Today I came across three different items, all dealing with the F word – Fat.
As I was driving to work this morning, I had an ugly memory pop into my head. I have no idea why I started thinking about it, and as soon as it arrived in my thoughts, I wished it away. The one where a dermatologist I’d seen to treat skin tabs on my neck berated me for being “so fat that you could lose 50 pounds and no one would notice.” He told me that my skin tabs were the direct result of my obesity, and then went on to rant at me as he sadistically jolted me with electricity to burn off the skin tabs. It’s been almost 12 years since the incident, but recalling it instantly put me back in that office where I felt ashamed and angry and humiliated. In the moment I was so shocked that this man was saying these things to me that I didn’t say anything. And then I fought back. I contacted the head of hospital for Kaiser Permanente San Francisco and demanded action be taken against this “doctor” to prevent his bullying of any other patient. Kaiser took swift action, wrote the doctor up, and made him apologize to me (which I took with a grain of salt). My greatest satisfaction came when I was able to directly contact the doctor and tell him, “I may be fat, but I can lose weight. You will always be an asshole.” I know it was a shallow victory, but it felt empowering all the same. And I love imagining his face turning 50 shades of purple, yet being forced to remain silent. Bullies bring out the worst in us.
The second “f-word” reference came from Jennifer Weiner’s heart-wrenching essay in Allure, The F Word. Take a few minutes and read the essay. It resonated with me so deeply, and I was in tears by the end of it.
Lastly, I saw this video, posted via UpWorthy.com, about a news anchor who takes a stand against a bully. Her speech is so heartfelt, so poignant, that again, I was in tears by the end of it, but I also took it as a call to action.
I think the word “fat” is one of the worst things someone can call another person. Whether or not the term is accurate makes little difference. The word reduces someone to the very flaw they are most self-conscious of. As Jennifer Weiner and the news anchor both said, people are so much more than their outward appearance.
I hear girls at school calling themselves fat all the time, and I cringe. These girls are tiny by any standards, yet hold themselves to some impossible standard. Or, they feel that self-deprecation is the only way to counter a critical comment they assume is waiting in the wings; they say negative things about themselves before anyone one else is able to. It’s sad.
Although I’ve been obese most of my adult life, and overweight as a child and teenager before that, I have rarely been called fat. Which, considering the fact that I’m a high school English teacher, is really saying something. Then again, who knows what people are saying about me when I’m out of earshot. In any case, harsh words hurt no matter how old you are.
Which leads me to what I believe is the moral of this story. I think I had these three reminders come up today so that I can do my part to prevent someone else from being called fat. Or any other derogatory word based on their race, gender, religion, sexual orientation, etc. I can lend my voice and do what I do best – educate.
October is National Bullying Prevention Awareness Month, and since bullying has affected everyone’s life in one way or another, including mine, I’m going to do my part to take a stand against bullying. I’m going to teach a unit about bullying (focusing on cyber bullying) to one of my classes, including a presentation by our local mental health organization so that I can start the dialogue about anti-bullying with my students.
What will you do? If you’re not sure, why not start with buying a tshirt. I love this design (which I put my own spin on, hence the black shirt and hot pink headphones), and I’m going to buy it to wear next week: