Writing by Sarah Wilkes // photograph by Karolina Jackowska
Please reader, hear me out. You must know the context in which I use this worn out and oversimplified phrase. I am, by absolutely no means, fearful of fat people. I live everyday trying to treat people with equality and respect. However, I am fearful of my own, human potential, to become fat.
When I look at my loved ones, I see their compassion, wit, intelligence, and quirks. When I look at myself, I focus on the bulge that sits so unapologetically on my hip.
I remember a boy calling me fat in Year 4 of primary school. I remember making self-deprecating jokes about my tummy because it made my family laugh. I remember being the token ‘cute and squishy’ girl in my ballet class, as I despised wearing my skin-tight leotard.
Later I grew out of my chubby phase, into a young woman, wrapping my head around all the lumps and bumps that come with it. In Year 10, a boy asked me out on a date over Snapchat. After I’d said yes, I received a snap from him that was meant for his mates’ eyes only. “Fuck yes! Going on a date with Sarah Wilkes! Big tits and big ass!”.
Reader, you’ll be disappointed to know that I still went on a date with him, and be to be frank, I wasn’t offended by his comment. Why? I had always felt like the chubby girl. And being the curvy girl felt better than being the chubby girl.
These words are etched into my skin, and these experiences glued into my mind. They have caused anguish, so I naturally have a fear of confronting them again.
I have had it easy compared to some. I do not stand here as a victim of bullying or as a sufferer of the illnesses that tread ruthlessly behind body image. But there are many others that have suffered a far more sinister battle.
All I can offer is my own experiences, reflection, and hunger for change.
It is easy to say, “oh stop – you need to be kinder to yourself!”. Yes reader, that’s true. However, this fear – that I carry from my own trauma – has consequences that go beyond me. In feeling this way, and by having these thoughts, I must consider how I contribute to the society that taught me to be fatphobic.
No matter how ‘good’ I am towards others, do these personal ideals precariously seep into the world around me?
Have you ever had that friend say “Ew, I look so shit tonight!” when looking in the mirror of a dingy bar bathroom? You simply cannot fathom how she could belittle herself like that – she’s gorgeous. If she thinks she looks unattractive, then what does that make me?
If I wouldn’t want my best friend to be fearful of putting on some weight, then why should I be?
I must take accountability. And you, reader, as a victim of this society, might be in the same boat.