The disgusted, frustrated sigh of someone waiting on a fat person to get food.
“Typical,” he muttered. Typical. What a word. I have spent the better part of my life in a body best described as “voluptuous.” I shop in the plus-size section and my chest is so big I haven’t seen my feet while standing since eighth grade. I am pretty sure it’s safe to call myself “fat.”
But am I typical?
If we’re going to categorize people by their body type, fatness is a matter of perspective. Even the medical chart used to determine healthy weight, the body mass index, doesn’t account for things like muscle mass, so there’s not a truly universal way to determine whether or not someone is “fat.”
And even if we buy categories as imprecise as that, a 2018 report from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation shows Cleveland has the 11th highest obesity rate in the United States.
Which means that any way you cut it, dear boring man waiting for a chocolate swirl, my fat body is “typical” for this damn yogurt line. A city like Cleveland should be far more understanding and accepting of fat bodies in public.
Yet the second it hits a temperature where I’m no longer comfortable wearing the cardigan that normally covers my arms, the public suddenly forgets en masse how to disguise the disgust on their faces, and that includes fellow fat people.
Internalized fatphobia is real, y’all. We’re taught from birth that it’s unacceptable to be fat. No one wants to be “the fat kid.” Every ounce of media we consume tries to shame us into being smaller in between ads for the absolute worst food imaginable.
This column is only 900 words long, so I don’t even have enough time to draw the correlation between poverty, fat bodies and marginalized communities. But believe me, it’s there. And when you’re force-fed a narrative that “you’ll always be lesser-than until you’re smaller than ___,” you start to hate anyone that doesn’t hate their fat body as much as you hate your own.
For some reason, because I don’t have a tiny waist, this means that people in public feel emboldened to tell me they think I’m “disgusting” or shout at me to “put some clothes on.” Someone half my size wearing the exact same outfit might get catcalled (gross), but they won’t be called “disgusting.”
At this point, comments like that don’t even faze me. I am unabashedly fat. When it’s 95 degrees outside, you bet your ass I’m going to wear a crop top and shorts to do whatever I can to keep myself cool, eating frozen yogurt included.
But I wasn’t always this way. I have had a tumultuous relationship with my body over the years.
I grew up in a family that was constantly concern-shaming. That’s when fat people are harassed with phrases like “I just want you to be healthy!” It was a nice, Midwestern way to guilt-trip me into skinniness. But those same people doing the shaming also glorify photos of thin women eating an entire pizza by themselves with phrases like #goals. It was never about health. It’s always been about aesthetic.
It took me a while, but I stopped caring about what people had to say about my body when I started writing. When you are a woman writing in the public light, your body becomes the first thing weaponized by anyone who disagrees with you.
After years of being called a “fat b-tch” or a “gross pig” by strangers on the internet upset that my opinions were so unbearably better than theirs, loving my body became the first line of defense. Loving myself made me unstoppable, unshakable and impossible to screw with.
That doesn’t make Cleveland summers less of a nightmare. I sweat like a rolling hot dog at a United Dairy Farmers checkout register. I spend every 40 seconds trying to pull sweat-soaked chub-rub-preventing shorts out of my crotch, because they immediately get eaten by my thighs the second I walk out of the door. The amount of boob sweat that pools at the bottom of my bra could probably drown a small rodent.
It’s uncomfortable, it’s disgusting, but remember this Cleveland — I am the statistically typical one. Not everyone can develop skin as thick as their thighs to deal with the daily judgement.
But Cleveland — and I’m talking to all of you now — let this summer be the one where you finally love your body. You’re not alone.
Two summers ago, someone yelled “Cover up! No one wants to see that!” while I was hanging out with friends at Edgewater Beach. Their words stung.
But I brushed them away because my years of being the fat kid with a T-shirt on over their swimsuit in public are far behind me, and there’s no way I’m going back to waving a white flag by wearing it on my skin. Our bodies are not a battleground.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, it’s time for me to dig out my crop top, the one featuring “Fattitude” written in mustard on a hot dog.
It’s finally warm enough to show off.
8:00 AM EST
June 28, 2019