Awkward things.

Dear Jamelia…


Dear Jamelia,

I was trying to find a nice way to say this, but I’ve decided that it’s unnecessary. I was trying to figure out how to take your feelings into account when you metaphorically beat a bunch of women down with the back of your hand. But I try to be polite, so here’s my compromise:

I’m sorry, but you have no fucking idea what you’re talking about.

You don’t want larger and smaller ladies to be able to buy their clothes from mainstream shops. You want them to feel bad about their size. You want to shame them into achieving healthier bodies. Well I can’t speak for smaller women, since I’ve never been one, but I used to be a size 24, and I repeat:

You have no fucking idea what you’re talking about.

When I was morbidly obese, I never once felt like society was making allowances for me. I never got cushy. I never felt like I had a place anywhere. No, not even in New Look, where I could buy skinny jeans and flowery tops, like (shock, horror, panic, alarm!) a normal person. I think that you think that society has built us a place, that just because there are bigger seats and mobility scooters and, God forbid, clothes that fit, we are happy in the world. Nope.

When you’re outside the normal size guidelines, even with easily bought accessories, life is pretty shitty. You get stares in the street, comments, sniggers and worse. It hurts to move, it’s hard to breathe and you don’t even bother entertaining the idea that someone might find you attractive because that would be absurd. It is almost impossible to carve out a normal existence, because you are encased in this body that defines you. Even if you’re able to buy a bikini, society will insist on calling it a fatkini, and half the world will label you brave and the other half will gouge their own eyeballs out to escape having to look at you.

When you’re obese, there is no normal. We are simply not allowed to live like other people. I want you to imagine it, Jamelia. Imagine spending an hour queuing for a rollercoaster, clambering into the seat and struggling to strap yourself in. You tug and you strain and you feel the circles of sweat welling at your armpits. You call to the attendant who informs you, loudly, in front of everyone, that that’s the furthest the seatbelt goes. You suck your belly in as tight as you can and click the seatbelt in. you spend the whole sixty seconds of the ride hoping to God that you don’t fall, hoping to God that if the belt breaks you only kill yourself.

I want you to imagine waiting your whole life to live. You live on nothing but water for one week, apples the next, willing the needle on the scale to go down, down, down so you can be the person that’s trapped inside this mess of a body. Imagine tugging and pulling at the lumps of fat, taking a pair of scissors to your folds, trying to carve out the lard, hating yourself so much that you don’t care if you die from it, because you’d rather die than be stuck in your own skin. You buy unmarked pills off the internet. When you swallow them down they taste like poison and they speed life up, blur the edges. Your heart crashes against your ribs like it’s trying to beat its way out of you and you think that this might be the answer, this might get you the body that fits.

I want you to imagine being the butt of every joke, having to learn to be funny because it’s the only way they’ll leave you alone. You sit in your room and build new identities on the internet, escaping into being someone else, someone that somebody might like, or want, or love. In real life you cross the street, you cower, you hunch. You have problems with eye contact. You say sorry too much. You don’t know how to be yourself because you never got to find out who that is. Confidence feels a lot like audacity. You don’t want to cause trouble by standing out and you don’t fit so you can’t fit in.

I want you to imagine hurting so much that life is like a punishment. I want you to imagine being the fat friend, the weirdo, the loner. I want you to imagine being made to feel like you don’t matter just because your body is different, because society doesn’t like it, because society gets confused between the words ‘fat’ and ‘unhealthy’ and can’t be bothered to think, so throws them into the same pile. Now I want you to imagine being that girl, living that life and finding clothes that fit in a mainstream store. How do you feel now? Do you feel like you fit? Are you happy? Do you want to eat and eat until you break into the next size and the next? Or does it not make the slightest bit of difference, apart from the fact that you can clothe yourself?


Society spends way too much time judging and blaming and it needs to stop. I know that this is an obesity crisis and everyone’s freaking out, but flailing around and pointing fingers isn’t going to help anything. Reactions breed reactions. Basically, we all need to calm down and look at this problem like empathetic grown-ups. I know that you’re not the only one, but you’re the biggest example of a world gone wrong right now, and I know that you won’t read this, but maybe someone will. Maybe someone like you, who’s never ventured into someone else’s head will read this and think and feel and understand. That’s what’s missing from this picture, feeling and understanding. So get out of your own head and into someone else’s, because you have no fucking idea what you’re talking about, but you could if you tried, so you should.