Thursday, September 30, 2010
Fat Girl Fights Back #1: My Life as Fat Child
I've experienced all demarcations of fatness, ranging from near-normalcy [infancy to age 5, a brief period from ages 12-14] to the mid-sized Kathy Bates/Delta Burke arena [my teenage years to age 26] and circus lady fat status [detailed here after my 400lb weight gain]. During childhood I had more normal and fat years, but mid-elementary school definitely was fat.
All my life I've heard weight loss was the ticket out of the name-calling of childhood, and the object poverty of adulthood. Endless telegrams came from well-meaning relatives, "You need to lose weight!" and those messages began very early. Did they all think it was a secret, I just hadn't realized I was fat, or that I needed a daily reminder, even after my big swollen feet hit the floor?
My mother showed her first signs of frustration with me at age five, I stood at least 5-6 inches taller then all the other kindergartners and I was far fatter too. I realized this fact during ballet class with my younger sister. Vague memories of the dance steps linger, but my first feelings of discomfort being larger came on early, as I watch my fellow ballerinas come off as cute little graceful pixies, and in comparison to them, I moved as a lumbering ox!
Childhood is a lesson in life for what awaits a fat person--squeezing into small desks, getting ridiculed in gym class--only to be told they've heaped such ill treatment on themselves for being lazy and fat. Growing up this way consigned me to a queasy, self conscious vulnerability--with an eternal bulls eye drawn on my back. Eight is too early an age for the desire to sink into a deep abyss, knowing there was no protection offered from all the endless razzing at my small Catholic school.
The teasing I faced ranged from standard-issue insults ["Fatty, Fatty", Two by Four"] to more creative nicknames like "Earthquake Woman," with related sound affects. My equally inspired un-Christian response [Leave me alone, you *$$(@*#!] was always good for a lengthy afternoon in Sister Mary Helen's office, who'd lecture me about my poor peer relations. While I got good grades [at least from teachers who based the grades on actual test scores] telling on my classmates only made things worse. So many teachers found me whiny, claiming I was overreacting to all the jibes, not realizing my brother who was a year older was serving as my body guard on the playground things were that bad. They would repeat the world's biggest lie over and over: "If you don't pay attention to it, then they will just stop!" Another grown up reaction was, "Well lose weight then they won't make fun of you!"
However the best pain-blocking, nail sitting yogi, couldn't have ignored the pig noises or comments about my ordinary lunch which always consisted of a bologna and lettuce sandwich, a handful of chips and always three cookies in plastic zip-lock bags.
In third grade, I found myself giving back what I had gotten for far too long. It happened right before lunch. When three girls taunted me, "Fatty, Fatty can't get through the bathroom door!" With Holly Hobbie braids flying, I smacked my first tormentor in the jaw and followed with another swing at her brother. All my teachers admonishments weren't cutting it anymore; I was seeing through a red haze of endless insults, taunts and snickers.
I clawed, pinched and screamed at eight of my classmates and then I dashed to the cloakroom at the back of the classroom where every body's book bags and coats hung, I started taking lunches out of book bags, and stomping on them: if I could not eat, neither would they!
While everyone hung back, surprised and horrified, I rampaged over their Ho-Hos, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches--followed by avalanches of Twinkies and apples that went rolling out of the cloakroom. I'd nearly vanquished about half of the lunches when our nun principal, came running into the room. I would spend the afternoon in her office, until my mother came to get me.
Instead of addressing my daily doses of torment, my memories are vague as to whether any suspensions or expulsions were discussed, the teachers had written me off as the trouble-maker, instead of facing facts about the daily abuse I put up with or or punishing my bullies. At least when I went home, my parents understood what triggered the retaliation against the never ending teasing and being made fun of.
To be continued.....