Wednesday, June 7, 2017

#TheySaid the Most Asinine Body-Shaming Things

I very rarely tweet. Twitter is not my favorite social media, but every once in a while I'll join a Twitter feed if the hashtag matters to me. #TheySaid is about body-shaming and the lifelong impact it has on people.

My all-time favorite, by my father, was "If you gain any more weight, we'll have to go to Omar the Tentmaker for your clothes." I was twelve years old, just hitting puberty, and hit the superfecta of being fat, acne-prone, nearsighted, and wearing braces. I fought back, and for my pains, was stuck with a psychologist whose brilliant deduction was that if I lost weight, through an "organized program" such as Weight Watchers or a children's fat camp, everything would be okay. She's a very respected child psychologist...whom I fired when I was thirteen, of my own volition, because my weight was not the root of my issues; it was my father's alcoholism, which she preferred to ignore in deference to his medical degree.

My mother told me that no boys would ever date me because I was fat. She refused to buy me clothing because "all the bigger clothes are so poorly made, and they cost more- I can buy your (slender) sister more clothes with less money"-there were underprivileged kids in my school who had larger wardrobes than mine. Mom (who, don't get me wrong, I loved dearly and still struggle with this because of it) put me in a high-power girdle at the age of twelve, not long after the Omar the Tentmaker crack by Dad. She viewed it as a waste of money to give me too many clothes, and as an adult, I am a clotheshorse and clothing hoarder...and there's a direct correlation. When she finally edged up into a plus size herself, I did the legwork to dress her in the expensive clothes to which she was accustomed. In that era, doing so required an almost arcane knowledge of where to shop- and although I didn't have much money for it myself, I became an expert sale-troller at the more upmarket places that sold plus clothing. She was embarrassed, ashamed of "letting herself go", and after a particularly exasperating day of dealing with this, she said, "Well, of course you know how to do this! You've always BEEN fat!"

(Yes, Mom; yes, I have. Lucky you, you only got fat when you were older. At least you had a shot at a normal life, unlike me.)

Weight Watchers, led by our local TV preacher, was a nightmare. One week, while on my period, I showed a gain at weigh-in, and he laid into me like I had just sacrificed an infant to Satan in the town square. I was twelve. I was the only teenager there. It was humiliating. I'd hit my limit with him, so I screamed, "I HAVE MY PERIOD! I'M RETAINING WATER! ARE YOU STUPID???"  I have a strong dislike of Weight Watchers to this day, and not coincidentally, this particular preacher, as a result.

A boy from my church once said to me, "I don't know how you can get off the ground in those ballet lessons you take, because you're so fat." He's 6'2"; I'm 5'6"; I executed a perfect grande jete au tournant from a flat stance and broke his nose. When he told his parents how it happened, they made him call the house and apologize (this was the olden days- now, my parents would be sued and criminal assault charges would be filed against me). Nobody who witnessed it ever challenged me about that shit again.

Another particularly fun thing, the summer before my senior year, was being broken up with because I didn't 'put out'- fat girls, according to him, should be desperate enough to call any boy a boyfriend that they'd do ANYTHING to keep him. He'd already found two fatter girls in his Upward Bound program who were both sleeping with him, for that reason; we'd been dating for a solid year, so I took it a bit badly. I slapped him so hard that I dislocated my shoulder.

(So yes, I had anger-management issues, but they were usually fairly justified. I didn't go around beating the crap out of people who didn't deserve it.)

The boy I dated after that one broke up with me at my prom because he wanted to take a thinner girl from his school to their prom. I didn't know that until I was dating one of his friends in college, whose parting shot during our breakup was (after I'd lost 90 pounds on Optifast in three months) "You're a nice girl, but you still need to lose a lot of weight." He was obese himself, which I pointed out, and to which he responded, "Guys can be fat. Girls can't. I didn't make the rules, that's just how it is."

(Ten years later, it dawned on him that he'd been really shitty to me, and I give him props for tracking me down through the alumni directory to apologize. We're still friends.) 

Which brings me to Hopkins. When I was on the run-up to my gastric sleeve, he primly looked at me one night and said, "I think it's 'cheating' to lose weight that way." I surveyed him coolly and said, "Oh, that's right, you haven't always been fat, so you don't get it." That was the last time he ever mentioned it, and by the way, he's around five hundred pounds and a Type II diabetic. But, as Bill, the dude in the preceding paragraphs pointed out, "Guys can be fat." That's different, you know.

At my sister's wedding reception, my father, who was howlingly drunk, turned and gestured to me, "Well, I'll never have to do this again!" His friend, a surgeon and father of four, protested on my behalf. Dad rebutted with, "JUST LOOK AT HER! Nobody's going to marry HER!" Dad's best friend, who was my doctor at the time, also witnessed this, and signed off immediately on my paperwork to have the LapBand. It was probably one of the most mortifying experiences of my adult life.

I was 34...in twenty-two years, nothing had changed since the "Omar the Tentmaker Incident". Nothing.

#TheySaid whatever the hell they wanted to, and it was "the truth" or "for my own good" or "because we love you, honey". I say, "**** that noise." I'm in therapy and that's one of the things that I'll never unravel if I live to be a thousand. Taste your words twice before they leave your lips, because once said, they can never be unsaid...and they're zero-calorie, so you won't gain weight from it.

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