As I mentioned on my first post on this blog, I've been overweight all of my life. What has come with that is the fact that I have been the victim of some pretty cruel comments for as long as I can remember. They've come from strangers, from classmates, from those who are supposed to care about me... And I know that these comments, these horrible things that people have said, have stuck with me forever. And when I'm really feeling down, these are the voices that are loudest in my head.
I joke sometimes about my lack of success with men and I often call myself "undateable" in a self-deprecating but jovial way.... but the truth is, that's the way I really feel. I've gotten so much negative feedback in my life about how I look, and I really can't think of any positive feedback I've ever received from men. Sure, my gal pals are great about telling me when I look cute, or when an outfit is really looking good on me, but I've never heard it from a man. Ever. This is me, the girl who's never been asked out. So the random, cruel comments plus my 30 years of zero positive physical attention from men have added up to me being just a basket case when it comes to my own self-esteem and self-image. I may be the totally confident Miss Independent type in my career and activities and stuff, but in this particular area of my life, I'm terrified.
In the hopes that holding these cruelties up to the light will make them less scary, and less powerful, I thought I'd give you a vivid history, the full tour, of my own demons. And let me say at the outset, I'm not looking for a pity party here. Sympathy is appreciated, but I'd rather have solidarity. And offers of beating people up would be welcome, as well. I know my story is not unique, that unfortunately lots of people experience this. I've never shared these stories with anyone. So blog world....Buckle up, here we go:
- In fifth grade, this stupid kid Larry decided to tell everyone - both in front of me and behind my back for months - that the reason I was so fat was because I was pregnant. This is the first time I remember coming home from school crying.
- High school was filled with mean girls just randomly walking by my locker and saying "Lose some weight, fatso!" kind of comments, all the time.
- In college (this one is hard), my whole floor of freshman girls went to my roommate's house for dinner, and her mom took a big group picture of us. I was in the front of the picture so you could see me clearly. Sometime later that semester, I was in the group bathroom but could hear these loud drunk guys in one of the girls' rooms (whom I thought had been my friends). They were obviously looking at pictures, and I heard them say "Wow, look at Stefanie, she's so fat!" That hurt, but I tried to put it out of my mind. The next day, a girl I knew in my anthropology class came to me at the end of class and said "Why is there a picture of you up in the dorm?" I was confused but terrified, thinking the worst. I ran back to the dorm and looked, and there it was. On the door to our wing of the building, they had taped up a perfect cut-out of me from that picture. There was no caption or anything, just a little me taped to the door that hundreds of people had already walked through. I ripped it down as fast as I could. People asked me about it for days, and I was the only one who knew who had done it and what their conversation had been.
- My friends and I were out at Denny's one night, just having a good time talking and laughing. An angry girl who'd been sitting at another table got up to leave, and shen she passed by she said "Shut up, fat cow." For no reason.
- I was out with grad school friends at a cheesy club in Pittsburgh, standing in line for the bathroom. I could hear some of the hair-gelled guys in line across from me going through the whole line of women talking about who they'd *do* - when they got to me, I heard one say "Ugh, the fat one? Never in a million years."
- Also in Pittsburgh -- I was standing waiting for the bus after work one day, when a guy came up to the group of people and started asking for money. When he got to me, I said "no, sorry" - the usual. And he got very close into my face and said, loudly, "Why are you so fat? You could stop spending money on food for a change."
- When Mom and I went to San Francisco, we were walking around the city. There was a homeless guy walking towards us, looking the total part of the crazy wacko. He was yammering away at the universe until he got right up close to us, when he turned and said to me as clear as day "Why don't you stop eating and lose some weight?" And then he went back to yammering. The worst part was that my Mom didn't hear him but was curious and she kept asking me "What did he say to you? What did he say?" And there was no way I would go through the indignity of telling her what he actually said.
Okay, so these are all pretty much strangers or acquaintances. Cruel, yes, but not personally so cuz most of them I didn't know or care what they thought. The ones that really hurt are the ones that come from the people who were *supposed* to care about me and not want to see me in pain:
- About 5 years ago, in what we all now agree was a very angry phase of his life, little bro and I got into a stupid fight on the phone about, of all things, Good Will Hunting. It was just a dumb fight that escalated into sibling rivalry barbs. But after I said some kind of "oh, whatever" comment, he said "shut up, you fat fucking bitch." Oh, that hurt. My bro and I have had our moments of fighting, but as adults for the most part we've been really close. But that one was close to unforgivable. Because of shock, anger, regret, distance, and awkwardness, we didn't talk for a year after he said that. I heard from my Mom all the time about how he was saying he'd done something horrible and felt bad, but didn't know how to apologize because he felt so bad. It ended up just getting swept under the rug the next time we got together for a family holiday, cuz I couldn't NOT speak to him. We're close again, but we've never talked about it since.
- And then, the current killer... About 2 years ago, the man I was most recently in love with said to me, repeatedly, in several different ways.... "Stef, you're the perfect woman. I would marry you in a heartbeat, but I don't find you physically attractive at all." That threw me off a cliff of sorts, and most days, I'm still falling.
I'm gonna publish this, I've decided. What the heck - maybe it'll give others the opportunity to get something off their chest? If you talk about these things, and shine the spotlight on them, maybe they'll keep getting smaller until they just fall away....