**Disclaimer, I wrote this post two years ago and never published it here. The views expressed in this post have changed with time, but the sentiment is something that I continue to explore. **
When I was in middle school I had a “friend” who referred to me exclusively as the fat chick. I know this because besides his saying it to my face he was constantly laughing about it with the older kids in the back of the bus.
In my classes I was endearingly referred to as the “fat ass” in the front row and laughed at for my size.
In high school I was the best friend of the toned and fit supermodel beach-goddess and constantly reminded by her numerous suitors how second rate I was.
Everywhere I looked movie stars were flaunting their figures and I was just trying to figure out how much broccoli I needed to eat until I didn’t hate myself. It didn’t matter that ten years of soccer led to toned legs, or that I could press my own body weight, or that I ran eight miles a day or that I joined the swim team and made varsity in the first weeks. None of that mattered to anyone but me — the girl killing herself just to be looked at without feeling vile, untouchable, and repulsive all the time.
And then my body started to change. I sprouted breasts and my hips filled out. I wasn’t the “fat chick” anymore; but she was still in there, composed of scar tissue.
When I was fourteen a boy told me I was beautiful for the first time. I was enamored by him. He knew it. He abused my trust until he replaced my repulsion with the notion that my body was a play thing. I was a piece of flesh, a vehicle of gratification – but I was not worthy of respect.
No matter how many tears I cried, times I screamed no — my voice didn’t matter. After two years in a haze of confusion, skin webbed with his trails of desire, I found myself in the doctors office diagnosed with clinical anxiety and depression and plagued by suicidal ideology.
All because I was finally validated in the way that I thought I craved.
He made me feel small. Helpless. Powerless. I vowed to never let myself feel that way again. I armored up with harsh words and buried myself behind my self-built walls. I couldn’t let anyone destroy me from the inside out in the way that he did.
By sixteen I hated myself more than I ever had as the “fat chick.”
And now, I feel eyes linger on my body in the hallways, burning through layers of oversized clothes I’ve hid my body in. I dress my body to not be looked at. I hide the most shameful parts behind extra-extra large teeshirts and baggy pants — my breasts, my hips, my stomach — all the things I have been taught to hate.
And here I am, years later, spending my summer in England, meeting all sorts of people, and I have never been so afraid. I can’t tell if it’s because the boys here are more obvious with their intentions or if they really are worse than American horn-dogs (a feat I believed almost impossible).
I’ve never hated my body quite so much as I do here. I am under constant scrutiny.
I am dissected by the man who disregarded my humanity in favor of his gratification, who shushed me to look at me, who was quick to tell me how beautiful I am but didn’t listen to a word that I said, especially when the word was no. The man who decided from the moment he saw me that I was an object to be won and disposed at his own leisure, to be caressed and bruised all at once. The man who preyed on my vulnerabilities as a vehicle of lust.
I am laid bare by the man who put me in a headlock – not once, but twice – and tried to force his lips on mine despite my protest. Or the other who saw me dancing with my friends and took it as an invitation to prod my back with his small dick. Or the other who grabbed my ass and openly appraised me as he followed me down the road with his friends when I was running to get home. Or the one who decided that on a crowded city train the fact that our knees touched must have been an invitation to lay his hands on my body. Or any of the others who have made it impossible for me to feel safe over something that I should have never felt guilty for to begin with.
So what does that mean for me? The previously bullied and self-hating girl whose still 30 pounds heavier than she would like but appraised like an object for her progression past the “fat ass” phase. It means that I can’t win.
But that’s not how the story ends. I am not powerless. I am not small. I am not an object.
And I am not the first to have to assert those things for myself.
I am writing this post not because it thrills me to tell the world of my struggle to find my worth or the shameful things that have happened — but because I know that this is so much bigger than me and I believe that no body deserves to feel small.
I am writing this for all those who came before me, and who will sadly follow, with a story to share, with a sense of shame so deep that it keeps them up at night, with hearts that are burdened by the acts committed against them, with a sense of worthlessness so debilitating that they hide themselves from a world that is constantly reminding them they can never be enough. For all those that have been told “it could have been worse” or asked why they dressed/acted in a certain way before they were blamed for the acts committed against them. For all my brothers and sisters who feel lost and hurt in a world that does everything to remind them that they aren’t worthy.
You are enough.
Sometimes people suck, sometimes the world sucks, sometimes its really hard to go on living when it feels like you are doing it all on your own – but you are not an object, you are not a toy of desire, you are not wrong because someone has wronged you, you are not the words that have been spoken over you, you are not the shame that you feel, you are enough.
You are not the lack of respect that your body has been abused with. You are not the smallness that you feel in a world that has taken advantage of all the things that make you unique. You are not the anxiety that you have been taught to feel when someone calls you beautiful. You are not a mistake. Your feelings are valid. You are not to blame.
I am learning these things everyday. I am learning to forgive, to love myself and my body, to root my identity in more than the temporal and fleeting attention of other humans. I am learning that I am enough. Exactly the way that I am – bumps, bruises, blemishes and all. I am enough.
I am strong. I am confident.
I am woman. Hear me roar.
Until next time, wonder on. xoxo