When I decided to write this piece, it was with some trepidation. I’m writing about the language of fat. About the language people use to talk about heavier people, and how hurtful it can be. I’m a girl who’s guilty of using phrases like “fat ass” on a regular basis. Not out of hatred for anyone but myself, I assure you.
I should explain.
When I was in high school, I was rail thin. Leap forward to college, I was put on Paxil, was sedentary, and ate too much midnight pizza. I ballooned. Then my dad passed away. Grief hit me like a wrecking ball. I got even larger. At my heaviest, I was heavier than I was at full term of my pregnancy. I was plus-sized. I heard people use derogatory words to describe my body.
When I turned 25, I lost weight. I started working out, counting every single calorie and refusing to eat the pastries I’d made in culinary school, and was extremely toned…and terrified. My fear of gaining the weight back dominated everything I did, and everything I said. I would use hateful language to describe weight issues, not because I didn’t love the people I was talking to and about, but because I was so scared of going back to the place of depression, anxiety, grief, and self hate.
I realized quickly that this was no way to live my life. I stopped projecting my own feelings of inadequacy on other people. I stopped using hurtful language to try and “remind” myself not to backslide. I let myself gain a few of those pounds back. I’m a mother now, after all, and a woman. I embraced my body and my curves. I returned to loving people for who they are, and appreciating beauty in all shapes and sizes. It has been so incredibly freeing to live without fear and negativity in my heart.
My hypothesis is that the language of “fat,” the words people say to describe the weight of others, is born almost entirely out of fear and self-hatred. Knowing that can be liberating, because when others speak that way to us, we can know that they don’t mean “something is wrong with you.” They mean, “I hate myself.”
When I was in Las Vegas recently, I was in line for a nightclub and there was some ruckus between some of the bouncers and promoters. The problem, according to a short, heavier bouncer, was that someone “invited the big girls.” He gestured derisively to two curvy, well-dressed women behind us. Two women who were apparently not desirable enough, according to him and his guidelines, to enter a club because of their size. Words like “fatty,” and “no f*cking way” were being uttered audibly by the staff. They started to physically separate the girls from the rest of us, explaining that they couldn’t be in line because they weren’t on a nonexistent “guest list”.
The girls knew exactly what was happening. They looked hurt and mortified. My heart broke for them. They were beautiful, and they deserved to be there just as much as any of the rest of us. But because this bouncer hated himself so much, because the club promoters were so insecure about their cool quotient, they felt the only way to deal with those feelings was to treat human beings with cruelty and humiliation.
Whenever I hear people use negative speech in this way, it doesn’t say anything about the subject of conversation, but it says everything about the speaker. It’s time that society became less afraid of diversity in shape, and became more self-accepting. The more we accept ourselves, the more we’re able to accept others for who they are without feeling the need to judge and condemn them for being different from ourselves. What a lesson. I wish I would have learned it earlier, but I am so glad I learned it in the end.