We all remember this magical piece of literature, surely. I'll never forget this day as long as I live. And being that it's the first of the year, and we're all trying to decide what we want to be for the next twelve months, let's remember that even when someone cuts us down at the knees, we can still show up anyway.
My own surprise caught me off guard on Monday when I saw the notification flashing on my phone.
I was on my way to have coffee with my best friend.
Six little words under the picture of me tagged on Facebook from the previous Friday’s fun with friends:
“The girl in the middles fat.”
Your one sentence hit me like a sucker punch right to the gut, grammatical errors and all.
Jimmy, I don’t even know you, and I’m not sure I’ll ever know why you said that. I mean, was it a PSA? Were you bored? Did you think you were just being informative, just in case the world didn’t already know? Was it some kind of Facebook “Where’s Waldo?” You found her! Was it because you are that guy that makes shitty comments just for attention? I can imagine how you thought it was a throwaway comment, just something to make people roll their eyes at you. I mean, negative attention is attention after all, right?
It sure as hell caught my eye, so mazel tov. It caught my eye, then it made me sit straight down on the concrete steps I was walking down. Your six words were such a surprise that it made me quite literally weak at the knees.
You hear about internet trolls, and this is many of our worst nightmares….you know, something vulnerable being exposed and then sliced open in front of the world...but we never actually think it’s going to happen to us.
I’ve worked really hard on combatting the irrational fears that present themselves all day every day in my brain knowing that the odds of any of them happening are statistically impossible. It’s so funny, now that one has come true, things look just a little bit different.
God, I’d love to say that I saw your comment and brushed it off like the tough Broad I am.
I burst into tears, actually.
I sat there on that step and cried with my head in my hands. Every single terrible voice in my head all air high-fived. Every nice thing the people in my life have said recently all felt like the worst kind of betrayal. How could they all treat me like some kind of pathetic charity case, instead of being honest and telling me I'm too horrible to leave the house like they should have?
The one repetitive thought that was pulsing through my brain was, "I need to hide." Jimmy, you made me want to run and hide.
Jimmy. These colors don't run.
So, I cried, then I cried more when when my friend got to me, coffees in hand, and sat down and just listened. It turns out you knew her. The comment was really for her benefit, not mine. That makes it worse. You were willing to take me down just to get a rise out of someone you knew years ago.
I sipped on my drink and let the tears come, I couldn’t help it. I opened my mouth and let all the thoughts out. That is probably the biggest release valve I know of. I cried the whole time we sat there, all the ice in our drinks melting in the sun. Then I cried more when I got calls and texts from people who care so much that they wanted to save me.
I kept crying when I got home and I had work to do. And dinner to make. And laundry to do. And a life to live. I cried getting ready for the gym.
And, Jimmy, you know what? I might cry writing this.
Oh, let me clarify. Crying isn’t weakness or anything. I’m completely and wholeheartedly fine with the tears shed over "Fat-Gate 2017." But I will say that I was surprised at how this hit me mid-stride, and how it did make me lose my step for a minute.
You know what’s cool about these tears? They were such a release! I should thank you, actually. I haven’t done a lot of crying on my little journey of late, and I know better now: tears are like sweat for emotions...it shows me that I’m working hard.
Crying over things that Nancy Kerrigan you right to the knees (too soon?) isn’t weakness, man. It was the sauna to my soul which I needed to figure out what to do next. So the tears came, and I let them. And I let my friends ask me what I needed.
The easy answer would have been to hit you back with something twice as devastating from thirty people you don't know, just to shame you into shutting up. But it turns out that the tears told me that I needed to get up and go home, finish work, then go to the gym.
I’m sure you know exactly what I mean when I say that these kinds of moments don’t exactly roll off our backs, right? I know people have looked at you and called you a “homeless loser,” or “strung out fuck up,” or maybe "a dirty scumbag.” I think I have been one of those people. Not to you, necessarily, but to others. I am very much not an innocent party here. I definitely have been some of the people to look at “you” and say, “Get clean and get a job.” Like it’s that easy, and like those six-word type sentences have ever helped you.
I blacked out your name in the picture above because we know now that shaming doesn’t work.
If my tribe of people – and brother, you wouldn’t ever know what it’s like to have a tribe like this – knew your name, your psyche wouldn’t be able to handle the barrage of shit that would be headed your way.
Shame breaks people and keeps them addicted and homeless and sad. I can’t add to that cycle.
I won’t shame you, but I will hold you accountable.
Because here’s the thing, Jimmy, I’m a tough ol’ broad that comes from a line of the toughest ol’ broads you've ever seen. Ain’t nothin’ you can say that’s going to do anything more than scuff my armor.
However, what you have done, and what you and your six words need a big clap back (as the kids say) for is trying to get at my best friend. Now, besides me, she’s probably the toughest broad I know, so she’ll be fine. Going after her, though, has sent a very clear message to anyone that already fears what will be said about their bodies.
Jimmy, your six thoughtless words have told the whole internet that it’s not safe to be in your own skin.
The few seconds it took you to write something you might have thought as funny has actually done harm. You didn’t just attack my body. You wouldn’t have known this - you couldn’t have known this - but you attacked my creativity, and my resilience, and my joy, and….and the thing that is unforgivable, you attacked people who are searching for fools like me to inspire their own journeys.
Your six words are a clear message to the people around me that it isn't safe to put your full self out into the world. Can you see that? That's what a short sentence about another person can do.
This culture of humiliation that you’ve added to makes me really sad. I’m not sad for me, not any more. I'm sad for my friends who question their bodies every minute of every day. I'm sad for the kids out there that want to try something creative, and are afraid because they see comments like yours. I'm sad for anyone who is struggling with something on the inside who saw that it's not ok to be who they are because of your six words. I’m sad for that kid that needed love and acceptance, and instead has some how turned into a calloused and cynical asshole. I'm sad for you, Jimmy.
That’s why I know you didn’t actually mean what you said about me. Phones with such easy access to social media are tough because you can send something so awful so quickly without having to think about it. If you actually thought about it...if you actually had thought about how your words are not said in vacuum...if you actually thought about the echo this would have...I don’t think you would have said it.
I wish I had that kind of empathetic forethought before some of the hurtful things I've said.
God, the things I've said...
Speaking of, silence is usually the best policy with people like you. You’ll burn out eventually if no one can hear your temper tantrums. In this case, though, your six words need to be seen, and my response needs to be heard.
There are people out there that need someone to light the path in standing up to jackass things that jackass people say. I'm needed. And of all the people that need me each week, are are no more important Broads than my nieces.
No one will imply that their Aunt Air is anything less than a Queen. No one will take me down while I'm living every single day to show them how to get back up when they're knocked down. No one will scare them out of showing every part of who they are. No one...especially not you, Jimmy...will make them question their worth and beauty because I chose to cry quietly on those concrete steps alone instead of standing up.
I stood up, Jimmy. And I’m standing up as tall as I can on the highest perch I have, and I’m showing my tear tracks over the mud and dirt and blood and sweat on the weathered terrain of my face.
I’m standing, you dickhead, and I’m not alone.
I have incredible people that have stood before me that have their own tear tracks and mud and dirt and blood. I stand every day next to people that wipe that crap out of their eyes so they can keep on standing.
So I'll hold you accountable, Jimmy. You don't need to be shamed for who you are, but I want you and the whole damn world to hear every word of my reaction to what you did.
And what I want to say is: thank you.
This was a really good checkpoint for me to see what kind of resilience I had built up. I was able to cry and be vulnerable and get real with the people that matter in my life about what you did. I was able to take a few moments for myself to get some perspective, and then I picked myself up and dusted myself off, readying myself for the fight of my life.
You’re damn right we’re in different weight classes, and it’s definitely not a fair fight. There’s no one stronger than this Broad, so I’m not going to hit back.
I won’t hit back, Jimmy, because I would knock you the fuck out.
What you said to me isn’t new. What IS new, though, Jimmy, is that I’m the one who’s standing now, not just the people who came before me.
And still, weirdly, I wish you were standing with me. You are on the outside, dirty and full of shame, but it really could be different if you wanted it to be. And I'm not talking about kicking an addiction. No amount of want changes that overnight.
I know your burden is greater than mine. I’m so sorry, man, because I know it’s heavy. I hope you wish for me that no one in my life struggles with addiction and their consequences. And my wish for you that no one you love is fat. I’m rooting for you in your battles, and I know if you think about it, you’re rooting for me. Or at least I choose to believe you're rooting for me. These are things we clearly aren’t ready to understand about each other, I guess.
I may not understand, but I do know about you, Jimmy. All about you. I know about your past, and I know that you do this shit a lot to the people in your social media groups. Those aren’t your real friends, obviously, so maybe you’re desperately looking for something more. I get that from the deepest parts of my overly fabulous soul. I would love to see you join a tribe like mine. There’s no more badass cohort in the world. God we’re fantastic. I want you in here with us, Jimmy.
I want you. When was the last time you heard that?
I hear it every single day. I want that for you.
If you ever make it to my neck of the woods, I’d like to take you to get DeFazio’s. Fat or not, everyone loves pizza, and I’d like to look you in the face and really hear all of the stuff that no one will listen to.
But...and I need you to really understand this, Jimmy...I swear to the tiny baby Jesus if you ever mess with my crew like that ever again you might have to eat your smoked mozz pie through a straw.
I mean that.
I’ve been working out.
All the Xs and the Os,
The Fat Girl in the Middle