In recent years fashion or plus sized gals has finally start to become more mainstream. Just months ago Tess Holliday was named as the first size 22 model to be signed with a major modeling agency. While I am thrilled that this is finally coming to fruition, I still look at some of the harsh posts and derogatory comments I see online and realize how full of bullying our society remains. While Tess is truly stunning, people chose to smatter posts with disgust and rude commentary, or even worse, the false concern for her health as a hidden truth to their own discomfort with how a fluffier girl looks.
Truth be told, her health is no ones concern but her own. Let’s be honest, most of those making those comments likely have some major addiction or crutch that is decreasing their lifespan with every waking minute. There is nothing like a smoker telling a fat girl she is unhealthy. I often times wonder what happened to the old saying, “think what you want but keep your mouth shut” went, or even better, “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all,” or “Bite your tongue.” I mean don’t get me wrong, I’m a girl with an opinion, and sometimes a big one, and I do put it out there for the world to see, but not at the expense of hurt feelings.
Now, with that said, I will call a kettle black if it’s black, and miss Tess, well she’s a hefty gal, nothing wrong with that. I myself am a pleasantly plump lady. I appreciate Tess standing in the light for women like myself who have always hidden in the shadows, ashamed of our bodies.
I’ve come to a few conclusions over the years, and I wanted to share my thoughts on this very matter, hopefully to shed some light for those who don’t understand what life can be like as a larger person.
When I was a kid, I was chubby, and I always felt different somehow, although it wasn’t made painfully clear the reason why until I was 10. As early as preschool I remember kids picking on me, throwing things at me, teasing me about eating too much. I didn’t understand what they meant. I was only about 5, and the concept of being “fat” wasn’t something I understood. At that point, what I did understand was that certain kids were mean, and I felt that was just that.
When I was in grade school, I got picked to be in a school play, and I was a mouse in the Cinderella story. We were dressed in leotards and tights, with little mouse ears on, and we danced to “Thriller” by Michael Jackson (ahhh 1985). It was fun and silly, but then one day, we did a performance of the play for the other children in my school (our other performances had been at night for the parents). During our dance, one of the boys in the front row loudly commented that I was the fattest one on stage. I didn’t understand, not really, but even so, it hurt my feelings and made me more aware that somehow my appearance was less acceptable.
I talked to my mom about it, and bless her for caring, she told me that I should change my eating. Mind you, I was 10, and I would do anything mom told me to, and oh yeah, anything that wouldn’t bring about such harshly said comments at school. In discussing everything with my mom, I found out what being “fat” meant. In PE we started taking the “Presidential Physical Fitness” testing. One of the many tests was holding yourself up on a bar, keeping your chin above the bar for how ever many minutes you could. I could make my way across monkey bars with no problem, but I didn’t have enough upper body strength to hold my weight. Other kids could do it and my cousin who was in my class did it for the longest of all the girls and boys, outshining everyone. Another task was that we had to climb to the top of the gym rope and touch the beam at the top. Again, my upper body strength and complete lack of leg coordination didn’t merit my making the climb.
The awards were passed out to the kids who could accomplish these tasks and suddenly it was painfully obvious that I was not measuring up to what society was expecting of a child my age. The comments started then, and they only got worse through the years. Every grade, every PE class, they all measured you, and reminded you over and over how you didn’t fit the mold that society was requesting of a quality specimen.
In middle school, the tests went a step farther. Now we had to weigh in front of the other kids, shower naked in front of them, and my favorite, have your shoulder blade pinched with some measuring instrument that told your an approximate body mass index. I remember like it was yesterday, I weighed in as a 12 year old girl at 147 lbs, 5’5″, and my BMI was 18. As I walked out of my PE teachers office, the girls in line questioned me about what my weight and BMI were. It was a big discussion as they all found out they were somewhere between 115 and 120 lbs, and I sat back quietly not admitting my 147 lbs, and feeling as if I was some sort of a horrible freak for being a few pounds heavier than the other girls.
Now, did I know at that time I should take into account that I was a swimmer and I had extreme muscle tone in my thighs, or that my asthma thwarted a lot of the more rigorous activities that the other girls could maintain? Not a chance. To better things, my mom supported dieting. Within a couple of months, I was on my first major diet. I lived for an entire summer pretty much only on Slim Fast. 12 years old and on a liquid diet. Kiss any chance of maintaining a healthy metabolism goodbye!
Thus began my lifetime battle with my weight. I went to such extremes to avoid weight gain as working out three hours a day at the gym, swimming with my team early mornings and again after school, and literally starving my body of nutrients. My mom was so concerned for my weight that she actually put me on a diet program that cost us a fortune. The food sucked, but hey, while we kicked out the dough, the pounds came off.
My junior year in high school, I was working hard still to maintain a decent weight, furious with myself when I looked in the mirror and living with extreme self hatred. I weighed about 180 lbs, and to be completely honest, I was a muscle machine. My weight lifting had toned my body into something I still pine for every day. I had never been in such good shape in my entire life, all the whille starving myself and hating what looked back at me every day in the mirror.
I started dating a boy who would become my future husband, and his mom was/is an amazing cook. Interestingly enough, she was also a fluffier lady. In our time together, she started showing me that she was proud of her body and that I had nothing to be ashamed of. On top of that, she taught me how to cook, like really cook, and oh boy, between the self indulging on good food and the desire to love myself no matter how I looked, me an my lack of decent metabolism shot up to a portly 230 lbs. I put on 50 lbs in my junior year while we were dating, and I was okay with it, because a boy loved me, so that’s what mattered.
A year later, we broke up. My world crumbled and it dawned on me that the “superficials” of the world wouldn’t likely have a chubby bunny like me as a girlfriend, so back on a diet I went…. this time I got down to about 165 lbs, with less muscle mass and well, more cellulite remaining. I could starve myself fine, and not having that muscle brought down those weight numbers. That’s good right? Little did I realize that my 165 lbs was less healthy than my original 180 lbs. Ignorance is bliss however and I went along my merry way my senior year.
After graduation I went on to a short stint in college and then eventually got back together with the boyfriend who had the super cook mom. We married and had a child and I got to a point where I accepted that this is my body, and I needed to stop hating it. I needed to embrace who I was and the package I came in and just be me. I’m sure you can imagine, back together with the fabulous food and in a lifestyle trying to accept my body, and love the skin I’m in, I packed on the weight. When my daughter was born, I was at a weight of 318 lbs.
Shortly after my daughter was born, through regressive therapy, I found out that some dreams I was having weren’t dreams, they were memories of being sexually abused as a child. Little did I know for 20 years, my body was fighting to stay less attractive in order to hide from potential threats. I’ve been through years of therapy, but again, I’m still a chunky monkey. C’est la vie!
Now by this time in my life, I had been turned down for a promotion at 16 years old because becoming the primary person a customer saw as they walked through the door was not a position for someone of my physical stature. To be completely straight, I was told, “the owner doesn’t want someone of your size greeting the guests, he feels it is a bad first impression.” I know many of you will say, “hey, that’s discrimination, they can’t deny you a promotion because of your weight.” I was 16, and I was chunky, no one gave a damn about me and my feelings. When I brought it up at home, the answer was another diet, not to expect society to be kinder.
Granted, society is full of assholes, and it always will have assholes here and there. Trust me over the years, I have learned how to thicken my skin. I have even become quite the joker about how fat I am, because often times it defuses other’s ability to comment negatively if I get to it first. My big complaint wasn’t that there were assholes, it was that those assholes would keep me from doing a better job than the others they hired. Those miscreants would keep me from having better things for my kid, or succeeding in life. Why? Because the United States doesn’t include obesity in the basic labor law list of discriminatory no no’s.
I have since that time been denied work, asked to leave interviews, and even told despite my dedicated work at a company rebuilding a big computer system, that they blatantly didn’t want me as the face of the customer perception of the company so I was going to be fired.
I see changes every day, for the better, for minorities of every kind in this country. Nothing is perfect and we have plenty of work to still do, but even now, obesity isn’t looked at in the same light as race, religion, sex, or age. It’s our choice to be fat, we could make it better… oh so many times I have heard that statement. We should do something about it right? How about a $30,000 surgery, a hell of a lot of pain, vomiting daily for months and months, starving our body to extremes via lack of stomach space, and roto rootering our intestines? Sure, let’s do that. Society wants me thinner, I have to fit in, I want a good job and I can see in their eyes the disapproval, better mutilate myself in order to “improve.”
Yeah, I did all that. Guess what, I’m right back to being a bigger girl. I don’t eat a lot, I could count my calories and shock most of you with about 1000 calories or less a day, and yet, here I am. I don’t drink anything but tea (with no sugar) and sparkling water (sodium free and sugar free), I eat organic foods, steamed foods, and lean, healthy eating (trust me, I’ve been through nutrition courses, I know how to eat healthy), and yet, here I am, me… close to the same size, whether I work out, or don’t.
I want equality too, but in the work force. I want my brain and my skills to override my dress size in the eyes of a potential employer. I want more companies to come out of the woodworks like Milk Model Management, Torrid, Lane Bryant, and Swimsuitsforall.com. I want to be just as important as a customer to a business and have my money mean just as much to them, as a pretty size 6 would.
So in closing for this very long post, I plan to share many great up and coming companies who are willing to step above the societal norms, and help beautiful bigger women feel just that, beautiful. It’s amazing how clothing that fits well can help a woman feel sexy, or powerful, or confident. These newer companies who support women who fit the size 16 and higher profile are alright in my book. Bless them for stepping up to remind us that we are worthy of fashion too.
Please take time to share my posts, comment and share your stories. Please visit my sponsors to help a sister get fatty fashions that rock! Let’s keep the forward momentum with acceptance of all people in society, help support each other, we are all we’ve got!