It’s no surprise that I was a fat kid. I was to my recollection for almost my entire childhood the biggest kid in the class, almost the whole school! There was one other girl who was heavy in my grade, and we were not friends, in fact I think we kinda hated each-other. She had nicer clothes than me, parents had more money, etc etc. I was the forever awkward one. The but of all jokes. Unfortunately there was no place in my life where I wasn’t the target of teasing.
My dad grew up in a family where that kind of behavior was ok. My dad grew up living above a bar that his parents owned. 😦 Alcohol is toxic, I am not going to preach about it. I am not here to judge, I have a drink on occasion however what it can breed is awful. He was bullied because of his weight, he lost quite a bit of weight as he got older as a result, he says, of that torture. Since that was the only way dad knew how to interact with people, it trickled down to be his way to motivate me. I had no “safe space” to retreat to. I begged and pleaded with my mom to get my dad to stop the teasing. My brother, who also had a weight problem would get to jump in on the fat bashing bandwagon. (In the #Fitbloggin community this week someone mentioned the old SpecialK ads with “Pinch an Inch” and that bring back a flood of pain like I never remembered)
My school had no “anti bullying” policy when I was there. They have one now, I have been told it was my ending up in treatment after trying to take my own life (for many reasons) along with the Columbine incident, which happened right about the same time, that in part spurred the “zero tolerance” stance on bullying.
Even when I was around other teens that were overweight I wasn’t really able to make friends. When I was about 11 I started (read: was forced) Weight Watchers, it was a 45 minute drive to the meeting every week, and I would weigh in, sit in the corner, then leave. It was miserable. I was miserable.
I could never really figure out WHY I was the object of such ridicule in school. I didn’t really have many people I would call “friends” during middle or high school. Just because you know someone, or see them on occasion, or hang out from time to time really doesn’t make them your friend. I had a few people that I was close with during school… My “best friend” moved away in second grade and I was never really the same. Her name was Trista and from what I can recall, and what I am told, I wasn’t quite the same after that. I remember writing her letters for a while, but it is hard for a second grader to keep a long distance friendship alive.
I wasn’t good at making friends, and due to the fact that it was such a small town I think it was a case of once one person decided you weren’t liked you were S.O.L. I was the one that was the “do I have to invite them” person, last one picked odd man out, and you know what that is ok.
When I went off on my own I found my own voice, away from the, what I have come to think of as closed minded people that I was around for so long. I had certain responsibilities that I needed to fill when I was younger. I had things that were important and thats okay, but the stigma of being the overweight kid in bifocals, by first grade is a hard one to shake… and it only got worse as I got older.
I hear from friends now, whom I forged friendships with via a virtual medium (voice chat on Xbox Live, mIRC, LiveJournal etc.) and now interact with in the real world, that they cannot believe how amazing I am. (Not to toot my own horn… ok a lil toot toot!) How I can bring out laughter in peoples hearts, smiles from the darkest spaces, make people who felt so alone so welcome so loved and just plain valued because you know what they are! When I am told that I make someone feel special because I remember something about them, or I spent a bit of time with them, it wasn’t because I felt sorry for them, it is because they are. I don’t know if it is a “gift” that I can see the value in people, see potential where others see too much of a challenge, but I adore it. I now know that I can light up any room, (she can turn the world on with her smile) give me a chance and I will show you what I can do. I never got that chance when I was younger, I lived in a shell. Hidden, beaten down, unable to break free to let my heart and soul be as big as they needed to be, and perhaps that is part of why I got so big, I was trying to keep too much in. (yes there are other medical reasons but lets be honest here… cupcakes, cheese and bacon are delish!)
I want to be the one to say that the relentless agonizing teasing stops someday, and if you surround yourself with the right people it does… but inside your own head does it ever stop? Do you ever stop hearing those voices telling you that you are too fat or that you are going to fail or that you aren’t good enough for *whatever*? I live to be a cheerleader, perhaps it is as simple as that, because I spent so much of my life feeling like not a single person in the world was on my side that I NEED to be in the corner fighting on the good guys side. I am the underdog story. Perhaps the reason I never had “friends” was to prepare me for a lifetime of bringing people out of their shells, the underdogs, the people who are afraid to use their voices. Maybe just maybe someday I’ll help someone write their underdog story. From fearful to fearless because you know what… lots of things scare me in life… but as I’ve said so many times in the last few years… you have to jump before you soar and right now… I’m flying baby!