I had this conversation today as I had a forkful of food halfway to my mouth:
Person, who I will never name: "you know, the more you eat, the bigger your tummy will get."
Me, putting the bite in my mouth: "yeah, and you know what...there are bigger things in life to worry about than how big a person's stomach gets."
I have been waiting for something like this to happen. I have almost never been outright shamed while eating or shamed for being a plus size person. I feel as though part of that is because I am also an amputee, but that is a completely separate post that could probably be more like a series of posts I will save for later.
There are only two other times I can really think of:
Once at a shoe store while I was walking around testing shoes, I was probably 10 or 11, this littler girl (5, maybe?) asked my mom why my tummy was so big. I pretended as if I didn't hear her and kept walking around the store to test my shoes. I can't even remember my mom's response, but I waited for the girl to leave the store with her parents before I went back to my mom. I didn't ask my mom about it and she didn't bring it up. I had been so ashamed. I felt bad for my mom that I was the way I was. My weight was the reason someone asked her that and the reason she had to come up with a polite response because we were in public. I knew she was also embarrassed for me. I knew she felt as though this was going to be my future. That this was going to be a common accurance for me and maybe for her. And that she was uncomfortable with it. I could see it in her eyes when I sat down to take the shoes off. I could tell I had disappointed her. At least, that's what my young brain told me...because I was disappointed in myself.
Another time, I was walking into my high school (after I graduated) to get a copy of my transcripts so I could transfer colleges. There was a small group of boys walking and one shouted something to me, that I couldn't really hear, but another boy hit him and he didn't say more. In about .5 seconds I decided I was going to tell them a lie about why I was overweight if they said something when they got closer. A really sob story about cancer and steroids to make them feel bad for making fun of me. But I didn't need my story. We walked past each other as if nothing happened. I am convinced the boy who hit his friend pointed out my leg to get him to shut up. Of course, I have no proof, but I am intuitive enough to figure it out.
But, I am lucky. I don't have people who have made fun of me. Or made comments. I was never really put into terrible situations like that. At least not to my face. Maybe people talked shit on me all the time and I was so naive I had no idea. However, that doesn't mean I haven't had a response stored up, waiting, just incase.
Over the years, with age and acceptance, it's gotten less petty and more constructive. But bitch, you best believe if you come at me with super rude comments, I'm immature enouh to whip out my sob story when need be!!!
But today when that comment was made, I went blank. I hate my response. I hate that I couldn't think of something else to say. I hate that it may have come across as defensive instead of constructive.
I hate that I couldn't talk it out with this person because there were too many people around and I didn't want to get this person in trouble for saying something that could be interpreted as not so nice. I hated that I'm not even sure this person was shaming me or concerned with my health and was genuinely concerned. (And while typically, I would say it's still rude because it's no one else's business if I'm healthy or not, in this case, it could really have been genuine...I just didn't have the opportunity to ask.) I also hate I couldn't explain what I meant about bigger things to worry about.
The person, I think, thought I was talking about bigger picture things like war and world peace. But that's not what I meant.
I meant mental health, self confidence, self worth, pride. I meant people may have large tummies, but their heart and their personality and their morals and their values mean more than their appearance. I wanted to ask this person why they made the comment, if it was because of how I look or if they were worried about my health. Those are two different things -- the first would mean I had the opportunity to talk about societal standards and bad influences, the second makes me feel as though this person was concerned for me. And if that's the case I wanted him/her to know I have gotten clean bills of health at all my yearly check ups. I wanted to have a conversation about how people who have small stomachs can be just as unhealthy.
Lastly, I really, really wish I could have asked this person if they felt they were being body shamed themselves. I wanted to see if they had issues and concerns about themselves that we could talk out.
I am scared I missed the opportunity to have a deeper conversation, to try to explain things differently, to talk it all out. I am scared this person will say this or worse to someone who is weaker than I am, who can't handle to be shamed, even if this person has genuine intentions. I am scared this person will forever feel as though they have the right to make a comment like that to someone who is overweight just because they are overweight. I am scared someone is making this person feel bad and has stopped them mid-bite to explain "more food equals bigger tummy" as if a bigger tummy is ugly and bad and negative. I am scared this person isn't having mentally healthy conversations about health.
All I can do now is hope for another opportunity. And all I can do is try to create that opportunity. Wish me luck!
Because I can and because I want to prove that women who have bigger stomachs can still be happy, here is a collection of photos from this year that have truly made me feel happy and beautiful: