The first time someone called me fat with the intention to hurt me was probably around second grade. As a small child, it became clear to my parents that I had inherited the stocky, knock-kneed frame of my Newfoundlander grandmother’s side of the family. My big sister’s hand-me-downs stopped fitting when I was around five and buying pants was an eternal struggle. But I didn’t know I was fat until the boys in my elementary school started taunting and teasing me for how my body looked. It didn’t occur to me that my body was bad or ugly, but once the idea was planted that fat was something to be mocked for, I couldn’t shake it.
The word ‘fat’ has followed me around for the majority of my life, tugging on the hems of my self-esteem and often altogether displacing it. As a preteen, I had rampant body image issues as a result from school bullying that prevented me from flourishing socially. I constantly felt uncomfortable in my skin and would pray to God at night, begging to know why He couldn’t have made me thin. I felt utterly out of place with my petite and pretty friends. Things began to improve in high school in terms of acceptance and forming good, positive friendships, yet I still felt an element of isolation because of my body. My crushes and romantic interests were one-sided. Going shopping with friends meant not buying a thing in the stores they enjoyed frequenting and receiving silent judgment from salespeople while holding their purses in the changing areas. When I began dating my partner (who is thin), I felt an extreme amount of insufficiency and unworthiness. I had been conditioned to believe that I was undeserving of his love because I was fat. While most of this was imagined, we have received open criticism because of this.
The reclamation of the word ‘fat’ is an ongoing process. When I was around 17, I started channeling my body negativity into my art. Body politics and my self-love struggle have featured in my spoken word writings, both shared publicly and kept privately. I get pierced and tattooed not to hide my body, but to decorate it and cherish it. I understand that I am worthy of my partner and that his love for me is not in spite of my body, but encompasses every part of who I am. I only sometimes want to die when I step foot in a shopping mall, instead of every time. I am on a journey of viewing the word that has haunted me since childhood as what it is; an adjective. Some people have fat bodies, some people have skinny bodies, many are somewhere in between. Fatness does not negate a person’s worth or beauty or merit. This is not a matter of discussing an individual’s health or fitness, it is a matter of affirming their dignity regardless of body. Inherent in all people is the right to love and value the skin they’re in.
My body is strong and soft and beautiful. It is fat. And that is okay.