eating. After all, the image of a fat person is that they eat and eat and eat. If no one saw me eating, my fatness couldn’t be ascribed to a lack of willpower to stop or consume like a “normal” fat person. My fatness would have been deemed a thyroid problem, or genetic. And sympathy was a far more attractive response than anger or ridicule.
I am not a passive bystander in my fatness. As my main interests include reading and writing, my passions have involved an active mind more than an active body.
But I have not always been a passive fat person, either. I enjoy hiking, swimming, camping and dancing. In high school, after years of torment, I entered Seventeen magazine’s reader model contest and was selected as the only plus-size finalist (if a size 12 can be considered plus-size). My picture in that magazine was, to me, a giant laughing billboard to anyone who had ever tormented me. And I got to laugh along at those who felt tormented by a showcasing (and dare I say, acceptance), of a bigger body.
Would I change my child if they turned out to be fat? To be honest, I don’t know. I can’t guarantee that they will brush off daydreams of self harm like I did, if they will stop themselves before their eating habits turned into a full-blown disorder, or if they will rise above bullies instead of turning into one themselves.
What I do know, is that I wouldn’t change myself or my fatness, and, for now, that’s enough of an answer for me.