Dear Nicole Arbour,
Call me fat. Make fun of my size if that makes you feel better as a human being. Feel free to say I smell like sausage, and sweat Crisco and that my broke-down knees made you late in the airport, because I can take it. Nicole, say whatever the damn thing you want about me because at the end of the day, I’m the one who lives in my body…not you…and I’m the one who has to decide if I love myself or not. Your shaming won’t shame me, dear Nicole, because everything you have said are things I’ve heard before.
I was the kid who gained thirty pounds over the summer from when I was seven until I was eight. Kids like you made fun of me in school, called me names, made fat person jokes at my expense…but what you never knew is that I was being sexually abused by my neighbor that summer and I didn’t know how to get help. So instead, I ate. I used my fat as the blanket to insulate myself from my abuser and from people like you. And I am so grateful I had it as my coping tool.
I was the fat girl who didn’t quite fit into clothes right in fifth grade and had to wear clothes that were built for an adult instead. People like you made fun of me then, too. You didn’t know that my family was struggling, or that all of my poorly fitting clothes were picked up at the thrift store, or that most of my meals were unhealthy because we couldn’t afford healthier options. I was the kid whose dad was a chainsmoker. I smelled bad, I know I did. People like you and your friends would plug your nose and wave your hand around me to shoo away my stink. It’s okay, though. We were kids and you couldn’t even comprehend how much your snubbing hurt me at the time.
Dear Nicole, in seventh grade people like you teased the living crap out of me because of my frizzy hair and rolls of chub. See, we’d moved that year…for the 12th time in 12 years, and during all that moving I didn’t have friends to teach me how to fix my hair, or to hang out in the park and stay active with me. I was always the new kid, and since I was already shy I spent all of my time in my room reading. Not many calories are burned whilst reading. But you know what I got from all that reading? A love of books. A love of words. So while you were out with your friends, being active, staying slender, I was building universes in my brain. At thirteen you were learning how to repeat the same cheer over and over; I wrote a full-lenth novel. I call that a win.
In tenth grade people like you played a practical joke on me in front of the school. Pulled down my pants to shame me in front of everyone. But you know what happened, Nicole? I wasn’t crushed. I knew in that moment who in that school I could be friends with, and the people I should avoid. That joke saved me a lot of time and broken friendships, and in that moment I started to love myself.
Dear Nicole, you are right that all it takes is diet and exercise to lose weight. You speak the truth when you say that we fat people should work harder because we’re killing ourselves slowly. Because we’re going to leave those we love behind. Because we inconvenience the people around us just by taking up more space and smelling like sausage.
But you know what else? We fat people also have a choice in whether to love ourselves and what form that love takes. For me, loving myself is not letting people like you get me down. Until you actually have to carry around the extra weight I have to carry around, I will not feel badly about parking up close to the store. Until you’ve had to survive the hell I’ve survived, I won’t feel bad about the cake I eat when I’m feeling really low. I love the idea of being healthier, but until then I’ve come to terms with my weight. I am completely okay with loving myself and my very round shape…because at the end of the day, when I go to bed at night, I still love myself. All of myself.
Dear Nichols…I feel for you. You’re being beat up for posting a video that shames more than 35% of the American population all because you spoke your truth. If this is your truth, speak it. Do what makes you happy. And understand that while you’re being you, I’m going to be me. I’m going to embrace my fat self, enjoy my fattitude, and your shaming will never shame me. I took my love of books and became an author. People around the world read my worlds and love my words and those people don’t give a flying Fig Newton about how big I am because I’m able to make their world happier. Can you say the same about what you do?
Dear Nicole – I wish you good health. I hope you never have to live the way I do, because I don’t know if you have the inner fortitude to survive it. I hope that you always have a good life because I have to choose to have a good life every single day. And while you thought your video would shame me into becoming more like you…all I can say is that I am so, so very grateful to get to be me. Fat, and all.
Author Mary Malcolm/Mary Duncanson
Nicole’s video below…NSFW language.