Tuesday, January 10, 2006


Disclaimer: This post falls into the "blogging as therapy" category. And I'm seriously still debating whether or not I will actually hit publish at the end of this. You'll find out. But, consider yourself given a heads up that this isn't a fun one.

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.
Ugh, that last one. That crushed me. How do you recover from something like that? That's not a rhetorical question. Seriously, how do you recover? I haven't figured it out yet.

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....


Velvet said...

God Damned it. This is heartbreaking. I hate that people can be this mean, and I can only say that people always get what they deserve. And I'm not just saying that - they really do. I've yet to see it happen that someone gets off easy when they've been a total prick.

Re: the man you loved. Body type is only part of physical attraction. This is a chemistry thing too, so don't beat yourself up about it.

The best revenge is to get yourself where you want to be, then let them eat their hearts out. I play with the same 15 lbs over and over, I know what a beating your ego takes when you are on the high end of the scale.

Keep it up. Don't look back.

Ashley said...

Hey sweetie -

Found your site through the 50+ message boards a few days ago, and I'm catching up on your posts.

Thanks for baring a bit of your soul - it was very healing for me to read that others have gone through similar experiences.

You are worth far more than their hurtful comments indicate. Keep taking it one day at a time and take the time to allow yourself to heal.

Stef said...

Velvet: Thanks for the reminder to not look back. And I hope that karma does work its magic, cuz some of those people do deserve a little bitch-slapping.

Ashley: Welcome! I love that WW Board - sometime soon I'll blog just about the boards in general. I'm glad that my post could be helpful for you. It's such an unfortunately common experience, but I hope that at least it makes people feel better to know that there are others out there who've learned how to cope with the same thing.

And to my offline commenter -- thanks, chickie. I'd gladly accept the offer of beating somebody up,(you know who) and know that I'll serve as your posse whenever needed. Tea and a chat sound good.... soon??? :-)

Mandy said...

A lot of people really, really suck. I just don't know what else to say about that, but people's cruelty is just astonishing sometimes. I agree with Velvet that appearance is only part of physical attraction, and what he said was unbelievably cruel (but you already know I think that). Someone who would say what he said either didn't really love you, or doesn't know how to love anyone. Either way, you're so much better than that, and *deserve* so much better than that.

I know it's a lot easier said than done, but you're so accomplished in so many areas of your life, please don't define yourself by the parts that are still a work in progress - we *all* have parts that are still a work in progress.

Thanks for putting all that out there - you're a much braver woman than I am.

onyah said...

I've gotten the "just not physically attracted to you" comment before, and what helped me was to think about all the guys I know who are smart and clever and wonderful, but just don't turn me on. I think they're adorable, just not for me. Think of the affection you feel for such guys - and imagine it turned on you. Seems a lot less cruel, right?

Wanna hear my #1 fatkid trauma story? My mom and I were in the car one day, and she was pleading with me to go on WW with her, and I was trying to say that I was happy with the way I looked and didn't see a reason to lose weight. And in the interest of giving me a reason, my mom told me that my dad (one of those naturally skinny people) had told her he was ashamed to be seen with me in public. Ahhh... parenting. It taught me a lot about what NOT to say to my own children someday!

green_canary said...

NOTHING good (in my experience) has ever come out of Pittsburgh. I had my fair share of humiliation in that city myself, and left after my first year at Pitt broken into a million pieces. Therefore, I support ignoring anything having to do with Pittsburgh or its surrounding communities.

People are cruel and mostly for no reason other than to make themselves feel better. This is why I maintain a sneering demeanor - it's preemptive :-)

I think you're pretty awesome, and will gladly beat the holy living crud out of anyone you want. I happen to have a killer left jab. Woo woo!

Merujo said...

A few years ago, I was in Georgetown with a friend visiting from overseas. It just happened to be graduation day for Georgetown Medical School. I'm fat. Very fat, for the record.

My friend and I were getting out of my car to go have lunch somewhere right off of M Street. As I was locking my car door, a carload of freshly minted physicians drove past, hooting and screaming. They slowed down as they passed us, and the hooting turned to oinks and moos. One of the new doctors reached out and grabbed at my ass, yelling "CHECK OUT THAT FAT!" Another threw an empty beer bottle at me and screamed, "F#$KING FATASS!"

First, do no harm. Yeah, right.

To this day, I refuse to be treated by any physician who graduated from Georgetown.

Keep your head high and your spirit intact. Don't let these bastards get you down. Hard to do, but worth it.

Next Friday (January 20), I have a short commentary on WAMU and it touches on why I don't take the Metro - because of the verbal abuse I take from other passengers as a fat woman.

Take care of yourself!!

- Merujo

thefatfriend said...

Fuck them all.

Blue Dog Art said...

A very brave post. Kudos to you in dealing with your demons.

Law-Rah said...

You are my hero!

Stef said...

Thanks everyone for your comments, especially for sharing your own stories. (Thanks Velvet and DCBlogs, too, for getting the word out.) It is terrible what people have had to go through, and this is part of why I get so angry when Tyra Banks or someone spends a day in a fat suit to "see what it feels like." Sure, they may hear the comments that day but it's not something that stays with them as a part of their psyche forever. I think one of the biggest misconceptions about weight loss is that it's just about eating less and exercising more -- but for people who've never been in this situation, I don't think they know the psycological battle we must all fight with how we feel about ourselves. Self-image and self-worth.

Lady Brandenburg said...

Not for nothing, but if you google "best cities to live pittsburgh" you'll see it waaaaay down on the list for a multitude of reasons - not the least of which is it's a horrible city for singles - so Pittsburgh can suck it!

And, I'm from Jersey, and I "know people" - if you know what I mean.

And, the guy who told you that it was just the physical attraction that was stopping him from marrying you was lying to himself. He probably actually thought that he was letting you down easy. What he really meant was "I like you too much to let you down hard, so I'm going to make up a reason to let you down easy, and because I don't understand your weight issues, I'm going to pick that." I know I'm not articulating that well, but the bottom line is that nice guys think they're letting girls down easy by giving them these really terrible excuses.

All that said, whether or not you lose weight, these demons will not go away until you talk about them. If you woke up tomorrow and weighed 125 lbs., you'd still have that emotional weight. Then again, I'm all about therapy - after all, I'm in the arts field!!!!

Lady Brandenburg said...

PS, what is your fave WW board? I still go to the newbie one because people are funny and pretty much welcome everyone... and some of the boards seem like cliques, and they don't welcome newcomers...

Stef said...

I do have to pipe up again and do a little defending of Pittsburgh. I wasn't saying that some of these things happened in Pittsburgh as any sort of slam of the town, it just happened during the phase of my life when I lived there. I still think it's a great town and I enjoyed living there. No, it's not great for singles, but it has a lot to offer and I was in no way dissing da 'burgh.

Now, some more personal comments:

Mandy: Thanks for being so understanding on all levels. I want you to know that you're a bit of an inspiration to me, cuz I've watched you go through several of these struggles yourself and you seem to be in a really great place right now, both physically and mentally. You look fantastic and, even though your most recent experience (that middle name cracks me up) wasn't so great, I admire you for getting out there and trying to find what you're looking for. Although, sadly, we can all agree it's not in Yemen.

Onyah: That's a terrible story. Sometimes I want to just bang my head against a wall on the things families can do to each other. But I'm glad at least that we've become friends and can be supportive. And I have to remember to link to your "loser" blog!

DC Food Blog said...

Just a big fat (figureatively) WORD. Been there. I got the wonderufl comment of - you're so smart I don't even see you as a sexual being. THat's a compliment?

Stef said...

green canary: I'm sorry Pitt didn't work out for you. I was at CMU myself, but had lots of friends at Pitt Law. If sneering is what works for you now, go for it. I do my share of scoffing, Lord knows. Thanks for the offer of that killer left jab!

merujo: That story is awful. What I hate most about so many of these incidents, including yours, is that they're totally unprovoked. You were out having a good time with your friend, not bothering anyone in the world, and those guys picked on you out of the blue. It would be different if there was provocation or a fight or something, but that kind of (literally) drive-by cruelty is so disturbing.

thefatfriend: Yeah, I have my moments where I feel that, too.

Blue dog: Thanks.

Law-rah: Thanks to you, too! I hope to see you at the next blogger happy hour, even if you aren't raising money this time!

Phil said...

One man's opinion does not speak for all.

Afterall, it only takes one, right? I speak from experience on this.

As for the others, what can I say? People are incredibly stupid and insensitive. I'll wager a majority of them have issues of their own they are trying to deflect away from themselves to make themselves feel better, or more superior, to others.

You have many friends, Stef.

Asian Mistress said...

I'm all slow...but I love you and I know how it feels...maybe not for my whole life - but I have certainly had people tell me similar things off and on...and my best friend has struggled much like you so I understand that as well.

It sucks that society is so stuck on skinny...but hopefully we can all overcome our own and the world's insecurities with it.

Love ya Stef!

always write said...

Well, this is very honest, very brave and very saddening. I think that most of us have felt the same way at some time or another, whether or not we've actually been noticeably overweight. I will not admonish you to love yourself as you are, to be comfortable in your skin no matter what your size, because (a) it goes without saying, and (b) I don't want to downplay the importance of being the best self you can be. This statement may not make me popular, but I believe it to be the truth: The best revenge is living well, and living well means taking good care of yourself -- mind, body and soul. I've struggled with my weight, mentally and physically, most of my life. I understand the pitfalls of eating too much and eating too little and all the ways in which your state of mind comes into play. Losing weight is by NO MEANS a solution to unhappiness. HOWEVER, being able to measure the hard-earned results of efforts to be good to yourself -- that can impact the rest of your life in endlessly positive ways. I wish you luck finding your way through this struggle. There are many roads on this journey and I've been down a lot of them. My experience is at your disposal if you need advice, support or a sounding board.

Anonymous said...

You helped me come to terms with what a lot of people have said to me. I remember being in 6th grade and this guy I liked looking at me as I sat in my uniform with knee socks and he said "Wow...those are some freakin calves"

Another time I was on an escalator going down and I was eating a pastry and this guy was going up and as he passed me he sneered and whispered "Piggy". I threw away the pastry and cried for hours.

We can do this...we can lose this weight and tell everyone who ever hurt us to fuck off.

I proud of you!

Anonymous said...

I hear you! I recently had the same thing to me with a guy. But I realized that you can't force the attraction thing either. It just hurts a bit to know that it is your weight.

Asian Mistress said...

Interesting Article

Kathryn said...

This is a wonderful post, Stef. I'm very impressed by you and your strength, and if you ever need encouragement or exercise ideas, please do not hesitate to ask.

Of course, reading all these comments would work, too. :)

Missicat said...

Unfortunately, the biggest assholes tend to have the biggest mouths...funny how that works? I wonder why people think they can say things like that to us...like our feelings don't matter.

Hang in there, it will get better. I found a guy who tells me I am perfect the way I am...yes, they are out there.

ejtakeslife said...

It would already be brave to simply face these demons internally, but to have the strength to write about them so movingly is really a gift. Thank you for sharing this journey-- you are taking awful experiences and turning them into something inspiring. No matter how frustrating body image and weight loss are, by being able to express yourself so beautifully you are way ahead of the game .

Lady Tiara said...

this is a great post, and you are brave to put it out there. people can be so horribly cruel, but reading through the great comments that your post received made me a feel a little better about humanity. i'm sorry for all the shit that you have had to hear, but i admire your strength.

mysterygirl! said...

Found you through DC Blogs-- thanks for sharing this with us. Like Missicat said, the biggest assholes do seem to have the biggest mouths, and I'm really sorry to hear all the ways that people (especially those you care about) have used your weight against you. It seems that one thing that it's still "okay" to make fun of people for is their weight, and that's a shame. You sound like a kick-ass person.

DCSportsChick said...

Wow- what an amazing post. I admire your strength; it must have been so difficult to write that.

I just don't understand how and why people think it's acceptable to be so cruel to strangers (or anyone else, for that matter).

Stef said...

Hi gang,
After a full 6 hours of meetings plus an after-work thing, I'm finally catching up.

First let me say thanks -- I'm totally overwhelmed by this great show of support and solidarity. It's always great to connect with good people, and I really appreciate all of your comments, advice, and your own shared stories.

I've always found that the best way to survive ANY emotionally difficult situation is to be able to lean on the good, strong poeple who support you. Thanks for giving me that sense of a community here on the blogs. I hope you all feel it too.

Stef said...

Lady B: Oh, working in the arts... there are so many things we could bond about the next time we see each other! And I read the 50+ pounds to lose WW board. It's really active and the people are supportive and funny. I know what you mean - I've found some of the other boards to be horribly nasty and cliqueish.

DC Food Blog: Oh, there are so many of those not-compliment compliments. That's another case of people trying to be nice but it just comes out all wrong. Word.

Phil: Thanks for Playaz love!

AM: Love you too! You should know that your original post about your own weight issues a few months back became the source of a really meaningful and powerful thread of email conversations among me and my friends. You were literally an inspiration! And that was a very interesting article (although I don't agree with some of the comments made), thanks for the link.

Stef said...

Alwayswrite: I agree that the best thing you can do for yourself is to take care of your whole self. And my heaviest times have definitely coincided with the most stressful times in life or with periods of depression - there's a definite cyclical connection between weight and mental state. Thanks for the very thoughtful comment.

Anon: I'm so sorry you have those stories of your own! I've definitely had moments where I just want to cry in the corner. But definitely keep up the positive spin - we can do this!

Anon: Yeah, the guy thing... it was not a relationship that was meant to be anyway, and while I agree with the others who've said that he never meant to hurt me and was just saying stupid things, it made it worse. If he had just indicated that it wasn't gonna happen *without* mentioning physical attraction, it probably would never have hurt as badly. Shoulda coulda....

Kathryn: Thanks. All of your posts about how dedicated you are and all of the benefits you've seen from exercising have been good motivators - I may chime in with a question now and then!

Missicat: Thanks. Does your great guy have a brother? :-)

EJ: Thanks. I think I heard somewhere once that naming your enemies makes them weaker, so... here's hopin'!

Etta: Yeah, for all those mean nasties out there, there are lots and lots of good people. It's good to be reminded every once in a while. Thanks for the comment.

Mysterygirl: Thanks - I try to be kick-ass, and I love meeting other kick-ass people! Glad you stopped by.

DCsportschick: Every comment is making me more and more glad that I did post this, even though I really was anxious about doing it. That's the thing about the "publish" button - it's so easy to hit it and just let things take care of themselves from there. This has been a really great response, that I never imagined. Thanks for being part of it.

Asian Mistress said...

Aww wow - I caused an email thread? And it wasn't a bad one? Haha.

BTW email me sometime at citysparkle@gmail.com so we can chat and bother each other. Hahaha.

See you next week at HH I guess?!?