- Fat (adjective) having a lot of extra flesh on your body 2. having a lot of body fat 3. having a full, rounded form 4. unusually wide or thick
God, those definitions are depressing, especially that last one!
I remember the first time someone called me “fat.” I was in third grade, and we had scoliosis screenings at school. We had to strip to the waist and nurses would do an evaluation. This was in the 80s and since the jackwads who ran my elementary school had absolutely no consideration for our emotional well-being, us girls were corralled into the ladies’ room and we had to disrobe in front of each other.
I was bigger and more developed than the girls in my class. I didn’t have a bra yet, so imagine the sheer horror of having to be in that line.
“Wow, Ann, you’re fat!” Molly Matisons loudly declared to the chuckles of my classmates.
Tears fell down my face as I turned scarlet and tried to cover myself with my arms. The nurse only snapped at me, “Don’t move! You need to have good posture for the scoliosis test!”
That was the beginning of a long relationship I’ve had with that word. Originally this post was going to be about reclaiming the word “fat.” But the more I thought about it, the more I realized I wanted to talk about the word and what it did to my self-esteem.
Unfortunately that incident in third grade wasn’t the last time I was called fat. My high school bully Brandon – abuser is a far more accurate word – called me fat almost every day I had class with him freshman year. It didn’t matter how many people told me I looked nice on any given day in high school. All I heard was his voice echoing in my mind:
“You are a fat bitch.”
Much has been written about the psychology of the developing female mind, but I’m not going to cite any. I’m not a trained psychologist. All I know is what I have observed in my own life and what I witnessed during my years as a classroom teacher. It all boils down to a pretty simple principle.
Sticks and stones may break your bones, but words leave deep, invisible scars that never heal.
The rational part of me knows I was an extremely sensitive child. I know the scoliosis incident was 30 years ago and high school is also a distant memory. I wish I had thicker skin, but I didn’t.
It’s also not fair to blame the nine-year-old or fifteen-year-old me for taking those words to heart and letting them become my reality for the next 20 years. I was just a kid. Molly and Brandon, even though they were kids just like me, knew what they were saying. They also knew it would cut me to the core and I would give the reaction they were looking for.
That makes me careful about what I say around kids nowadays. I don’t interact much with them since I left the classroom, but I see my goddaughter every week and kids come into my office almost every day. While I’m not perfect, I try to engage them in conversation about their likes and interests, not about what they look like, even if they are super cute. I want them to know people care about more than what is on the surface.
And my goddaughter is 11. I really try not to call anyone fat when we watch TV together. We will talk about people making poor choices that make the sitcom/reality show amusing, but laughing at someone for being fat is off the table. Middle school is rough as it is, and I don’t need her absorbing that dialogue to use someone’s weight as a means to judge their character.
Is there anything someone said that sticks with you even today – for better or worse? Comment below!