A photo of me from last spring.
Dear Concert Guy.
I heard what you said to me. I heard you shout out that I was chunky. I must say, you are very observant. I don’t think anyone has ever noticed or said anything about it before. Maybe I should get to the gym and follow your advice to loose some weight. Jeez….I had never thought of that.
You must be extra proud of yourself, Concert Guy, for shouting it out in front of my 11 year-old boy. It was his first concert. I am sure you made it more memorable for him. For not only did you publicly shame and embarrass me, you shamed a little boy who is really trying to figure out how this confusing world works right now. You made that sweet boy tell his mother to stop dancing. He didn’t want anyone else to notice her. After your caustic remarks and unsolicited judgement, he was as protective of me as he was of himself.
Maybe I should let you in on a few secrets of my own, Concert Guy. I actually know that I am overweight – or “chunky” as you shouted out to me across a crowded group of concert goers. I do know this to be a fact. And it’s true. I have tried to pretend I am not, but I actually am. I wish I could say I am okay with it, but I really do struggle with my weight. It’s a demon I battle every day. But it’s something I show up for every day as well.
Most people who are overweight DO actually know this fact. It’s pointed out to them daily. TV commercials, movie stars, perfect post-baby bodies, remote plus-sized clothing sections are all gentle reminders that we aren’t “normal.” Sometimes chairs even feel too small for me. Airplanes. Hotel towels. It’s all a world that doesn’t fit my “plus-sized” body and my even extra large heart.
Contrary to what you might think, Concert Guy, I actually work out. I average 2-3 times a week at my local yoga studio where I sweat and bend and twist and support my over-sized body with my strong arms and legs. I am currently working on perfecting my chaturanga dandasana. It’s really pretty hard. You should try it if you haven’t already. Other days I walk a few miles. Sometimes I even get a swim in. I am a great swimmer. And in the water I feel strong and fast. I can’t hear any of the insults of life coming at me when I am splashing and kicking my way through the water. And when I do hear things, all I have to do is retreat under the tranquil blue where it’s calm and quiet and safe. I love the pool.
Also, you should know something else about my “chunky” self. I eat healthy. Like… everyday. There’s not much fast food or junk in my house. I eat as much organic, whole foods as I can. That means apples, berries, nuts, vegetables and yogurt. It means grilled chicken with fresh salads. I also enjoy carbs. Sorry. It’s true. Homemade pasta and bread. Cereal and grains. Corn on the cob. Black beans. They are all carbs. And all good for you. I am not afraid of food anymore. I am friends with it. Happy to meet it and eat it. Happy to nourish my body and not hide behind the fear of food anymore. That took a long time. Maybe longer than you have even been alive!
I can tell you, Concert Guy, I have danced with the issue of weight all my life. My parents told me I was born with “football players knees.” So I hid them from the world as much as I could. The kids in school teased me for my tummy, so I learn to suck it in and wear loose shirts. My thunder thighs have often been the center of attention and hard to hide under anything but a wrap dress. My large chest and generous backside has often been a topic point for men who don’t even know me and have never met me. I have been picked apart since I was little to be a sum of the parts of my body instead of the amazing talent I am on the inside – smart, creative, talented, and resilient. And I have struggled so much with my weight, even my closest friends and family don’t know how hard it has been at times.
Sometimes it’s hard to see the person, Concert Guy. But here is what I am: I am an award winning graphic designer. I am also a published photographer. A single mom. And a great friend and sister. And there are other amazing things about me too. I watched both of my parents die within a year of each other – slowly and painfully. I took care of them. I held their hands and ushered them into their new place in this crazy mixed up universe. Maybe you don’t understand what that feels like yet. I hope you really never do cause even after 5 years I still remember the pain I felt that each time they took their last breath. I remember what my mom’s cold hand felt like when I held it for the last time and told her I would be okay. I also brought a child into this world all by myself and raised him while being self-employed. It’s been amazingly hard and rewarding. He is sensitive, smart and kind. I am raising him to know better than to publicly shame people like you did the other day. Also, I should tell you that I own my own house. It’s modest and tidy and perfect for us. I also pay my own health insurance, taxes, and volunteer. I am a learning gardener and a pretty good cook. But none of that seemed as significant as my pieces and parts to you. Nobody notices those things when they randomly cross paths with me in this world, do they Concert Guy?
Also, Concert Guy, you should know something – I am not proud of being overweight. And I am very aware of it. But as I mentioned, I try to show up for myself every day. I try very hard to be enough – just as I am. And I think I am pretty successful most days. Sometimes though, people like you remind me I need to strengthen the footing on my path. You reminded me that not everyone sees the inside. And that sometimes people will try to derail your progress and hurt you without even knowing. Unfortunately, I don’t know your vulnerability and shame. I really don’t even remember what you looked like. But I wear mine every day. For everyone on the airplane to see and everyone in yoga class to quietly observe. It doesn’t matter though. Because I give it my all every day, in every way that I can.
I feel a little sorry for you actually. Maybe you have had a lovely and privileged life. Maybe you have had a terrible life and are in a lot of pain and don’t know how to be vulnerable. If you want to be vulnerable, I bet someone will be there for you while you told tales of the heartache you have experienced. I would be there if you needed a friend to listen. Ask all the other strangers who were around me that night. None of them seemed too bothered by my weight. Sometimes strangers can be really empathetic. Sometimes they can be a little heartless like you were that night though. I think you may have been a little drunk. I hope a good friend that wasn’t as drunk as you were that night just took you home and put you to bed.
I suppose you are thinking right now, “Why does she care what I think of her?” You know what…the secret is that I really don’t. I have accepted who I am and where I am and what I am. I also know there are lots of people like you in this world. But it’s not me I am writing this for, is it? It’s my 11 year-old son who you humiliated and shamed. And my sister who hurt for me that day. And my friends who have stood by me. And my mother who created me – even with all these visible flaws. I care for all the people out there who feel shameful about something – size, color, height, birthplace – even though they shouldn’t. It’s for the people out there who still hurt every time someone judges them, criticizes them, or humiliates them in public for being different from what the world expects them to be. None of us should care about your words. We should all be stronger than that. The the truth is we are all trying to get to that space of thick skin, resilient hearts and courageous fortitude. But it takes practice to get there. We all need to get there in our own time and in our own way.
So, Concert Guy, next time you see someone that you don’t approve of – for whatever reason you have – I really hope you find yourself pausing for a moment to take take a long deep breath before you say something. Gather your thoughts. Know that there is a human under that skin with a lifetime of experiences behind them. Know there is a person under there that judges themselves far more than you ever could. We are all in our own little prison, Concert Guy. Maybe we should spend more time trying to find the keys to free ourselves instead of adding to the barbed wire and concrete walls we hide behind.
Let me know if you need any help finding your keys. I sure could use some help here, too.
The “chunky” girl from the concert