Even if it makes others uncomfortable, I will love who I am. – Janelle Monae “Q.U.E.E.N.”
The week I released my book Glitter on the Web in 2016, Romancelandia was turned on its head when a male model who did cover work for our industry went on a fat-shaming rampage against both readers and writers of romance. Something broke in his brain and he decided to unleash a hateful tirade against fat women, particularly authors for some weird, career-killing reason, telling us that we only write romance because we can’t get any dick and we should just go kill ourselves.
The irony of his tirade around the time I published (another) book centered around a fat woman being treated, I dunno, like a person or something, was not lost on me. Fat-shaming isn’t necessarily a foreign concept for someone who has been fat, say, her ENTIRE FUCKING LIFE. I’m used to the hate, but I have long taken issue with the shame that comes from that hatred.
I did a whole blog about it, because here’s the thing… I’m not ashamed.
Yeah, I’m not ashamed of my weight. People, mostly thin people, see the weight as the source of my problems. I know it’s merely a symptom of everything else, and anyone who DOESN’T know that is either A.) too small-minded and limited to help me or B.) just kidding… it was A.
To catch anyone up who is new here, I developed an eating disorder after I was raped at age four. This kicked into overdrive when I turned eleven and my dad died. I had my first major depressive episode and absolutely no adults around me who had any idea how to treat or even recognize what it was.
I was a CHILD literally on my own dealing with emotional baggage that adults can’t even manage.
Yet oddly, everything, everything, thereafter became a test of my character if I didn’t miraculously get it right. When I couldn’t run a mile straight the first day of sophomore (and mixed gender) P.E. class, the coach not only shamed me for not wanting to work HARDER to lose this horrible, awful weight, he then punished EVERYONE ELSE with extra laps.
Picture me squeezed into shorts that weren’t made for my 210-lb body, around teenagers (boys AND girls) who didn’t really NEED another reason to hate me, and suddenly I’m THAT girl. It traumatized me so much I skipped most of my tenth grade year till I got to November. That’s when I turned 16, and I could leave high school in the rear view mirror even though I was a good student who generally did well with the work.
When I went for my G.E.D. at eighteen, I scored higher than most high school graduates.
But I was done, D-O-N-E, with being publicly shamed by people who couldn’t find my value because they weren’t willing to look past the weight. No one was willing to work with me to help me solve ANY problem, they just wanted me to toe the line and stuff myself into their boxes, another worker bee just like everyone else, filing along like my life looked like anybody else’s.
Everything else was too much work and they couldn’t be bothered.
(And yet they call ME lazy. Ironic.)
I was still a kid making my choices, dealing with my trauma, and making mistake after mistake with nobody there to toss me a rope, even though my life was full of adults who could have seen a girl in trouble and intervened.
Instead, it was MY fault for being fat, and it was up to me to fix it before I was allowed to exist peacefully in polite society.
What, really, was I going to get out of the high school experience except more pain? One thing you should know about people like Coach Maloney – there’s nothing they like better than an audience cheering them on as they shit all over another human being.
Yes, I’m shaming HIM now, although I assumed at first writing he’s probably long gone. He seemed old AF back in the day. Out of peevish curiosity I looked him up and lo and behold there’s a news story where Rick Maloney, history/PE teacher, was shot in the face by a student in 1988 (the year I should have graduated.) The only thing that surprises me about this news story is that Coach Maloney was 35 at the time of the shooting, which means he was 33 when I encountered him. In my memories, he seemed way older than that, so I literally hunted through 1980s yearbooks online to verify he was, in fact, the same guy. Toxic masculinity ages one, apparently. And presumably results in one getting shot in the face. “No motive” my ass.
That’s not to condone any violence, of course. I don’t believe in violence to solve a problem.
I do think it’s important to note that, in response to his abusive behavior, my reaction was likewise destructive, I simply turned the violence inward, which resulted in a weight gain. He wanted me to hate my body and I did, much to my detriment. That’s what happens when you treat people like pieces of shit. Many times they begin to believe it.
So, his “tough love” really wasn’t helpful at all, was it?
I’m sure when that initial “fitness” model sat down to write his angry tirade, he thought he would be in good company. In his mind, fat is bad. The world around him is constructed to agree. Look at any comment ANYWHERE and you’ll see what I mean.
I don’t know what happened to this particular douche canoe, honestly. I didn’t care enough to learn his name and I usually don’t put models on my books anyway. There are a lot of reasons for this; the first and foremost is that I don’t care for models on the books I read. I find it intrusive on my experience. When I sit down to read a book, it’s a very intimate experience. It is for anybody, really. Nobody reads the same book. They read the words on the page in front of them, but their minds take on visuals unique to them.
It’s kinda beautiful, really. I tell my story in my voice, you hear it in yours. Every experience is unique and valid and inherently emotional because you get to color in the picture I’ve provided. Hal Sparks says this is the most intimate experience an artist can have with his or her audience.
I dig that so much, why on EARTH would I want to trespass on that sacred ground?
Reason two: the guys I find hot, you might not. Typically those heavily muscled men gracing the cover of most romance books leave me cold. I’m not a fan of that look because it comes off as overly aggressive, and, as woman traumatized by aggressive men in my past, it’s a turn-off, quite frankly. A red flag. Nay, a trigger.
One of the ways I knew my life was about to really suck with my first husband was whenever he’d throw himself into a new exercise routine. We always had weights and equipment around, because he really enjoyed that kind of thing. But there was something that happened, maybe a spike in his testosterone – I dunno, that triggered his anger and abuse almost always followed.
The stronger he was, the harder it was for me to fight.
His working out meant I needed to prepare myself for that fight anyway.
So, you’ll never see me putting a heavily muscled dude on the cover of my books. I write really toned and fit guys because that’s the kind of hero my audiences want to see, but as for me, I’m more a sucker for the things that fall in and out of fashion with folks (like long hair, etc.) (And bigger dudes are coming, so be prepared for that.)
I also have an aversion to beards too, probably for the same reason (overly aggressive men, dating back to my original assault,) so if I see a beardy, roided out dude on the cover of a book I’m LESS inclined to read it. These are not the men who attract me.
Reason three: I simply prefer more artistic designs for my covers. I’ll put people on it, but you can tell by some of my covers that I’ve done so VERY reluctantly. There have only been a few faces I thought captured the characters in my books. Everything else, creativity forced by frustration.
The fact of the matter is I can’t find ANYONE in stock photography who looks like the characters I have in my mind. This is particularly true for my heroines, who are mostly curvy. Finding stock photos of “plus-size” models in romantic photo shoots has been a challenge since I started designing covers for my books, and finding beautiful models to fit my range of “plus” sizes was damn near impossible. My agent tossed back a few, citing they weren’t attractive enough.
And attractive people sell books, donchaknow.
What happens when you live in a culture where the women you choose to write about are considered unattractive by default?
Welp, you get a lot of photos of fat models that traditionally center around food/body image, and that doesn’t necessarily sell romance novels.
What can I say? Fat-shaming has an audience and it’s still in high demand.
This brings us to yesterday.
Yet another “fitness” model went on yet another ill-conceived Facebook rant about fat people, complete with vomiting emojis for effect.
This is how you know these fuckers don’t give one shit about your health. They find you disgusting and want to spend precious minutes out of their limited lifespans punching you back down in the sand where you belong… under their feet and out of sight… because they’re too lazy to find out your story. If you were a real person, they’d have to own that they themselves entertain lazy biases.
And the only lazy folk around here are the fatties, amirite??
Let’s unpack the steaming heap of bullshit, shall we?
“So tired of seeing posts or write-ups about how “big is beautiful”, telling other obese/severely overweight people that they should just love themselves as they are… NO THEY SHOULDN’T! Stop encouraging them to be lazy, and unhealthy!
Unmotivated people need HARD CORE, IN YOUR FACE reminders like this post of how unhealthy they are at their size, and NOT “so called” friends not saying a word to them about it, afraid they will hurt their feelings!… F THAT!… So this is merely one of those wake-up calls.
So save your hate comments for when you are talking to yourself about your own obesity!”
– Fuckface McShamerFace, who USED to be a model for romance novels.
I’m feeling the love, yo. And SO motivated. Totes. ::insert gagging emoji here::
Shamers get such a hard-on when they do this kind of thing, framing it around “helping” us because in their teeny tiny minds, NOBODY in our lives to this point has EVER, EVER, said one goddamned thing about our weight. Not our parents, our friends, our doctors, our bosses, people on the street. EVERYONE around me just absolutely LOVES my big fat body and will dance nicely around the COLD HARD TRUTH that I’m a big fat failure who is going to have a big fat heart attack and die.
And if anyone HAS tried to talk to me, doctors, family, friends, lovers, etc, then I haven’t listened. It’s going to take this ONE mean post from an Internet stranger to do the trick and save my life.
The self-aggrandizing arrogance of this mentality is astonishing. It’s not surprising it comes mostly from dudes, either. Forget being mansplained, try being fatsplained, usually by someone who generally has had NO experience being fat. But he’s a dude and I’m a chick so he has to ride in on his white horse to save the day. Do they masturbate when they are done writing this kind of thing? And do they wear a cape? Because that’s some Superhero Level Caring right there, amirite? Talk about your knight in white armor.
So… here’s the thing…
I can’t hate my body.
In fact, I’m actually kind of falling in love with it. More by the day, really.
That’s what you do with a hero that saves your life, right? And my body just did that. Like, in the most epic way possible. It literally expelled cancer, forcing that tumor out of my body before I even knew I had it. The sarcoma was found on the part of the fibroid that had prolapsed through my cervix, which was removed in that initial biopsy. The results of the surgery next day, removing most of the other fibroids, were clear. I had a complete hysterectomy a month later, and that, too, came up clear. Scans, tests, SURGERY – everything was cancer free. My doctors were so puzzled by my original diagnosis, they actually had to physically analyze that original biopsy again JUST to confirm that I had it at all.
That means by the time I heard the word “cancer,” it was already gone.
THANKS TO MY BIG FAT BEAUTIFUL BODY KICKING IT TO THE CURB.
I feel weird even saying that out loud. As a woman, I’m conditioned to embrace and accept that I’m imperfect. That’s a message told to me from every headline of every magazine. I’m a work-in-progress who needs continual improvement to justify my existence.
I have a hard time forming thoughts around the good stuff, the stuff I get when I certainly don’t deserve it. Chalk that up to religious training. I was brought up to believe I was a dirty dog sinner who wouldn’t be worth a damn without God – even though God supposedly made me in His image.
Ah, the contradictions.
I was taught never to brag about good fortune, because the loving God who sent it to me might get cranky and smite me.
And it feels extra wrong knowing that so many good, wonderful people have really been ’round the bend with cancer, going through so much more horror than I ever did. I often hesitate to count myself in their numbers, even though my life was turned upside down and everything – and I mean EVERYTHING – changed just the same, even though my phenomenal body just went, “Nope. We’re not going to do that today.”
I tell Steven all the time it feels like… too good to be true. How did this happen to me of all people? After all the shit I’ve been through… how could I get that lucky? I won the most lottery-est of lotteries.
My big fat body did that.
Every time the thought even enters my brain, I worry God really is going to smite me dead in an instant for bragging, but honestly… THAT is the story. Talk about something completely unexpected; me, someone so derided for being so unhealthy simply because of my size… and yet, my body went over and above to protect me, to ensure our survival.
It’s a hero’s journey complete with a twist. Someone phone M. Night Shyamalan.
Instead of hiding in the shadows, hoping God doesn’t notice this rare good fortune that came my way lest he riiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiip it away again, I SHOULD be telling anyone who can listen.
It’s that fucking amazing.
Jackoffs like this want me to hate my body… but I honestly can’t do anything but love it. It’s literally my hero. That, and Dr. St. John who performed the first biopsy. Together they took on a VERY scary foe. And WON.
I’ve been given the biggest gift of a lifetime. It’s up to me how to move forward beyond that.
Part of that, yes, includes losing excess weight. I made that decision for mobility’s sake and though my progress is super slow, I am more determined than ever to make certain changes. But it’s not because I hate my body. Frankly it has more to do with stark terror.
I never want to go through this again. EVER.
So, I’ve been on a journey to get more fit, it’s true.
And that started before the cancer diagnosis, that is also true. The drive for self-improvement has actually been a lifelong mission for me, as it is for most people. As we grow, we make different choices catered to fit our life at the time.
When I decided to fight cancer through diet, it helped changed the way I look at food entirely. Now I WANT to eat the foods that best benefit me. I no longer hate food or feel guilty about it – I treat it like a medicine, and I feel better for having done so.
There has been weight loss as a result, but it’s been so slow it feels like I’m not moving the scale at all. This is frustrating to me not because I hate the extra weight, but I’m super ambitious an want to smash expectations.
According to Fuckface, I haven’t done enough. I’m unmotivated.
In my life I’ve successfully lost hundreds of pounds, but because I never crossed “the finish line” to that “After” photo, my results weren’t adequate enough for the peanut gallery, because ALL they see is the weight I carry now. That’s all they care about, that’s all that matters to them.
I ask again… who’s the lazy one?
When I wrote to my Superior coaches Hal Sparks and Frank Prather for help, I admitted all my worst “failures” losing weight, because let’s face it. I’m still fat. And they’re super fit. I figure they’d look at me the way everyone else did.
Miracle of miracles, they didn’t see those as failures. They were so positive and encouraging, even though they are super testosteroney fitness-oriented dudes.
Unlike Fuckface, they didn’t feel any desire to ram their fists down my throat in some aggressive beat-down to “motivate” me, mostly because they’re not abusive assholes.
They encouraged me. They supported me. They were both strong enough to LIFT ME UP, by legitimately investing in me and my journey. They gave help after I asked for it and NOT before, because by my asking for it they knew I was open and receptive to hear their suggestions.
If you wanna help someone, ANYONE, with ANYTHING, that’s generally the best route to go.
But, with fat folk, so many people only see this…
The hatred is real, y’all. I wish I knew where it came from. Where did this bigotry against being bigger happen, exactly? In nature, creatures are known to make themselves bigger as a self-defense mechanism. If someone carries 100 pounds they don’t have to, charging up a hill and back, they’re congratulated for the effort. We admire that feat of strength. Most people WANT a lot of a good thing, particularly Americans. From their fat bank accounts to their “super-sized” meals and venti coffees, the general sentiment is “Go big or go home.” YOLO, right?
“Fat” is only a sin when it comes to humans, a sin so great it gives others the license to abuse you at will “for your own good.” And it flares up at a moment’s notice. I was just minding my business yesterday when all this nonsense came floating across my timeline. A random drive-by shaming.
They happen sometimes, particularly if you’re in the public eye.
I had something to say about Kevin Hart recently and one of his fans shot back calling me fat. That was it. That was the entire comeback.
In his mind, that was enough.
I commit high treason against society wearing my extra weight, no matter how or why. Despite what Shamers have you believe, I’m never allowed to forget this. Even if I watch This is Us or Dumplin’ or read any number of books starring fat heroines, I’m still sharing the planet with three times as many shamers who will either overtly or passive-aggressively make their disgust known.
In their minds, I deserve that.
How on EARTH would I know I was fat otherwise?
Forty-nine years on this planet and jumpin’ Jehoshaphat – I just never would have been any the wiser had some mean rando not come along to tell me “the truth.” THAT, you guys, is the HARD CORE MOTIVATION I need to get my “unmotivated” ass into gear.
“Unmotivated” is not a word anyone who knows me personally would ever use to describe me. I’ve written 36 novels and 10 screenplays, MOST of those in the last eight years. Grass doesn’t grow under these size-10 feet.
I’ve been the Git-er-Done Girl at any job I’ve ever had. If you want something done right, efficiently and fast, give it to me. I’m the one who goes above and beyond, who does more than what is asked, who can get shit done without someone standing over my shoulder.
In fact, it’s best that you just stand back and watch me work my magic. When people don’t expect anything from you, they’re TOTES easy to impress, especially when you’re already exceptional.
Calling myself exceptional is not a brag, btw. There’s an old saying that women have to work twice as hard as a man to be considered half as good. When you’re a fat woman, or a woman of color, or LGBT, or differently-abled or ::insert minority status here:: you need to double/triple/quadruple that amount of awesome you fit into any task, and you’re still going to run up on those who think the only thing you’re capable of is polishing off a carton of ice cream.
In order to play the game of life, people who are marginalized simply have to work harder to be given any credit, if at all.
There is no level playing field. The starting line and the finish line depends on the hand you have been dealt as a human, which many times has nothing to do with you.
That exercise was meant to display white privilege, but think about ALL the privilege it implies.
If you’ve had any success at all as someone behind any kind of eight-ball, you’re exceptional. You have no choice to be anything else. You had to work harder and fight harder every single day of your life.
I kick ass on the regular, but I usually do it quietly because I was raised that I’m not supposed to brag about that. It’s not ladylike.
If you want to talk motivation, I made NUMEROUS dreams of mine come true. I wanted to move to L.A. from the time I was eight years old, watching Three’s Company every week. I was in L.A. by the time I was 19.
BOTH my husbands were affirmed bachelors before I came along, NEITHER of them were interested in marriage or kids. I was married to #1 for 10 years and have been with #2 for almost 20.
Never say never to me. I take that shit as a challenge.
If I want something done, I make it happen. And EVERYTHING I’ve done I’ve done with 100 extra pounds on my back, fighting uphill against the sludge of fat bias from folks who WOULD prefer I lock myself in a closet, eat ice cream and kill myself because I’m “unmotivated” and “lazy.”
This is the reason those “can’t live life until you get thin” stories are so popular, folks. They LITERALLY think we do NOTHING but sit around and eat all day.
Nah. I did it IN SPITE of all that, which SHOULD make me even MORE of badass. How much would YOU get done if you had 100 extra pounds to carry each day? And yet, I’ve created a career, had and raised children into adults, started up more than one company.
I’ve lived a pretty accomplished life so far, and I’m just getting started.
The trick is… you have to look past my weight to recognize it.
When the publishing industry wouldn’t let me in, I kicked down the fucking door. I’ve made six figures writing about all us fat folk being loved for exactly who we are. All these years later, we’re seeing those movies make it to the screen. That voice is now being heard.
I was a pioneer… and my body, my beautiful, strong, wonderful body, has kept me going the entire time. When a true foe came along, it kicked its ASS but good.
And this guy, someone I’ve never met, someone who can’t be bothered to know me or my story wants me to hate it because EW ICKY FAT?
Nah, my dude. Ima love my body. I spent the first few decades of my life hating it, and it never helped. Not once. Hating my body meant I was cruel to it. I punished it. I didn’t care whether it lived or died, much less thrived. I’ve viewed myself through your skewed prism and it only made the problem worse, which only made the symptom worse. I gained more than 100 more pounds courtesy of “tough love,” mostly because slow suicide was better than trying to live in your world.
Now, I’m getting in fighting shape. Wanna know why? Cuz I realized it’s my world, too. And life is MUCH too precious to live my life in your boxes simply because it makes life easier for you.
When I say cancer changed everything, I am not kidding. It gave me an appreciation for life like you wouldn’t believe. I take nothing for granted now. Everything is a blessing. And everything has a purpose.
It’s like I now know that there’s a hitman out there somewhere aiming for me, and I somehow learned his name. So, now I prepare myself in case I ever meet up with him. I have developed an arsenal of weapons to defeat him again, mostly starting with diet and fitness.
I didn’t do that so some rando dude won’t bitch at me, or so that guys will magically want to fuck me because I’ve somehow “earned” their favor. I didn’t care about any of you fuckers before, I CERTAINLY don’t give a shit about you now.
When they say life is too short for that, they’re not kidding. When you start living life like you KNOW it has an expiration date, you couldn’t give two shits what random strangers think about the road you’re on.
I’m prioritizing my choices so my body can be stronger and more effective if something that really WILL cause me harm crosses my path again. And whatever I can control of that process, I certainly fucking will.
But hate myself or this body I’ve lived in for the last 50 years? This beautiful, wonderful body that has survived rape, homelessness, domestic abuse, depression, anxiety… and now cancer? Not to mention a HEAP of hatred and abuse from far too many small-minded assholes just cuz they didn’t like the way I looked?
Nah. We’re done with that. I’m not going to let you abuse this badass body any more than I’m going to allow MYSELF to abuse it, like say… hating it for not being good enough.
Even if it makes others uncomfortable… I will love who I am.
Nobody else has to like it. In fact, I’m pretty sure my defiance is going to make some of you even angrier.
But I ain’t livin’ for you, boo.
As such, you may keep your advice to yourself. I don’t need it or want it. I’ve got a LEGION of support behind me, full of people who genuinely give a shit about me. When it came to building a support system, I found people on the top rung so I can have somewhere to climb, physically, emotionally and professionally.
And my motivated ass will make that climb again and again, till I get where I want to go, on every level *I* find important. I may not do it the way you want or in your time, but I’ve done it before and I’ll do it again in mine. Trust.
But don’t you worry. If you really need the attention, I’ll bookmark your page way down there on the ladder beneath me.
If I ever develop a brain cloud and require the advice of an idiot, I know where to stoop.