It’s been really hot in California lately. To beat the heat, my family and I went to the mall to bask in their sweet, sweet air conditioning. We wandered around for about two hours and decided to grab an ice cream at the ice cream stand we had passed about four times that day. My mom and brother got ice cream cones and I got a frozen chocolate-covered banana.
So what happens when a fat woman decides to eat something in public? Well, she gets shamed of course!
Right after leaving the ice cream stand, banana-on-a-stick happily in hand, some douche meanly, and with intentional naughtiness, said “ew” as he walked by. I make light of it now, but at the time I was shocked. I hadn’t been publicly commented on (so as I could hear) in over five years. I wasn’t used to it anymore.
I looked at my mom and asked what he said. She confirmed my suspicions, so I spun around. My brain throbbed with confusion. What should I do? Should I yell at him? He was so far away. Was he even talking about me? Of course he was, I’m a fat girl eating a phallic-shaped treat and enjoying it. I visually assaulted him by making him think about me in a sexual way! Or something… I shouldn’t have had a frozen banana. I should have just had a regular ice cream… I opened myself up for comment. I can have what I want, though. It’s my body, it’s my life! But why would he say that? Maybe he didn’t say that about me… He doesn’t know me…
“He wasn’t talking to you,” my mom assured me, “he was talking about me.” I knew my mom was trying to protect me. I knew that she said that because she knew he was talking about me. And for some reason that one, tiny syllable broke me down. Whether it was about me or not. For some reason, I crumbled. I held in everything until I found an empty corridor and then I sank to a bench, crying. My huge, yeti of a brother wrapping me in his arms protectively, while my mother sighed.
“You never let them get to you,” she said. And I knew she was right. Why was this any different? Why should he have power over me that no one else had? Why did I even think he was talking about me? I soon got over my surge of emotion and ate my quickly-defrosting banana and we continued our day.
But why is it that something as tiny as a breathy syllable said in passing that maybe about you, or maybe not, can bowl you over? Why is it that we’re so strong one day and so vulnerable the next… without even feeling vulnerable? What happened to my emotions that day? Why did I act so strongly?
Why is this kind of shaming so strong that you feel it even when you’re not sure it’s even there?