Melody Rossiter: Mouthy Fat Kid Does OK
My mother came from anorexic stock. When I started getting fat at age 8, she was confused and concerned, and put me on strict diets. I ate my vegetables, we never ate out, I played outside weather permitting and got plenty of exercise. Still, I got fatter and fatter. I found out much later in life why I got fat, but that’s another story. The point was, I was fat.
In sixth grade, we had our ‘class physical’, where everyone goes to the gym, takes off their shoes, gets their height and weight recorded, an eye exam. Afterwards I was standing around with some girls are on the playground, waiting for the rest of the class to finish and one tall girl says, “You really weigh 160? I weigh 92 lbs.” All of the other girls chime in with their respective weights (78, 85, 95), and I am leered at through side glances. It is clear I’m not like them, that I am fat.
I wasn’t just fat to them, I was gross. Clothing just didn’t fit me, so I wore sweatpants and sweaters with decals on them, legging pants and baggy t-shirts. I longed for pretty, cute clothes that I approved of. When I found an adult size that I liked, it virtually never fit me right, especially in the boobs. At 12 years old, I thought I was supposed to have a rack that would compete with Dolly Parton simply because everything that fit me was intended for an adult woman. So I was a round, lumpy, flat fat kid with frizzy hair and zits. Man, 7th grade was a huge bummer.
I wasn’t even the only person like me. There were other fat kids. Some of them were even popular. There was a girl named Heather who was not only heavier than me, she was taller than all of the other girls so she towered above everyone and really stuck out. Still, she was best friend’s with the popular girls, she managed to find (and afford) cute clothes and always had her hair and makeup done. If I had worn makeup to school, or done my hair in anything other than a pony tail, it would become the subject of a joke among my classmates Continued. When I got my ears pierced in 7th grade, my whole class noticed and quickly decided I had done it so that a certain boy would like me. I didn’t even realize, then, that it was the boy that was getting made fun of in specific, not me. My very presence was being used to tease other people.
I didn’t respond to it very well, either. I was a pretty vocal kid, and when I was teased I generally had abuse to feed back. To this day when a car drives by and the passenger leans their head out and calls me a fat whore, I’ll stand in the middle of the street and respond letting them know what a worthless pile of steaming poo they are at the top of my lungs.
It was a nasty combination, being fat and being on the defensive all of the time. Whenever a kind word was offered, I usually sneered at them, discounting the offering peer, turning them against me with this learned behavioral response. I desperately wanted friends to talk to, kids to walk with at lunch, partners in gym class, friends to chat with on the bus. I didn’t want to be friends with any of them, though, because they were all horrible, and by being around them, they had made me horrible, too. I felt like trying to be friends with people who had been so mean to me would be like giving up, or worse, admitting that what they said was true.
In ninth grade, I made the decision to leave. I wanted a fresh start, in a new school with new people in a different place. My mother let me move 3,600 miles away to stay with my grandmother for 10th grade. It was pretty amazing. I went from a school with a graduating class of 78 to a school who’s pep rallies routinely had more than 4000 students. I disappeared. I was completely unimportant to anyone who might think to be nasty to me, and no one felt the need to point out my flaws. In turn, I didn’t have a need to be defensive- none of these people had proven themselves to be horrible.
I stayed fat, in fact continuing to gain weight. In 10th grade, I weighed 240 lbs, and no one seemed to care. I made friends. I went out. I had people to chill with on lunch and I had friends in every class to sit with. There were so many people around me that it wasn’t hard to find the ones that were like me. Different enough to try to fly under the radar. I watched my friends live right front and center, being gay, being fat, being just plain funny looking and even having a gimp arm. They were all cool, and none of them gave a shit. I learned to stop giving a shit, too.
This change in perception is probably what saved me. I never looked back at those horrible people from my middle school. Some people say that school is hard, and I say it can be nearly impossible for someone who is different. I think the biggest problem is that we are all different, so different that we are scared to be honest, so we pretend we are someone that we aren’t. Sometimes we even change into that person, eventually.
I am still fat. I still eat healthy and I’m still fat. It might reflect on who I am as a person, but I think it had a lot more to do with genetics than America’s obsession with dieting. I’m cool with being fat, don’t mind if someone calls me fat, like most of the clothes available for fat people. Just don’t tell me that I don’t have a right to be fat, or I’ll tell you just what I think of you.
Photo Courtesy Creative Commons: http://www.flickr.com/photos/margaretglin