I’m not going to class today.
I can’t say that it’s because I have a fever, or because I had a dentist appointment, or because anybody died.
I’m not going because of the sensations I feel when we talk about fatness. The sickness and the overwhelming feeling of inadequacy (that has always been pushed in to my mentality from various points in my life) always crop up as we talk about our fat, or not so fat bodies. It’s inevitable, this distinct sucking feeling, as if my gut has become a vacuum, and I can zip myself away like a fancy reusable grocery bag.
We talk critically about the hegemonic institutions that create these body ideals. We complain together, air our grievances, we nod and shake our heads together. We are a good class, a good group of people who can empathize and understand each other’s problems, but that’s not enough to save me from wanting to shrink into my backpack and cry in a bathroom stall.
I have been force fed the idea that I am too fat for society. That I take up too much space. Ever since I started wearing Misses Petite clothing when I was 8 years old. Or when I was cast as the giant in first grade play (the other option was the elf, and that was definitely out of the question). Or when I was 9 and in my community soccer league, where the only thing they wanted me to do was push the smaller girls down with my awkward brawn. I was too big to ever be a child.
In middle school, as everybody grew taller, my height stagnated. My pediatrician told my mother when I was 10 that if I continued growing at the same rate and maintaining my 150 pounds I would be 6 foot and have a healthy BMI. I had never experienced the privilege of a healthy BMI, much less skinniness, so I was obviously excited. But years went by, and the fat that I continued to accumulate steadily did not shift to my butt or my boobs or my hips. It stayed where it was in my thighs and my stomach. Everybody grew around me like corn in a field. Boys were handsome now. Girls were becoming sexy. I stayed rotund and endearingly so, like a turnip or a rabbit.
In high school, I gave up. Resigned to my fate, but so proud of the times when I went without breakfast. And lunch. And dinner. Morbidly proud of my ability to starve. Even when I could utilize that pinnacle of “self-control,” that was ignoring meals, it was not enough to stave off the pounds that came from puberty and bingeing a dozen Oreos before bed. The only B I got in high school was not in any of the 12 advanced placement courses or any of the academic courses at all. It was in gym, because I sweat too early, too much. Because my BMI was in the red, and my walking our daily sprints made my teachers’ eyes stop on me.
Now, I am a feminist. I am supposed to scream “riots not diets.” I am supposed to relish in my love of donuts and cupcakes. I am supposed to bite into the high sugar, high fat delights like every swallow is an activist punch to the air.
But in reality, every time I eat that extra side of fries or that ½ pound burger, I feel the eyes around me sinking into my flesh, taking it in greedily, as if they are processing me like a card through an ATM: “Your current balance is 200 lbs. Would you like to make another deposit?” Contrary to the analogy, however, I do not gain value with gained pounds. I decrease value. Morally, I am over-indulgent. Ethically, I am all too lazy. According to Reddit, my activism stems from the lack of acceptance I feel on a daily basis. It’s me complaining and not being active.
I’m not coming to class, because I’m taking the time to write this. I’m taking that time to re-evaluate the history of my fatness, the current event that is my fatness. I am taking this time to write this and be angry, because of the shame I have felt on a daily basis since I knew I was too big to be a child, and it is a waste of my time. It is a waste of my time to understand dressing my body as problem solving and to eat with guilt and starve with pride.
These discussions that we’re having are important, but it is just as important to have discussions with yourself. Right now I want to re-evaluate my history and the triggered memories that keep coming up. I want to accept the original shame I felt about my body, and heal from all of it. I want to be able to accept this sadness and detox the infolded negativity from my body. I want to be able to hold on to these memories as material for impassioned words and future acceptance. This is self-care. Writing it all down and letting people see it, but mostly letting myself see it. I am a long way from my own body acceptance, and further from love, but I am working on it.
Until then, I am in the library and not in class, and I am still fat, and I am still sad, and I am still angry, and I am still me.