Tag Archives: verbal abuse

Sticks and Stones May Break Your Bones But Words Can Hurt You Forever

I was recently having lunch with a beautiful and talented young woman, one who was enrolled in a good school getting a professional degree at a good school, who had a wonderful boyfriend who adored her, who was working at a decent job to help pay her school bills and is kind.  I was somewhat surprised when I heard this woman say that she had seen a television commercial showing a lazy chubby young boy, calling his grandma on the phone to ask her to bring something to him from the other room.  Not surprised that she had something to say.  But rather surprised that she had something so vicious to say about that pudgy, fat kid.  That if she was that fatty’s parent, she would smack him.  I was surprised not only because this seemed a little out of character for her, but also because she knew very well about my work as The Fat Chick and my views on this subject.  She went on to say, she used to be thin but then this happened (pointing to her stomach) and this happened (pointing to her butt).  I told her that she was of course beautiful, and further more, she was under no obligation to look any particular way for anybody’s approval.  Then she burst into tears.  At a recent family gathering, a close family member of hers had commented about whether or not she should wear a bikini and whether or not she would keep her boyfriend in light of her current weight.  She was devastated.  She didn’t eat for the rest of the day until her worried boyfriend brought her some food and asked her please to eat something.  Apparently this same family member had given her grief some time before for not eating, for being too skinny and suspecting she had an eating disorder.

As I talked her through the pain and drama, my heart was in my throat.  It brought me right back.  I was 15 again and listening to haranguing by family friends and family members about my weight.  About how I would never find a man, or if I found one, he would cheat on me and ultimately leave me because who wants to be with a fatty.  I was listening to people constantly asking if I “needed to eat that?” if I was sure I “should wear that?” and if I knew “what I looked like?”.  I was there with the constant self doubt, the devastating and crippling crash in self confidence, the firm desire to wait until I looked the right way to pursue the life I wanted.  I remembered how many years I wasted, obsessed about the size of my weight.  And I got monumentally pissed off.

How dare people do this to aspiring young women with so much to give in the world.  How DARE they pass off their insecurities and bullying as concern for a woman’s well being.  HOW DARE THEY?  Once my little PTSD moment passed, I told my friend in no uncertain terms that if people feel the need to spread their own insecurities around this way, it is her job to tell them to stuff it.  She is the gatekeeper for her own soul.  She gets to decide who she lets in.  And perhaps, if people are going to behave in such a toxic way, they don’t get to talk to her any more.  Not until they learn how to behave.

I honestly don’t know if she will find my comments helpful.  But I sincerely hope she does.  Because the world needs bright, young, talented, kind young people.  And it would be sad to think they won’t leave their house and make their way in the world because of how somebody feels about how they look in a bikini.

Love,

Jeanette DePatie (AKA The Fat Chick)

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All the Comebacks We’ll Never Say

TRIGGER WARNING: I’m going to talk about verbal abuse.

So I don’t know if you got a chance to see this, but it’s pretty awesome. Chelsea Handler lays a stupid kind of mean spirited fat joke on Andy Richter and BOOM, he comes back with an amazing zinger that not only puts Chelsea in her place, but gets Conan laughing his fool head off. If you haven’t clicked on the video click at the top of the page yet, go click it. I’ll wait.

See??? BOOM! I mean, don’t you wish you could come back like this when somebody says something mean or stupid or obliquely snide to you about the size of your body? I wish I could. Usually I do, in my head, 20 minutes later. In the moment however, I don’t often come up with something wonderful and witty to say. I guess now, even after it’s happened to me and all my friends and colleagues so many times, I am still surprised. Afterwards I’m not surprised at all. But in the moment, especially when a complete stranger decides to comment on my body, there’s often that moment of shock. I’m not talking about when people make rude comments to each other about me so I can hear them, or make obnoxious mooing sounds, or shout things across the street. I’m talking about when people confront me directly and say mean, stupid or downright horrible things. There is still a moment of shock. Still a feeling of violation. I feel it in my body like a punch to the gut. And often I’m standing there, mouth flapping open and closed like a recently caught fish wondering WHY a person who doesn’t know me, who has no reason to hate me just threw verbal poo at my head. Sometimes I am able to recover sufficiently to say something reasonably intelligent, and sometimes I just walk away shaking my head. But it’s safe to say, I’m almost never as quick on my feet as good old Andy Richter up there.

Now I am a professional speaker. I have had extensive training in speaking off the cuff. I’ve studied improvisational theater. So I often feel I should have been come up with something witty to say. And so the verbal beating I have taken from a complete stranger is often followed by me beating myself up for not handling the situation better. I find myself, after the fact, reliving the confrontation, calculating and discarding dozens of “comebacks” or “burns” I should have used and feeling battered and miserable.

I’m telling you this because I want you to know. I want to share that even though I’ve been in the space of body love and size acceptance for decades, and even though I’ve been in public debates and had speech training and have given literally hundreds of public talks, I don’t always have a witty comeback when somebody publicly attacks me. I’m telling you this because I am trying to learn to focus my anger where it belongs–not at myself for failing to “burn” somebody who is mean to me, but at the person who was being mean to me! I tell you this, because you may be one of the millions of other people in this world who do not have a witty comeback ready when somebody is mean to you. And I want you to know that’s okay. We all love the fact that Andy Richter can come back at Chelsea that way. We cheer because he does something we all wish we could do in the moment that somebody is mean to us–execute the perfect, 10-point, sustained audience laughter burn. But I want to suggest that we can appreciate Andy’s talent while at the same time relieving ourselves of the responsibility to be him.  And I want to suggest that maybe instead of beating ourselves up for not being funny in the face of cruelty, we should focus our anger outwards and self care and love inwards.  Just a thought.

Love,

Jeanette DePatie (AKA The Fat Chick)

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