This is maybe not a funny story. At the end I wish eternal vengeance from the heavens on someone, a little. Inspired by the It Gets Better campaign and especially this post from Amanda Marcotte.
When I was 7 or 8, I went from an average sized kid to a slightly chubbier than average kid. Or maybe I was always chubby, and only after 7 it was Unacceptable. Who knows. Either way the teasing started in 5th grade, roughly.
On a typical day, a bunch of douchebaggy boys, led by a crass, hateful kid named Sigman, would point to the top of the swing set I was on at recess and remark loudly that the crossbar was bending uuuup…and dowwn… never mind that there were 5 other kids on the damn thing or that it was built to absorb swinging weight… I didn’t have even the tenuous grasp of physics I do now so I didn’t know what to say. I probably tossed off something venomous like “Shut up, Sigman” and stormed off. What do you say when the thing you most hate and fear about yourself is bring thrown at you in public?
By middle school effing Sigman was singing the Jenny Craig theme song at me, or muttering fat-related insults as he walked by me in gym. It never occurred to take a swing at him – I liked rules, and the teachers who liked me for liking the rules, too much. Also the rage and or shame. Plus this kid was a douche. He wasn’t teasing me because he liked me, or because his parents beat him. He did it because he could. He could bully me all day and then forget it by the time he got on the bus. I couldn’t.
The news story Amanda Marcotte wrote about covered teenagers who eventually got nose jobs or breast augmentations to try and put a stop to the teasing. And if your kid is saying “I need to fix this or I’m going to kill myself,” I can see why there’s a compelling argument for it. But. Liposuction would not have made those kids stop picking on me. Getting thin, healthily or unhealthily, would not have made them stop. They would have just found something else. And it would have prolonged my period of looking outside myself for solutions.
What made it stop was growing up and going to a different high school, finding my people in the music and theater departments, and being removed from any situation in which I would even think of wanting their approval.
I wasn’t out, or even that conscious of my queeritude in high school, so I don’t have stories of persecution based on sexual orientation, but I can totally share my experience with being tormented because of my appearance, my lack of gender conformity when all the girls were girly girls, and my hair-trigger temper — none of which would have been fixable via surgery. I had to find myself, and I had to get the hell away from Sigman and his ilk, and it did get better. Grownups don’t tease people in their real lives about their weight (anonymous internet commenters? Sure. But they’re just a delete button away from gone), and if I find myself in the vicinity of someone who is trying to humiliate me I can just leave. I can leave, a privilege not available to 13-year-old me trapped in Spanish class with a bully who now had two languages to be an asshat in.
Today, I’m not skinny, but I can look at myself in the mirror with affection and approval. I still have a relatively short fuse, but I can play it for laughs. Things I was afraid to do when the threat of Sigman’s mockery was hanging over my head – laugh loudly, get excited about something nobody else likes, talk to a guy or girl I have a crush on, eat effing LUNCH…. I do them all. I do them often. Because it got better.
For Sigman, I hope it got worse. Much, much worse. I don’t carry around a lot of hate and resentment for anybody these days, but in case he’s ever googling himself, and finds his way here….
Sigman, you were a craptastic excuse for a person and I secretly hope you lost a limb to some flesheating parasite and everyone in your fraternity called you stubby. Or that you got struck by lightening (Dear Odin, please make a note). Even if I weren’t fat I would have been twice the human being you are.