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Letters to a Young Fat Girl: Lesson the First | Manolo for the Big Girl

Letters to a Young Fat Girl: Lesson the First

Lesson The First:

It gets better.

You’ve probably heard a lot about Dan Savage’s It Gets Better project.  Savage and his husband have established a project dedicated to giving hope to LGBT youth, many of whom are bullied, confused or depressed to the point –entirely too often to the point– of suicide.

It gets better for being a fat kid, too.

High school sucks. It just does. Even when it’s great it sucks, because being a teenager sucks and although you’ll look back with a sort of yearning once you’ve got car payments and rent and a stupid job in a stupid cube where your stupid cube neighbor WON’T STOP CRACKING HER GUM *CRACK CRACK CRACK* ALL DAY LONG OH MY GOD WHAT IS *WRONG* WITH YOU??? at how carefree your life was, don’t you believe it.

No one who has ever done or been anything close to interesting ever looked back on high school as their glory days.

I actually didn’t have a terrible time of it in high school. I had a wonderful boyfriend, got good grades, was relatively popular and talented and even was homecoming princess.  And still it sucked. The thing is, high school is like the first time you drive your borrowed luxury vehicle into a Mexican border town at midnight, drink the most rotted tequila this side of a paralytic worm, get violently sick all over your aformentioned luxury vehicle  –which you parked on the street–  and try to communicate with the incredibly amused townsfolk in VERY LOUD FRENCH when regular-volume French wasn’t meeting with the desired success. It’s awful, but you’ll have terrific stories to tell at cocktail parties and you can remind yourself in grim situations that things might be bad, but at least you’ll never have to go through THAT again.

You’ll graduate. You’ll probably go to college (but seriously consider taking a year off to travel first. I didn’t and I regret it in many ways) and soon the people you went to high school with who were the most important movers and shakers in your world will be little specks on your memory. The ones you’ll cyberstalk every five years or so to see they’ve gone gratifyingly bald or have ugly children.

The point is: Don’t give up hope.  Don’t think that what you’re going through now will mean anything in five, ten, fifteen years. It won’t. Unless you let it.

15 Responses to “Letters to a Young Fat Girl: Lesson the First”

  1. Madame Suggia October 11, 2010 at 12:11 pm #

    “No one who has ever done or been anything close to interesting ever looked back on high school as their glory days.”

    W-O-R-D.

    I can’t comment further on this without blowing my internet cover (Madame Suggia is, of course, my non-de-net) but let me tell you Ms. Plumcake, that phrase is 100% true.

  2. Madame Suggia October 11, 2010 at 12:14 pm #

    That should read, OF COURSE, ‘nom-de-net’.

  3. Mifty October 11, 2010 at 1:01 pm #

    I was just thinking about that this weekend — that it is wonderful that people are trying to alleviate the misery that too many LGBT kids go through, and I wish that someone would show a bit of the same concern for the fat kids (while never, ever telling them they can/should “just lose the weight” and the bullies will stop). They’re not obviously entirely comparable situations, but it’s all among the many, many ways teenagers find to put each other through hell.

    But it really does get better. Despite all the “OMG a fattie!” talk online and on the news, in real life — under most circumstances — hardly anybody cares what you weigh.

  4. KTP October 11, 2010 at 1:40 pm #

    I had a hard time with depression in junior high and high school, and the issues with weight made it worse. Actually I was fine with how I looked (on most days anyway), but it bothered me that I was ridiculed so much. Even more painful was accidentally overhearing my best friend — well she was before that anyway — making fun of my weight and saying how disgusting it was to see me changing in gym class.

    I gradually went from being a top of the class, perma straight A student to flunking out, coming home crying on almost a daily basis and begging my mom to let me drop out of school or change schools. I started obsessing about wanting to die. I went to my mom and told her about it and she threw a tie in my face and told me to go hang myself. (She generally wasn’t that bad, I just don’t think she knew how to handle it and lashed out. But as an already lost and depressed girl, I felt even more alone and hopeless.) So I did try to kill myself. And I’m glad I didn’t succeed.

    I made it through high school and learned that college was way different. There will always be jackasses in life but people start looking out for themselves, thinking for themselves, more than obsessing over trying to be part of the masses. I went on to a great job and a happy marriage to a pretty fantastic guy that looks at me like I’m the best thing ever, every day.
    Oh and that “best friend”? Practically stalking me online to apologize and from what I can tell, has had a rough road with relationships. But I don’t wish her any ill will. Anyone from high school, really. I just hope they’re a little kinder to others now.
    Though don’t ask me to be their friends on facebook. ;)

  5. Still Redheaded October 11, 2010 at 2:03 pm #

    One of my jr. high teachers told me that the best thing I could do in high school was survive and remember that the tiny little universe of high school would broaden considerably in college…and then again after college. And, boy, was she right.

    Some of us aren’t marching to a different drummer, we’re wandering around a park listening to the birds. When we look around at whatever other people are doing, we never seem to be having the same experience (be that good or bad).

    And I’ve been able to expand my little circle of like-minded friends with the Internet. Now when simpatico friends move across the country or half-way around the world, we still provide entertainment, support and affection via these awesome intertubz!

    So, be kind to yourself. It will get better. (And at almost 53, I can tell you that there are all kinds of flavors of pain…but there are infinitely more flavors of joy.)

  6. Sarah October 11, 2010 at 2:59 pm #

    High school was fine for me. I was in band, had lots of band nerd friends, was fat, had fat/skinny/in-between friends, made good grades, stayed out of trouble.

    College was better still. And since then, life just keeps getting better and better. Even when it sucks, it’s still better!

    If only teens and tweens didn’t put all their happiness eggs in the school basket!

  7. Frances October 11, 2010 at 3:00 pm #

    Agreed.

    I had a lovely time in high school: top student, one of the head prefects (shut up), truly wonderful girlfriends whom I’m still very close to, gentle crushes on nice boys (nothing ever happened but what the hell, you get over it), active in co-curricular stuff, fairly popular. It still sucks. Even if it doesn’t suck now, it sucks later. Listen to Ms Plumcake, who wants to peak too early?

    Plus, high school wasn’t even the worst bit of my life. That prize goes to first year at uni. God, I wanted to cry my eyes out every day. I got over it and now life is pretty good. Not great, but who wants to peak too early?

    PS Ms Plumcake, do you plan to be at Durham any time between now and 2012?

  8. Twistie October 11, 2010 at 4:43 pm #

    For me, getting to high school actually provided a breather (a small one, because I was still getting bullied, just not as violently or as openly) from the misery that was junior high and even elementary school. My life has improved by leaps and bounds since then, too.

    I do, however, want to add something to the message that things get better. If you are a parent, a teacher, a mentor, a scout leader, or just a concerned citizen and you see a child (or an adult) being bullied for their sexuality, gender presentation, weight, academic achievements (or inability to gain them), race, or even their sartorial choices, DO SOMETHING. Step in. Provide what consequences you can. Don’t tell the victim to avoid the bullies or suck it up, PROVIDE SOME ASSISTANCE.

    Decades after I have forgotten the name of the girl who choked me with my own scarf until I nearly blacked out in the junior high quad for no apparent reason, I well remember the teacher who was supposed to be keeping order in said quad who told me to stop annoying the girl who had just NEARLY KILLED ME IN FRONT OF THE ENTIRE SCHOOL.

    What had I done? It seems I stood in front of my attacker in the snack bar line wearing a scarf.

    Words are great. Holding bullies responsible for their actions is even better.

  9. Toby Wollin October 11, 2010 at 6:29 pm #

    Thank you, Twistie. One of the things that annoys the living crap out of me about this “It Gets Better” campaign is that somehow, the message is “Just get through it.” And for a lot of kids, ‘just getting through it” just…ain’t…gonna…cut…it. It only ‘gets better’ when people who are bullies and attackers are held accountable, when people who are in charge/adult/responsible/in authority actually man and woman up and use their powers to actually do the damn Right Thing. Telling young people to just somehow suck it up is, IMHO, sort of ‘spoonful of sugar makes the medicine go down’-ing the situation. It is still leaving kids to be victims of people who are, in my son’s pithy phrasing, sadistic assholes. I was the butt of countless jokes and humiliation in junior high school from two girls until frankly, I slammed one of them into the lockers in the girls gym dressing room so hard that all the doors in the line popped open. Then, they left me alone. My son endured years of abuse and bullying in school until the day in middle school when he saw one of his attackers go after a much younger kid – he lost it, threw the bully to the ground and sat on him while the little kid ran to get the playground monitor. Result? My son ended up in the principal’s office having to explain himself; the bully got off. However, the act was seen by hundreds of kids, many of whom became thrilled, scared, and in many cases cheered by the vision of one of their own taking on and vanquishing the bully. No one every bothered my son ever again in middle school or high school. In today’s world where bullying and harassment can be launched on steroids with electronics, the circle of a child’s abusers can be expanded in geometric expansion to include anyone who ever looks up the kid’s name on the internet. There is literally nowhere to run or hide…ever. How do you make THAT better? Hmmm?

  10. dcsurfergirl October 11, 2010 at 6:45 pm #

    I got bullied too. Getting to college saved me. I don’t have any magic answers, just hugs to anyone that is currently facing bullies.

  11. Sid October 11, 2010 at 9:14 pm #

    @Toby, at the outset, but apparently I have a lot of thoughts.

    I agree 100% that actually intervening is vastly superior to simply telling bullied kids to “suck it up,” however, I don’t at all find the “It Gets Better” Project annoying, and I think there IS power in being able to just get through.

    I can’t go to every bullied kid situation and right the wrongs. WOULD THAT I COULD. But what I can do is – through these fabulous intertubes – tell them that high school doesn’t last forever. I can tell them that they are not alone. I can tell them that they are worth saving, worthy of being loved and happy, and the world would be a grayer, sadder place without them in it. And when it is possible, I can stick up for people around me who are bullied.

    I can’t stop all the bullies in the world, but I can tell the bullied that they are not alone, and things will get better. But better doesn’t always mean Super Awesome and Easy.

    The thing that /does/ bug me is the assumption that everyone who is bullied will go to college or move away. While I do recommend those things, not everyone can swing it straight out of high school or ever! But when you are 18, you are free! You don’t HAVE to stay at home! You can buy cigarettes! And see whoever you want! And have to pay your own rent and find health insurance! It can be really hard! But better! Easy, hard, weird, or smalltown normal, your life will be YOURS. And that’s better than being in high school.

  12. Rebekka October 12, 2010 at 6:20 am #

    Yes, yes, yes. God, high school was hell. Better than junior high, though. And college was even better. Real Life is sweetest, though.

  13. hickchick October 12, 2010 at 11:52 am #

    Even worse than teachers that do nothing about bullies are the ones that are bullies themselves. One of my high school teachers, was constantly gossiping about students and sharing her own (very low) opinion of brown people and Catholics with the student body.

    Sadly, a few weeks ago, I was in a school that was being stripped of anything valuable to pay for the new school when I overheard a 50+ man reminiscing about shoving a classmate into one of the lockers for being “into disco”. How does someone get to be proud of being a bully?

  14. Harri P. October 12, 2010 at 2:03 pm #

    > It only ‘gets better’ when people who are bullies and attackers are held accountable

    Not gonna happen in most cases. Most adults are oblivious.

  15. Thea October 12, 2010 at 2:36 pm #

    Hey Toby, I can testify that being told “It Gets Better” was a lifeline to me when I was a girl. I clearly remember seeing Joan Rivers on the Tonight Show and she said “Girls, if you are too smart for where you are right now, if you are chunky, if you didn’t go to the prom – I promise you – it will get better. And someday you might be sitting up here with Johnny Carson, because it happened to me.”

    That comment was a lifeline to me when I was too young to make any actual physical changes in my life. I counted the days until I could go to college, and made damned sure I had the grades to get scholarships.

    The first day at uni, I found out that girls who read books (for fun! imagine that!) and knew about Lenny Bruce and Bill Hicks and fashion beyond The Limited could and DID have better lives coming to them.

    It Gets Better should cover anybody who grew up ‘out of place’ for whatever reason.

    Sometimes, just being told to hang on is enough to get someone thru. It may not be the best possible option, but for a lot of people growing up in places with limited options, it’s a start to know that you are not alone. Light a single candle and all that.