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The Fat Girl and the Cloak of Invisibility

August 27, 2013

Harry Potter

Invisibility: Not as fun as it seems.

Over the last couple of months, I’ve realized that I really am my own toughest critic.

My first novel was published in July, but even the accomplishment of a lifelong dream has come with bouts and rounds of fear and anxiety. Every positive review comes with an excuse that diminishes it. Every less-than-great review sinks into my heart and takes up residence.

I think maybe that’s human nature and part of the human condition is learning to accept the good with the bad. Learning to accept the good wholeheartedly and mitigate the bad, instead of the other way around, is hard shit. Hard.

It’s hard professionally. It’s hard personally, too.

I’ve spent a lot of time feeling invisible. In fact, I’ve spent a lot of time perfecting the act of being invisible. Seriously, I should have my own sideshow or something. I read about people who have truly terrible things done to them simply for daring to be fat and out in the world. I’ve never had anything like that done to me. I know that a big reason for that is because, mostly subconsciously, I pull on my invisibility cloak whenever I need to. I blend exceptionally well for a 300-pound woman.

Something happened this summer that made me realize that even when I feel like I’m putting myself out there, lots of times I am hiding in that invisibility. I was at a writer’s conference in Atlanta last month, at a table in a bar surrounded by other writers. One of them asked another if she wanted to do yoga in the morning. And then she asked another one. And another one. Until everyone at our table was planning on early morning yoga.

She didn’t ask me. It wasn’t pointed. She didn’t make a comment about how I probably didn’t want to or wouldn’t be able to. She didn’t call me names or throw things at me. She didn’t do anything at all. My invisibility shield was up, I guess. And I sat there behind it. I could have spoken up, and I would have been welcomed. In fact, I probably would have gotten some “oh, good for you” remarks that would have been meant to encourage, but would have felt devestating. And then, I might have shown up and struggled out of inexperience, and risked having every one of these writers who I admire seeing me as the poor fat girl who can’t keep up.

So I didn’t put myself out there.

Last night someone posted the video above on their Facebook page. I can’t stop watching it. If you haven’t already seen it, please watch it. Then go read Sarah Horn’s account of her incredible experience. Horn sang “For Good” with Kristin Chenoweth after being pulled out of the audience, and it shows what can happen if you just take a deep breath and muster up enough courage to step out on stage and out from the cloak of invisibility.

My mom used to tell me not to hide my light under a bushel.  I’m going to try to stop being my own bushel.

9 Comments leave one →
  1. August 27, 2013 10:21 am

    i love that Kristin Chenoweth vid. ive watched it like 3x today its awesome

  2. August 27, 2013 10:29 am

    That was so awesome. Thanks for sharing….

  3. Theresa permalink
    August 27, 2013 11:04 am

    Everyone seems so happy about that video. Even though the singing is wonderful, and it is a huge fantasy of mine to be invited up on stage to sing a duet with a famous singer, the video mostly makes me angry. Like, ugly-crying furious, because of the way Kristin Chenoweth has to interrupt an excellent performance (and, I think, attempt to throw her off) by making sure to say repeatedly that she is just sooooo fuckin’ AMAZED that someone else in the world, without being famous, is a good singer and can sing … OMG … HARMONY! I want to slap her patronizing face. It’s a huge reminder of the fact that the world is FULL of highly talented singers who don’t have a chance to be a Broadway star simply because they don’t have “the look.” I’m a fat singer and have no problem with … OMG … HARMONY! because I have talent and have practiced a hell of a lot. Of course if Ms. Chenoweth were to acknowledge that, she’d have to admit that she is coasting at least partially on her looks. /rant over

    • August 28, 2013 4:55 pm

      How in the hell do you hate Kristin Chenoweth? O.o The Christian who doesn’t use her faith to hate the LGBT community, the philanthropist, the person who has personally paid for voice lessons for under privileged kids?

      You’re entitled to your opinion, but wow, you have a lot of bitterness toward someone who emphatically doesn’t deserve it. I read her shock as the act that the random person from the audience that she happened to choose was a voice teacher – because let’s face it, what are the odds? I’m truly sorry you appear to have experienced discrimination, but to make this kind little woman the focal point for all your rage is just stupid.

  4. Theresa permalink
    August 27, 2013 11:06 am

    P.S.: Shaunta, sorry to derail by ranting. Your book is AWESOME and everyone should get a copy right now! I’ve passed the title on to a friend who is a school librarian and she is checking it out too!

  5. Stephanie permalink
    August 27, 2013 12:45 pm

    Invisibility is so relevant right now. My partner and I are trying to a buy a car. We are preapprovad for a great loan and know what we want. Because he is male, the dealers all talk to him, even though i know more about cars. Yesterday I went to a dealer by myself as a fat woman. The salespeople were hanging out joking around when I pulled up and parked. I got out and started wandering. No greeting, no hello, no swarm, no how can I help you….nothing. I know part of it is being a woman, but I can’t help but wonder how much of it is due to my size. It made me want to hide even more. This stops that in its tracks. Thank you.

  6. August 28, 2013 2:34 am

    That video made me cry. It was so moving.

    And fat people invisibility is a real thing. Though it’s not something I’ve put on myself – I’ve always fought to be seen – but it seams I bounce from being invisible to being the object of scorn, ridicule, and bullying. I’ve had some pretty horrible things done to me because of my size, and it seams I can’t win. I’m either invisible or a target for bullying and abuse. There is no in between. Either people avoid looking at me at all, or they look me up and down with disgust. I see people I’m with getting looked at, even random strangers will SMILE at them. A random stranger …smiling at them, for no reason. That’s happened so rarely in my life that I can remember each time it’s happened. I’ve been fat my whole life, and I don’t think thin or average size people realize how that effects every aspect of your life and how you’re treated on a daily basis, particularly when you aren’t just a little fat but very fat, not just a little big, but very big. And I’ve been that way for my entire life. Doctors tabled me “morbidly obese” even before I was out of elementary school. Life is a lot different for small fats than it is for people my size. And bouncing from being invisible to being the target of bullying, it’s just par for the course.

    • Elizabeth permalink
      August 28, 2013 1:23 pm

      Thank you for this poignant and moving comment, and I am so very sorry about how people behave. One day I was helping a woman in a wheelchair get into our co-op (no automatic doors) and she needed someone to give her a little push while I held the door open from inside. A man just walked right by her and she said, “They don’t even suspect,” meaning they don’t even see. Have you ever read Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man? I sometimes seem to be invisible and other times people smile, hold doors for me (I’m disabled), etc. When I’m invisible I watch and study people.

  7. JennyRose permalink
    August 30, 2013 4:18 pm

    I am an inbetweenie and I can relate to your excellent post. I too make myself invisible. I think it is because I don’t always feel good about myself and that I am a part-time introvert. I am not always confortable around people either. I can sometimes tell the extent of a depressive episode from the number of people I avoid.

    I presume as I age I will become invisible for yet another reason.

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