It’s Still Bullying, Even If You Were “Just Joking”

I was on the school bus to the skating rink today with several upper elementary classes. I overheard a couple of kids telling “Yo Mama is so fat” jokes. I used to laugh at these kind of jokes. Yo Mama is so fat, when she sits around the house, she really sits AROUND the house…etc. As a big lady from a big-boned family, I decided to say something.

“Hey maybe you want to tell those kind of jokes when there’s not a fat lady sitting here?”

Everyone in earshot stared in stunned silence, did the teacher just say she was fat?

I went on to say, “I know you’re just joking, but it still is not cool to make fun of someone’s body. They are probably exercising and eating healthy and feeling bad they can’t change, fat people can’t lose weight as easy as you’d think. I’ve been trying almost my whole life.”

A nearby student said, “Mic. Drop.” Another said, “My Mom is like that too, and she is really nice. It’s more important what’s on the inside.” The jokesters sheepishly said sorry, and I said, “I know you weren’t trying to hurt someone, but it’s still bullying even if you say you’re just joking.”

As I was wondering if I was taking this whole thing too personally, and blowing it out of proportion, and coming down unnecessarily on those boys, we all got off the bus. A student came up to me before I was consumed by tightening skate laces, and said, “Thank you for saying that on the bus. I sometimes don’t feel good about my size, and I don’t like those jokes.” It made me sad that I’ve come so far in accepting myself, and these youngsters around me are just starting out realizing the impossible beauty standards being set on men and women.

It always shocks people when I call myself fat. As if I’m insulting myself, as if fat was synonymous with disgusting or unworthy. There is fat on my body, it’s undeniable. I take all negativity from the adjective and be OK with being fat. People will gasp and say “Oh you’re not fat!” I am though. I would need to lose over 80 pounds to not be overweight according to outdated and medically-shunned BMI charts. My body shape has strangers asking when I’m due.

One day I figure it will change. When someone asks, “Have you lost weight?” It won’t be meant as the ultimate compliment, but an expression of concern over someone’s health, like, “oh no, have you got the cancer?!” And will be replaced by, “My you’re looking deliciously rotund this evening.”

Who am I kidding though. I’m still haunted by, “Why don’t you try jogging some time? Put down the cheeseburgers, land whale! You beefy buffalo bitch! Don’t you know how unhealthy it is to be fat? Go on a diet already, fatty. Get off your ass once in a while! You are bigger than I was when I was six months pregnant. No ice cream for you.” Just a taste of how I was bullied, even way back when I was the slimmest I ever was. The thing with fat shaming is that the uninformed believe it is a choice to be fat. They don’t see the 1800 calorie diet you maintain, your food logs, meal planning, exercise regimes. They just see all the weight loss industry’s ads making it look oh-so-easy. Just drink this shake. Just use this machine. Just take this pill. Well, there wouldn’t be a multi-billion dollar industry if “eat less and exercise more” were effective at all. Not even with all the thyroid meds in the world. All I can do is believe my doctor when he says I’m healthy, and remember the core of making us feel bad about our bodies is so someone can make money off us.

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