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Fat all my life, I’ve received two contradictory messages about my body during my short yet conflicted time on earth:

  1. Its okay to be fat. You’re you.
  2. Always concerned about being fat because its bad and people have every right not to like you so don’t expect anything.

I wasn’t the type who spent a lot of time at the gym, on the scale, or trying to prove fat girls can dress just as well as thin girls. But I had somewhat specific and insidious ways of policing and maintaining the body hate I learned from other people despite believing it wasn’t right.

I’m the type who has had standards of dress to minimize ridicule of my fatness.

Rules I used to live by because that’s how I was taught to think about my body–

  1. Anything decent to make sure that my body is covered,
  2. rolls and folds are visible through my clothes as little as possible,
  3. arms covered—three-quarter or full sleeves, or a bolero,
  4. shirt must always cover my butt,
  5. no open toe shoes,
  6. hair must be styled so that it stays in place all day without being messed with,
  7. cleavage is feminine, right? I can show my big breasts since I have no shape, but only if the bra makes my chest look flattering,
  8. don’t do anything too different with my makeup, nothing that draws attention,
  9. double chin? hold that chin up, at least have some dignity with it
  10. can’t afford nice clothes so, again, get and wear whatever covers you but isn’t a complete tasteless bore
  11. someone gave you hand me down clothes for older women that aren’t even your style and they can’t find fashionable clothes in your size? Be grateful they even thought about you, try to rock it.

I saw the Ray Charles movie starring Jamie Foxx, showing how Ray Charles used to measure women’s wrists and forearm with the circle of his fingers to make sure they were skinny (because skinny = pretty and attractive); it reminded me of how I used to pinch the fat on the underside of my upper arm and could sometimes use it to tell if I’d gained weight.

I’ve always hated how fat is distributed on my body. My arms, gut, and back are fat rich. I have none of the smoothness and curves that plus-sized movels/curvy fat women have.

Looking back on it now, how I dressed didn’t matter. The problem to my family and the people around me was that I was fat, and they thought I was lacking something or missing out on something because of it. That was always it.

The only thing I was missing out on was being around people who weren’t making my weight and an issue and understand what fatphobia and thin privilege is and how it operates.

It destroyed me to be dressed beautifully, on purpose, in a new outfit I intentionally picked out, only to have people tear me down and comment only on my weight, compare me to my mom and sister, like I wasn’t there.

But now I know, surely, their opinions and feelings aren’t my fault and I don’t have to keep apologizing for existing.

I have a heavy heart over the love I’ve never known, but I feel hopeful, almost arrogantly confident, that I have a better future ahead of me as long as I keep working on caring for myself in the absence of care from others.