I don’t ever remember a time when I wasn’t fat. However, it has taken me over thirty years to type that sentence. When I was younger, I would have been mortified if someone said the “f” word. When it came to my self image, I knew two things when I was younger: I was fat, and fat is unattractive. As many young girls in our culture do, I deduced that I was unattractive. And because of this deduction, I was mortified when someone said the “f” word because they were basically saying I was ugly.
Adolescence is a perilous time. If children can be mean, then teenagers can be downright evil. Along with growing up being told that I was fat (sic ugly), and that I “had such a pretty face if only I could lose weight,” in middle school an older student branded me Shamu. When everyone would snickered, I joined the laughter as if I were in on the joke instead of being the joke. Little did they know that the laughter was merely the embankment for my tears…tears that I would later expel in the privacy of my bedroom.
The media only compounded my debasement. Bear in mind that a significant part of my adolescence occurred in the 1990s during the height of “heroin chic.” As I would gaze longingly at the magazines in the grocery store checkout, I saw no reflection. I could not see myself in those pages. I would look down at myself and silently pray that God could transform me into the gossamer models that seemingly everyone either favored or emulated, sometimes both.
Then there was me. The opposite. Not to be favored. Not to be emulated. Not to be loved.
The media images and name calling built into a gospel cacophony. As in all things, repetition builds fluency, and I soon became an expert in fat and shame.