This isn’t the first time I’ve ever written about this, it certainly won’t be the last. But there’s a new, unfortunate twist to it – so here we go.
Like many humans, women specifically, I have struggled with weight my entire life. I was super young – around five – when I became aware I was bigger than the other kids, especially the girls. There didn’t (and still doesn’t) seem to be much of a problem if a boy was a little bit chunky, not saying that discrimination doesn’t exist, but if you’re a girl? Forget about it.
I was in first grade when a boy made fun of my weight for the first time. We had 50s day at school and I was so excited. Although I am a complete 60s girl now, I was absolutely obsessed with the 50s as a kid: the music, the clothes, the cars (even my Barbie had a T-Bird), all of it. So this was My Day. My mom spent a lot of time on my outfit (she was always amazing at costumes) and I won best dressed for girls. As a reward, if you even want to call it that, I got to do the twist with the best dressed boy. As if dancing in front of hundreds of immature little brats wasn’t terrible enough, the little boy told me my tummy was like a bowl full of Jell-o.
That tiny bastard ruined my day. And 32 years later, I still remember it. Because it was just the beginning. I was on Weight Watchers – the first time – before I even hit 10. I can tell you, by name, whom I had a crush on every year of school. And why I remember this is, none of them ever liked me back. And 90% of the time it was because of my weight; they made that clear. Generally speaking, adolescents and teenagers are domestic terrorists and these are things a girl just doesn’t forget. And unfortunately, it all builds up over time and the amount of space and energy it takes up within your head manifests into a beast that is nearly impossible to control. Instead, it totally controls you. I’ve had body dysmorphia for several years, and although terrible on its own, it comes with massive collateral damage.
Here’s what frustrates me the most. The thought that people who are overweight are lazy and just don’t try. That’s some bullshit. Ask any one of my friends how hard I’ve tried to lose weight the past five years and how many different ways. I’ve had two nutritionists, a trainer, countless workout routines, a wide range of weight loss programs, supplements, prescription drugs. Basically, you name it, I’ve tried it. I always joke anorexia wouldn’t even work for me. Ultimately, as mentioned before, I found out I have the metabolism of a post-menopausal woman. So no matter how healthy I am, no matter how hard I try, losing weight (and not gaining at superhuman speed) is genuinely difficult for me.
I won’t go into Hollywood and the beauty industry and all of that. There is already plenty to be read about it, but we all know it will never fully change. Skinny will always sell. I am aware there is an increasing number of body positivism movements, which are fabulous. But none of them have quite done the trick for me yet. Three decades of shame do not disappear with a few ad campaigns. I am not trying to play the victim here or ask for compliments or for you tell me “but Nikki, you look fine!” The logical part of my brain knows this; I know if a person judges someone based on weight, it actually makes them look like a dick.
But now, I have received a truly heartbreaking wake-up call about all of this.
Facebook has a new feature that allows you to set up Messenger for a minor that is controlled by a parent’s account. My sister did this for my niece. And I love it. We video chat and I get random emojis, texts and even voice memos from her, including one while I was in Vegas at 4:45 a.m. local time that said “wakey, wakey, eggs and bakey!” Gotta love her. A few days ago, I asked her when the last day of school was and how she was doing (she transferred schools this year) and she told me “the kids at school make fun of me and call me fat.”
She is only eight and to me, the prettiest, most wonderful little girl I’ve ever known. And I am not just saying this because she will most likely be responsible for my nursing home decisions one day. I say it because I think she’s amazing. So when she told me that, I honestly didn’t know whether or not to cry. Or get angry. Or drive to Denton and beat some kids’ asses (shout out to my friends who offered backup). Or what. I tried to explain to her how growing up can really suck and what insecure means and how it causes other kids to project their feelings and act out, but I know, I know – that’s difficult to comprehend at her age. Hell, it’s still hard to accept at this age. Because all you can concentrate on is how you feel. How hurt you are. How terrible it all is.
I don’t want this for her. I know what this does over time. Maybe that won’t happen, maybe it will all be fine and she’ll learn to give them the finger and walk away. But the last thing I want is for her to still deal with this damage 30 years later. I quickly realized I have a huge responsibility in this situation, as does my sister. We have to learn to love ourselves more, not only for our own well being, but also for my niece. It’s not like I text her pics and ask “do I look like a fat ass” or tell her she shouldn’t be eating pizza (my god, I would never stop anyone from eating pizza). But we carry our energy with us wherever we go. And the last thing I want is for us to be the ones projecting on to her.
I don’t have kids, so I try not to judge anyone’s parenting skills. Cause I know from watching my siblings, cousins, and my friends that it’s the hardest job ever. However, kids don’t come out of the womb a bunch of jerks. Our society does enough to screw them up and they’re clearly going to pick up bad habits from other children. But so much of what the little sponges absorb comes from home and family, you know? As adults, we shouldn’t let kids hear us call anyone fat or talk about looks or weight loss or anything of the sort. Especially us women. We still have a great responsibility to each other and the younger generations when it comes to this subject, even with the advances that have been made. I don’t have the answers; I certainly wish I did. But I do know we each have a role to play.
But don’t get me wrong, I will still track those kids down if I need to.