I’ll be 36 years old next month, and I am done taking shit. Effective immediately, I am no longer making time for people who are committed to fat-shaming. Do you default to fat jokes when you want to playfully rib your friends? You’re not for me. Maybe you make disparaging remarks about fat people in general, but never to any specific person’s face. You’re out.
Do you act like being fat would be a fate worse than death, even though a fat person is sitting right near you? You are the weakest link. Goodbye! (I know you just read that in Anne Robinson’s British accent…)
All of these behaviors suck.
For my own peace, I’m instituting a zero tolerance policy for fat-shaming bullshit in my life.
I have cut people off for being ableist pieces of shit about my son’s autism.
I don’t make space or time for people who don’t support my father in his marriage to his husband.
When the police murdered George Floyd, I ended several casual relationships with people who showed their true, racist colors.
If I can draw hard lines about ableism, racism and homophobia, I can do the same thing for fat-shaming.
By now, I am sure you’ve gathered that I am a plus-size woman. I always have been. I’m not the type of plus-size you can hide with a baggy sweater. I’m fat. The kind nobody puts on a pedestal. I’ve made peace with my body, and I don’t let it hold me back.
I am fat, and that’s just something you need to know moving forward.
Last fall, I was incredibly pregnant with our third child. My husband and I were attending an engagement party for someone he works with. We were standing in the kitchen, sipping on iced tea, attempting to make conversation, when one of my husband’s co-workers struck up a conversation about some food I had made for their last potluck. I thought he was going to say something nice (since, ya know, he brought it up out of nowhere.) Instead he loudly declared that he was going to ban me from sending food to the office because “you’re going to make everyone fat.” He chuckled, and added some kind of joke about how fat he’d be if he lived at our house.
Here’s where some people will try to say he wasn’t fat-shaming, and explain that what he was trying to say is that the food I prepared was so delicious, nobody can control their portions when I bring it in. He was demonstrating his own lack of self-control around yummy foods.
Yeah. No kidding. Got it. I’m fat, not stupid.
What he actually said out loud with his adult mouth was, “You’re going to make everyone fat.” To a fat person. In front of twenty-five other people.
The joke was only “funny” because it reinforced the point that fat is not something anyone should want to be.
Don’t even get me started about how it reduced body size to diet without considering any other factors.
Normally, I would have calmly asked him to reconsider making jokes like that to fat people in the future. But this man is senior to my husband, and we were in a room full of his colleagues, so I bit my tongue.
The whole thing annoyed the shit out of me, but I dismissed it as a one-off. Maybe he was so tickled by his weird attempt at a compliment that he really didn’t see how inappropriate it was. I’m willing to give just about anyone a second chance.
Fast forward to just a couple months ago. My husband—who is not fat and never has been fat—is a little thicker through the midsection than he usually is. COVID has made going to a gym a bad choice, so he hasn’t been as active. The result is that he weighs a little more than he did before.
This same damn clueless-ass co-worker made a “joke” about my husband’s “gut” in front of a crowd during a game of cornhole at a company picnic.
Really, dude? Another unfunny, not clever fat-shaming joke that we all have to uncomfortably laugh off? Get some new material. God.
That’s when I knew he’s exhausted all the chances I’m willing to give him.
Not only did he embarrass me, but he made fun of my husband for putting on a few pounds while the gym was closed for a fucking pandemic.
I will never be in the same room as this man socially ever again. I don’t care what the occasion is.
This human has made it abundantly clear that he thinks fat jokes are fair punchlines. I don’t care if he would never come right out and say something intentionally cruel to me. Acting like fat is the worst thing someone can be is enough. If you’re terrified of ever being in a fat body, you make fat jokes at work, or you generally just feel that fatness as a concept is acceptable fodder for your playful insults, it’s hard for me to believe you aren’t judging me for just existing in the body I have.
I have enough shit to worry about. I’m not wasting a minute of my life spending time with someone who dabbles in a little light fat-shaming for fun.
For a long time, I let myself believe that even someone who said ugly things about fat people in general might actually still respect me.
Maybe if I was pleasant enough, friendly enough, or proved that I was valuable enough.
I told myself that if I was good enough, people might like me even though I’m fat.
Well, I’m older now, wiser, and I realize that being the exception to someone’s shitty rule is not a compliment. I’m not willing to be someone’s token fatty.
If you can’t respect fat people when we aren’t around to hear it, you don’t deserve to have us in your life.
I’m done spending time with people who out themselves as fatphobic. Being nice to my face isn’t enough. If you think I’m inherently unhealthy, unattractive or “less than” and I find out about it, I’m not making room for you ever again.
I have no obligation to spend my time with people that make me feel like shit.
It is possible for people of all shapes, sizes and walks of life to be respectful about other people’s bodies.
Some of our closest friends might as well live in the gym. This couple looks like a walking advertisement for a fitness brand. Looking at them, you might think they are judging people in bodies like mine, and terrified of gaining weight.
But they’re not. They just love being on the move.
I have never heard either of them say anything ugly about anyone’s body. Ever. They have friends of all shapes and sizes. They value my advice, appreciate my strengths, and express my value in their lives. When I’m around them, I never feel judged for living in my body. They’re my people.
I don’t only want to be around fat people or even people who create an echo chamber of fat positivity for me. We don’t have to agree about all the complicated facets and politics of fatness.
But we do have to agree that people of every size are valid and acceptable, and nobody’s body deserves to be a punchline. As soon as you start fat-shaming or make it clear that my body is a joke to you, I’ll do you the favor of removing myself from your orbit. I’ve got one life to live, and no time to waste on people who don’t have the courtesy to speak kindly about bodies like mine — or at least keep their mouths shut.