I wish this were a story about sassing a rude uncle and rising above being shamed for my rolls, because ain’t nobody got time for dat. But instead I’m going to tell the truth. I went to a buffet where one after another distant relatives called me fat, and I said nothing. Then I cried at the dessert section and ate two cubes of cake.
Two years ago, I was happily staying within the 91-97-pound range. That was AFTER I lost weight. The heaviest I had ever been was 112 pounds. I went around telling self-deprecating jokes about my thighs and was secretly delighted when people reassured me and told me to eat a sandwich.
Today, I’m 141.8 pounds. Bile just rose up my throat as I typed that. I joke about how much weight my boyfriend and I have put on since we got together in 2014. I joke about having to use wrap-around skirts as dresses because nothing in my closet fits me anymore. I joke about me having to sew my own clothes because Topshop’s petite line doesn’t support my girth. I joke about my weight before other people can joke about my weight. Nobody tells me to eat a sandwich.
I’m 4’11” and 141.8 pounds. Yep, there’s the bile again.
A quick Google search tells me that I am about 43 pounds overweight. I do not contest this. I FEEL like I could lose an Olsen twin or two. Going up and down the stairs doesn’t feel as effortless as it used to. Just walking in the mall makes me feel like I belong in an old people’s home. I avoid mirrors. Heck, I avoid shopping altogether.
There are days though, when I feel particularly beautiful. Maybe I’m test driving a new perfume, or I had time to curl my hair. The afternoon of the buffet, I had donned a quirky terno that I was particularly proud of because I had made it myself. My boyfriend said I looked great. I believed him.
Maybe he was lying, as all loving boyfriends are wont to do, or maybe the restaurant’s lighting was particularly harsh, but literally the first person I politely greeted at that party told me I was fat. He used his arms to illustrate just how fat he thought I was. And then there was an aunt. Maybe two. Throw in some of my mom’s amigas for good measure.
The last was the worst though. We were making our fourth and last trip to the buffet for dessert, and a man who was a complete stranger to me just started talking. About his son who apparently went to school with me, about where that son was now, about how they were having money problems. He peppered the awkwardly personal conversation with almost random comments about my weight. I used to be the tiniest child, he said. He didn’t recognize me because I had become so fat, he said. Suddenly, I was painfully aware of the crop top I had sewn and the slice of belly skin it revealed. Nevermind that it fit me perfectly and that the bias finish was impeccable. Lena Dunham had left the building.
The entire time he was telling his life story interspersed with memories of how I used to look (that means when I was maybe 5… 12, tops), I was thinking of something to say. You can’t let this go, I told myself, You won’t be able to live with yourself if you do. My Facebook wall was filled with aggressive status updates about body empowerment after all. I spent an average of 10 minutes everyday keyboard warrioring my ass off on Huffpost Women threads, defending every man and woman’s right to be fat or skinny or hexagonal.
But in that moment, standing awkwardly in my favorite heels and my homemade outfit, in front of this man I didn’t even know and had no idea who I was, I said NOTHING. I walked off in a huff at some point, not quite politely, but not quite rudely either. I just walked off, my boyfriend muttering awkward goodbyes and scrambling to comfort me.
I have told off many a rude mofo in my life. I’ve never been a meek little flower just as much as I’ve never truly been a skinny girl (even at 90 lbs. I had child-bearing hips). But how do you Z-snap your way out of a conversation that could potentially reach the ears of the most judgmental, backwards, and influential people in your life? Aka your equally ignorant family? No matter how calmly I said, “With all due respect, sir, my body is really none of your business. I’d really like to get through this conversation without you insulting me every other sentence,” it would’ve come out wrong. Sounded too harsh. I would’ve forever been branded as the fat suplada of the clan. This is not a man who goes online and bookmarks feminist articles after all. And this is not a man to whom I could have sent links from Heartless Bitches International or Dear Coquette. This was a man who thought nothing of calling a virtual stranger fat at the dessert section of a buffet.
I had never felt so ugly, helpless, and defeated in my life. All the sass I had built up over the last 27 years just whooshed out of me like liquid poop. I had no witty comeback, no educational, perfectly worded reprimand. I had tears, two cubes of otherwise delicious cake, and a boyfriend desperate to console me.
Waiting for that party to end was hell. When we came home that night, my boyfriend stayed with me in the couch for a long time. I cried some more, and then he looked me in the eyes and told me I was beautiful. One day, I’m going to believe him, but more importantly, one day, I’m going to Z-snap at an uncle, he is going to laugh, and he will never look at a woman’s gut the same way again.