The First Time I Was Called “Fat”

Photo: Courtesy of Brittany Gibbons.
This article was originally published on June 16, 2015. The summer I was eight, my parents took my brother and me on vacation to an antiquated mobile home park in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. The majority of the inhabitants of this park were retirees who spent their days driving around in golf carts and walking the early morning beach with metal detectors. I was able to befriend two girls around my age, Mischa and Marlena, who were there visiting their Russian grandmother in the campsite behind ours. Mischa was younger than me, with thin tanned arms and a short blonde bowl cut. Marlena was slightly older, with dark curly hair that fell to her shoulders and summer freckles across her cheeks. I loved going over to their camper at night. Their grandma would braid my hair while we ate powdery spiced cookies and she talked about all the men she slept with during the war. After dinner, the three of us would walk the paved loop around the beachside community, talking about makeup and our favorite New Kid on the Block. One night, two boys on bikes stopped in front of us and asked our names. We chatted about the ocean and the warm weather, and then one of the boys asked Marlena if she had a boyfriend. After she answered no, I added that I didn’t have one, either. Then he looked at me and said, “Well yeah, because you’re fat.” In that moment, every part of my body felt different. I became acutely aware that the shorts I was wearing had ridden up between my thighs and that the waistband was leaving indentations on my hips. My tummy was not just pale and soft, but bulbous and unattractive. Suddenly, something had been put out into the universe, and there was no takes-backsies. Like that quote by Alice Hoffman, “Once you know some things, you can’t unknow them.” My days went from thinking about normal kid stuff to obsessing over my body and what people were saying about it. Was I the one blamed for passing gas during silent reading time in school because fat people are grosser and fart more than skinny people? Did the boys in gym fight to not be my square dancing partner, you know, the equivalent of child marriage, because I was chunkier than the other girls? Anxiety over my looks suddenly consumed me.
Photo: Courtesy of Brittany Gibbons.
That was the first time I was called "fat," but it certainly wasn't the last. Cow, chubs, tubby, fat-ass, fat whore — I heard it all. In college, I was considered a buffer or cock-blocker when I’d go to the bar with my super-cute friends. And then later, writing online opened me up to an entire world of negative commentary. But, here's the thing: I'm not obligated to accept negative commentary about my looks. I came to realize that people are allowed to say whatever they want to me about my weight, but it's entirely up to me how much power I let those words have over me. From Fat Girl Walking by Brittany Gibbons. Copyright (c) 2015 by Brittany Gibbons. Dey Street, an imprint of William Morrow Publishers. Reprinted by permission.

It's your body. It's your summer. Enjoy them both. Check out more #TakeBackTheBeach here.

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