A Life of Having

[Content Note: Fat hatred; weight loss talk.]

"Fat girls have fucking nothing." This is the first line of Kaye Toal's beautiful essay "How Finding a Fat FA Heroine Changed My Life." And that line—it is a true thing.

Fat girls have fucking nothing, by design. The life of a fat girl is one of being constantly admonished to lose pieces of oneself. To lose weight, certainly. But also to lose one's self-esteem. To lose one's expectations of success, of accomplishment, of contentment, of joy. To lose one's very visibility to the rest of the world.

All of these things are contingent upon getting thin. And if you don't get thin, if you don't lose weight, you instead continue to lose more and more of yourself, under a metric fuckton of hatred and contempt of fat people.

You don't get to define yourself. You don't get the presumption of competence, or intelligence, or wit. You don't get invitations, or promotions, or fashionable clothes that fit you. You don't get to be confident. You don't get to be beautiful, or sexy, or desired. You don't get to date. You don't get to be loved.

And if you have the unmitigated temerity to take those things for yourself, in radical resistance to a culture telling you that you aren't allowed to have them, you get abuse.

Abuse is the one thing fat girls always have, in bountiful abundance.

Lose weight. Stop eating. Deny your sexuality. Hide yourself. Don't take up space. Be small. Be invisible. Be quiet. Don't eat that. Don't move in public. Don't make a scene. Don't wear that. Put down the fork. Lower your expectations. Lower your voice. Keep your thoughts to yourself. Cover your body. Quit making people uncomfortable. Lose weight. Get lost. Lose yourself.

Being a fat girl is a life of deprivation, until you are left with nothing.

Because you either lose weight, or you will lose everything else. Every other thing that can be taken from you, by force or neglect or aggressive cruelty.

You don't have anything, and you don't deserve anything.

What you get is a constant drumbeat of messaging that you will—and should—live a terrible, unfulfilling, limited life because you are fat.

You get a tiny little cage, in which you're meant to stay unless you can change your body and squeeze through the bars.

You get the tools to reinforce the iron frame of your own confinement, but not the tools to break free.

Unless you happen to stumble upon fat acceptance.

Fat acceptance might feel like the first gift you've ever gotten, the first gift designed and selected just for you, and carefully wrapped in shimmering paper of your favorite colors. It feels precious and exotic and invigorating, like fresh air reaching the deepest part of your lungs after too long underwater.

Because fat acceptance might be the first thing that any fat girl experiences that doesn't want to diminish her; doesn't want to take something away from her—but instead wants to give her something.

Wants to give her life.

When I first encountered fat acceptance, and fat advocacy, I didn't have fucking nothing anymore. Suddenly, like the burst of colorful light from an exploding firework shattering the darkness of the night sky, I had something.

I had confirmation of my humanity, and validation of my suspicion that I actually did deserve to have things, to be things, to be.

I had access to people who looked like me and valued themselves and other people like us. I had a map to take me on a journey to having more and more and more. I had a filter through which to look at the life I was already living, and see that it mattered—see that my life "counted," even while I was living it in a fat body.

I had freedom from shame and anxiety and rigidly self-imposed (and externally imposed) boundaries around what I could and couldn't do, who I could and couldn't be.

I had my life. I had my voice. I had myself.

I had a chance, an opportunity, a way to open up the tightly-closed vault sitting in my chest to people who wanted to fill it with good things.

And I had desire for more. Everything that had been taken from me, or that I'd conceded because I felt like I didn't deserve it, or for which I hadn't reached because I felt like I hadn't earned the right since I wasn't thin.

I wanted it all. And I still want it all.

I want it all for me, and I want it all for every other fat girl.

I want none of us to ever live a life of losing. Of being told to lose weight, of trying to lose weight just to deserve, of losing pieces of ourselves in increments as penance for not losing weight.

I want us to live a life of having.

Having what we deserve and what we want, whatever that looks like for us as individual people.

I am not losing and lost anymore.

I have. I have confidence. I have self-worth. I have freedom from the obligation to apologize for my existence with reflexive self-loathing. I have a job that is meaningful to me. I have friends who I love with enough love to fill galaxies, and who love me right back. I have game nights, bad movie nights, make love 'til dawn nights. I have problems, but they are problems of any life, not a life I feel is less than. I have the best cats and dogs. I have a home with a warm red wall. I have clothes that I like and that fit my body. I have tattoos. I have wacky hair. I have a partner who complements me, and who takes my face in his freckled hands and looks at me with gold-flecked green eyes so full of abundant knowing and affection that my heart feels like it will burst right out of my chest. I have safety in that space. I have contentment. I have the gift of having.

I am a fat girl who fucking has.

And the only thing I lose now, because I am fat, is anyone who wants to deny me the right to have what I need to be whole.

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