See this photo.
In this photo what you see here is me, sitting, being fat.
I was probably being funny too, cause that’s what fat girls do best, funny.
You can’t see it, but I reckon everyone in the room was laughing at something I’d just said.
Somebody probably peed his or her pants.
So back to the photo and me being fat in it.
I know I was fat because at the time this was taken I was constantly being picked on for my weight whether it be by ‘friends’ in the playground, or ‘friends’ of my parents commenting on my ‘full figure’ or my grandmother who would purposely buy my clothes too small for me and than make me wear them in front of her. Boys called me names.
One of my more humiliating moments I recall was when my grandmother returned from Spain with a bra for me. It was a 12AA. I was a 10DD. It didn’t fit. In my head now I know it didn’t fit because I wasn’t a boy, but at the time with very little around me to compare my figure to, I assumed that it didn’t fit because I was fat. And my grandmother didn’t correct me. My mother, I think burnt the bra. It didn’t matter how much my mother told me that I was OK how I was, I didn’t hear her. She was also wise enough to let me know there was nothing wrong with being fat either, lots of people were but that didn’t matter, all I heard was fat and now at 34 years old, I still hear it and the worst part is I view it as negative. When it comes to fat shaming myself, I’m my own worse bully. When this photo was taken I was 156cm tall. For those that know me, I had a very minor growth spurt after that (a whole 4 centimetres…small victories). And I was roughly a size 4-6 if not smaller. I weighed about 40 kilos.
It did not help that I didn’t look like all the other girls at my school. They were all so tall, like beanpoles, like all the girls in Australian magazines and soap operas. Thin, blonde, worthy. I had a tiny waist, boobs coming in and hips. Some adults often described me as ‘womanly’ or ‘sexy.’ I was 13.
And so it began. The great disconnect with my appearance. It’s been over 20 years since that photo was taken and I still struggle to see what everyone else sees. I hide behind mainly baggy clothes; I’ve been on a diet since I can remember. I get sick to my stomach if I break 1200 calories in a day. I exercise constantly. I honestly think that when I look in the mirror, that if I could just lose a bit more weight I’d be able to wear clothes that draped. I’m an idiot. I’ve got curves like a Kardashian minus the personal tailor. There will be no draping in my lifetime unless I make friends with flesh-eating bacteria…but hey you can only cross your fingers for so long…
The narrative of my chubbiness has informed so much of my creative work that I’d be lying if I didn’t say it was imperative to my identity. I write from the perspective of the outsider looking in, the best friend character, the strong personality driven girl, the underdog, the alien. I’ve done pretty well out of it, whether it’s the truth or not. Here’s the thing, it shouldn’t matter whether I’m chubby. I might not be. I might be. I really have no gauge anymore. I know I can wear children’s pyjamas but I’m not sure that means anything.
The thing is when I saw that photo the other night I got upset. I wanted to go back and tell my 13 year-old self to not listen to all the fat shaming and than maybe the next 20 years would be different. Social engagements would not be so crippling at times, I wouldn’t always think somewhere in the back of my head that my relationships didn’t work out because of my appearance, I would write populist chick-lit fiction that opened with lines like ‘the clacking of $700 heels only served to heighten her enviable calf muscles and say to the world that she was ready for anything’ as opposed to ‘she masturbated quietly to a poster of Zach Efron as her boyfriend sat in the study on the phone to his new girlfriend.’ But telling my 13 year old self that if anything I was actually almost underweight at the time that photo was taken wouldn’t have been enough, after all it wasn’t myself that thought I was fat, it was everyone else saying it, making excuses for saying it and shaming me into thinking it was the truth, a truth I’ve lived by ever since. It takes up a lot of my time thinking I should like myself better, sorry correction – it wastes a lot of time. My time. No one else’s, mine. I’ve decided next year I’m going to have a body shaming detox and take up sword fighting or podcasting, I don’t know, I could do anything. All I know is, it’s got to be more productive than what I’ve been doing.