For most of my life, I have had one question bouncing around in my head, reverberating in my memories and infiltrating my everyday life: Why is my body bad? It has stuck with me like a bad memory that, at this point, I'm sure I won't ever forget. And all because I've been taught that fat is a derogatory word.
I can still remember the first time it was said to me. It happened on the school playground, as I approached a few girls on the jungle gym and asked if I could play with them. The ring-leader of the group sat on top of the monkey bars, and after pondering for a few seconds, she said, "No. You're too fat." Sometimes I wonder if this didn't really happen-- if I made it up to explain to myself why I hated my body so much. But I know it did because this scene has been replayed in my head thousands of times. I can see the red monkey bars, feel the wood chips under my shoes, and hear the voice of the girl who said it to me.
I was in kindergarten.
This incident sat in the back of my mind for a few years because I really wasn't sure what to make of it. I knew that what she was saying was bad because of the tone of her voice, but I didn't know why she thought being fat was bad. Later on in elementary school, I considered going on diets so I could lose weight to look more like my classmates. Once, at a Girl Scout meeting focused on healthy living, my troop leader put her hands on my shoulders and said that "Taylor is a bit bigger than normal girls." I went home that night and cried, now one hundred percent positive that I was different from everyone else in the worst way. I was so embarrassed about it that I didn't tell anyone what happened for years, not even my own mother. These incidents, mixed with common body insecurities, set me on the fast-track to real-deal body issues in middle school.
What happened next? Lots of yo-yo dieting, comparisons to other girls, and crying. Crying because I was fat. Which is bad. I mean, no one likes being called fat, right? Society tells us it's bad. Every time we turn on the TV or pick up a magazine, we are bombarded with "how she lost the weight" stories and before and after pictures. "Obviously," our brains tell us, "that girl looks better on the right, after she ate only frozen diet meals for a year." And when we go shopping, the "plus size" clothing is a tiny section in the back of the store, if it's even there at all. Society tells us that being fat is bad and that fat people should be shamed because of their size.
Well, guess what? Society's wrong. Being fat isn't bad, it's just how a person is shaped. That's all! I'm sure a lot of people are concerned about this. "Taylor, why are you encouraging people to insult you?" That's not what I'm doing. What I'm trying to do is re-claim my fat as an adjective and nothing more.
You see, my problem with the word isn't what it means, but how it's said and how it's presented to me visually (i.e. before and after pictures, diet ads, etc.). What I want to change is the negative connotation that is attached to the word. I want to be able to say, "Hey, I'm fat!" without someone patting me on the shoulder and saying, "No you're not!" As if they're trying to prevent my self-deprication. I want fat people to be seen as what they truly are: people. Not walking "before" pictures that are tainted by an evil description of their size. Isn't it gross that people are so afraid to be fat that they think it's bad to use the word fat as an adjective? I wouldn't say to a tall person, "You're not tall! That's so awful to say that." No, I wouldn't because society doesn't constantly tell me that being tall is a bad thing.
Dear society: I can be fat and still love myself.
Why? Because my size does not define me. You can put a "plus size" label on my clothes, but you can't put one on me. I have spent so many years of my life being told that I needed to fix myself, when, in actuality, the only thing that needed fixing was everyone's attitude towards the word fat.
So I will not fix myself. I will not change. I'm sure my weight will fluctuate with time, but when it does, I will be no different than who I am right now. All that maters is my happiness, health, and well being, not my weight. What I've learned, where I've traveled, who I've met, what I've said-- these are the things that make me who I am. Not my fat stomach or my stretch marks or the number on the tags of my clothing. Because even with a fat stomach and stretch marks and a big nose and short legs and pale skin, I am beautiful. I am valuable. I am so, so worth it. I am smart and funny and kind and I will do great things.
Oh, and one more thing. I'm fat, and I'm okay with it.