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.
Jeanette DePatie (AKA The Fat Chick)