I am the woman in the picture. Fat. I remember my 2nd grade. It was the first time when people started using the word to describe me. Painful memories of my class teacher calling me out to show the whole class what a fat person looks like come into my mind. I will always remember how terribly ashamed I felt when everyone in the class looked me up and down, as a bunch of seven year olds comprehended for the first time what fat is. Imagine the damage it does to a child’s mind when they realise that they are not “normal” looking!
Fat. Rakesh (name changed) my first crush told my best friend when she asked him about his feelings for me, “she is a smart girl. I only asked her out because she will help me with the answers in the exams, I don’t like fat girls,” he said. “I can get way, way better girls than her.”
Fat. “You’re so fat. No one will marry you,” said my mother.
Fat. “Who will want to get serious with a fatty like you?” asked my brother.
Fat. “Oye, truck! Oye, container! Oye batate (potato)! Rikishi (a sumo wrestler)! Snorlacks (a large sized pokemon that sleeps all the time)!” were the names given to me by my friends.
I am 24 years old, sitting in a gynaecologist’s office, dragged in here by my mother because I am fat.
I am earning now, and hence, out of my hard earned money, I spent ₹1,700 on a full abdominal sonography, ₹2,500 on thyroid hormone test, prolactin test, glucose challenge test and fasting sugar test. There was another ₹1,000 for consulting said doctor.
A quarter of my salary gone, I walk out with a diagnosis that failed to convince me. And to add salt to my wounds, the doctor said, “plus you will look much better when you lose weight (excuse me, are you saying I am ugly?) and you will become fairer, if you diet (I am south Indian honey! That is a racist thing to say).” What does a gynaecologist have to do with skin?
I avoid going to the doctor even if I am extremely sick because one time, I went in for a diagnosis of my headache and was asked to lose weight, turns out I had sinusitis (c’mon doctors, you have to stop kidding me).
I avoid going socialising where I know people are fat-phobic like parties that have “socially credited” good looking people. One time, a lady in church stopped me in public and asked me, “can I give you some advice?” And before I could say anything, she says, “lose some weight, you are really looking very bad like this, I feel sorry for you.” Imagine my horror!
It was Easter, I wore my best dress, wore considerable amounts of make up to have this lady tell me such horrible things? I never asked you how I look, what the fuck is wrong with you? I don’t tell you that you are ugly, I smile at you and wish you “happy easter” like a normal, polite person and walk on home to get drunk on homemade wine and cake!
Recently, I called out some friends on a Whatsapp group about fat-phobic language directed towards me and sexist jokes that they made generally about women and I was called an extremist feminist! After considerable amounts of explanation (where I should have been the one being apologised to, instead I was left justifying myself), they agreed to not use that kind of language, but this incident dented our friendship.
Now, I am scared of talking about my pain with my friends when they call me truck, tractor, container or batata or the several dreadful things associated with big or large. Should I laugh it off? Why should I? How am I the extremist? Is my use of negative language killing you? If anything, I feel like dying every day when jokes are made at my expense.
I felt like dying every day when the person I used to love wanted me to keep our relationship a secret because I am fat and our common friends made fun of him.
Who is the extremist here?
Is it right to put a seven year old girl on the spot in front of the whole class? Is it right to ask a healthy person again and again what is wrong with her? Sometimes, I find myself waiting for some manifestation of illness because I am overweight. It’s been 24 years, I am still waiting.
In what world is it right, that I can’t even tell my friends that I am seeing someone because he is embarrassed of me?
I ask myself, why this treatment? Everyone ranging from close family, friends and boyfriends feel the need to point out that I am fat. I am not even going to start telling you about internet trolls and the cyber-bullying I suffer.
Ableism: Use of inconsiderate language towards differently abled people, or a thought process that discriminates against people who are not normatively bodied, like in this case against people who have extra fat.
You know where I have found the most amount of acceptance? With children. I work for an organisation called Nareshwadi Learning Centre (www.nareshwadi.org ) where I work closely with tribal or orphaned children and I make it my point to share my experience about fat-phobia, ableism, sexism and classism with kids so that they pave a future, where individuals like me do not have to suffer at the hands of friends, relatives and loved ones.
And they gladly empathise. I wish adults had half the empathy that these kids have.
A person can be fat for a variety of reasons, genetic, physiological or psychological. It’s nobody’s place to judge. I have taken it upon myself, a mission to educate anyone who is ready to listen.
I deserve as much love and respect as the next person and I hope you get it too.
Everyone is beautiful, every size, every shape, every colour is so fucking beautiful. The wonder and innocence in the eyes of children is beautiful, the love shining in the eyes of a newly married couple is beautiful, the toothless smile of the old lady I meet in the train is beautiful. Let us all stop being so rude to each other and love each other to death instead!