CW: Childhood abuse, eating disorders, sexual violence and weight loss mentality.
It was 1999 when I first heard people close to me talking negatively about my body. 9 years old, in a white Toyota Tarago with my parents and a very nasty aunt somewhere near Airlie Beach. This was our annual family road trip to spend holidays with people it didn’t actually feel as though we liked.
My headphones were blasting The Cranberries on my walkman when I heard my name so I bought the CD to a scratch inducing pause just in time to get my first dose of shame. “You’ve lost so much weight Lynn, Weight Watchers is really working for you. Dead name* should really start counting points, she’s getting a bit fat. You don’t want her ending up like you did.”
No one replied. Not a single word.
Maybe my mother was too ashamed to say anything, maybe my fit retired firefighter dad was too embarrassed to react – or maybe my Aunty, who was also not a particularly thin woman herself, was projecting her own shame and should’ve just laid off a 9 year old’s body.
I remember turning the volume up on No Need To Argue as a soft tear rolled down my hot cheek. Grabbing bits of my legs and my tummy in painful fists and looking at my reflection in the car window, wondering if everyone thought I was fat.
Children can be cruel. Super unkind little bastards, regurgitating the spicy rhetoric they hear on the daily to somehow remain ‘in’ by ensuring everyone different feels suitably ‘out’. School was typically, really difficult for a chubby, queer kid in North Queensland.
Before my mother lost 60ish kilos through point counting and water aerobics, I hated being seen with her because of how boldly kids would make fun of her body. I was always the butt of the ‘yo Mama so fat…” jokes and they would ask if there would be any food left at the Tuckshop if she was volunteering there.
I learned how much hatred there was for fat people, but specifically fat women. Women are supposed to be slim, petite, easily picked up and to fit into an ideal. As though the policing of our bodies was a right or a past time, all part of the natural world order; forcing us to hate ourselves and find a way to make ourselves small.
My relationship with my mother was already masked in fear and shame. I hated her. Not just because she was fat but she abusive, violent, angry and manipulative; closely guarding family secrets that would tear my little world apart.
Some children are afraid of the monsters under the bed, but no make believe nightmare could’ve been worse than the one tucking me in at night. My mother masked the abuse I faced, with gifts and treats; rewarding my silence and forgiveness with food.
Food became the only comfort I needed. Throughout my childhood and even now, my binge and purge mentality became habitual and would manifest further into sex, relationships, work and friendships. I’m an all or nothing kind of human – I thought this was super normal.
I was so active as a kid, desperately trying to not become my mother. Netball, swimming, soccer, softball, rollerblading, riding my bike, running. It was so crucial to me, to fit in – to be small, to be skinny and I never was.
Shame was force fed to me.
Keeping secrets about kissing girls, hiding food in my room, eating double dinners and purging quietly after but most importantly, not telling anyone about the abuse I was experiencing at home. It just felt safer to keep it all inside myself. If I was going to be fat, I had to be quiet.
The older I got, the more I realised how far I’d go to feel beautiful and wanted. It put me in unhealthy and unsafe situations with relationships; frozen in fear when my body was violated by a boy in my own house or hooking up with a my childhood crush in secret because he was ashamed of liking the ‘fat girl’.
I’ve dated people even in the last 5 years who were happy to fuck me but never be seen with me. People who would celebrate my body loudly, behind closed doors but perpetuate that feeling of shame by denying my existence or refusing to introduce me to their friends or family.
It took years of unpacking these behaviours to realise just how harmful they were to my self esteem; to my quality of life. To recognise that the hatred I felt from other people was nothing in comparison to the shame and disgust I had in myself.
Now, in 2020, we’re seeing the same people who shamed me and bullied me, celebrate fat bodies. Buying tickets to Lizzo’s shows and posting loudly about body positivity.
I’m not mad at it, it’s absolutely about fucking time. I just want you to take a second to think about the way it’s now bordering on fetishising fat people but specifically fat women.
We’re not here to make you feel better about your body.
We’re not here to make you look small in photographs.
We’re not here to be a tick box in the types of women you’ve ‘had’.
We’re not here to be an inspiration or to be seen as ‘brave’ for just existing.
We’re not here to be a before and after weight loss transformation photo.
We’re not here to prove that fat girls give better head, or that we’re ‘freaky’.
We’re not here for your performative external celebration because it’s in vouge but your continued internal scoffs when you see us at the beach.
We’re not here for your approval or your validation.
I’m almost 30 and I’ve finally got 0 fucks to give when it comes to how you see me.
I’m fucking hot!
Not because I’ve got a “pretty face for a fat girl” or because I can hide the parts of me that make you uncomfortable. Not because I’m reasonably good at applying make up, or because I “know my angles” for the gram – although I absolutely do.
My confidence comes from believing that I am fierce, strong, confident, beautiful and fat.
Learning to celebrate my body has been a 30 year journey and I’m not done yet, but I’m doing my best.