I was going to leave this as a comment on the Jez article about growing up fat, but there's been some craziness in the comments lately. So here you go, Groupthink:
When I was 15, a boy named Adam made fun of me for my 'fleshy upper arms.'
We were standing around in Geometry class, enjoying a break we earned for taking some huge test that I flunked anyway. I was joking around with my classmates, kidding about something dumb. We had been in school together for about a year and half; two rambunctious, smart kids who lacked the patience and interest to fully excel at school, but had stubborn parents who insisted we belonged in upper tier classes. So here we were, a couple of kids flunking a Geometry test that had the other 15-year-olds were convinced would land them on some uber special early admission list for Yale or Princeton, because obviously.
I don't remember what I said to Adam. But his retort to me (and I remember this like it's a line from a Simpson's episode I've watched 50 times) was "Well, maybe you could do something about those fleshy upper arms."
I never thought about my body as something people, especially boys, were looking at so closely. I obsessed about my glasses. I thought they made me look ugly and I spent hours looking at my face with various hairstyles, trying to find the best one with those thick, ugly glasses.
But suddenly, on that day, in my Geometry class, I was shocked to find out that there was some other thing on my body I hadn't even thought about that might make me unattractive to someone. It just flooded over me, all at once, that my body was somehow 'wrong.' Up to that point, my body had just been this thing, holding up my head with my stupid glasses on it. Now, it became a Play-Doh glog of fleshy mistakes. Were my legs fat? Were my thighs cottage cheesey? Was my stomach flabby? I thought everything was fine, but now—I had no idea.
I didn't wear sleeveless shirts for a long time after that, and every time I put one on, I thought about Adam and his 'fleshy upper arms' remark.
Adam, now, is a good person. He is a good husband and father and would never allow his kids to tease people. He was a jerky 15-year-old boy who like to make stupid jokes and didn't realize that it might hurt someone's feelings. People teased him about being Jewish and having a big nose, so I guess, to him, teasing a girl about her body gave him equal footing or something? I don't know; teenage boys are still a mystery to me.
The funny thing is now, when I look at pictures of 15-year-old me, all I think is how incredibly beautiful I was. I had big, brown eyes. I had flawless ivory skin. My legs were long and smooth. My hair was shiny and untouched by all the chemical processes I put it through starting at 18. I was skinny like a little boy, with nice, subtle curves in just the right places. Movie stars pay armloads of cash to get their body into just that kind of shape. And I looked fucking adorable in those glasses. I never had a clue. No wonder my mother was always telling me 'stop worrying; you're so beautiful.'
And, even though I'm a long way from that body now, I tell myself every fucking day that I am beautiful, just like my mom did. And I honestly believe it, for the first time in 30 + years.
So, just wanted to share a story with y'all because I loved everyone's stories on Jez, but I didn't want to plop mine over there. If there's any of you that have some stories you'd like to share, please do. I love reading them, but I guess that's just me being selfish or whatever!
And fuck all the little Adams of the world. Who the fuck cares what people like that think anyway.
(I went ahead and put this on my blog, even though I wasn't at first, because it's not the typical satire I do. I did not link back to here, to allay your fears of strangers jumping in the comments here and being psycho. )