As I undressed in the department store changing room, I recoiled at the sound of a young girl’s comment in the adjoining area.
“It looks horrible. You’re way too fat for that!”
I think recoil is an understatement. My cheeks flushed a shade of fuchsia, my heart rate increased twofold. Had I have not been in a state of nudity, I know I’d have whipped my curtain open and had a word or two with the insensitive perpetrator.
You see, I had an eating disorder at the age of thirteen—anorexia, to be precise. While nothing edible passed my lips, my mind ate away at my soul for ten long years. At a mere six stone, I wasn’t thin enough to be hospitalized. You needed to be five stone, apparently, a sad regulation that seemingly continues to exist within the mental health industry.
I was one of the lucky ones. I had a tremendous support network. And a strong Mom who educated me on the long-term dangers of starvation instead of forcing carb-loaded stodge down my throat.
When I hear modern, banter-led teenage dialogue, I fail to see how the word ‘fat’ could ever be deemed a term of endearment. I’m not one of these politically correct buffs who gets offended easily, nor am I sensitive to a bit of fun being poked in my direction. In fact, I’m self-deprecating in something of a comedic sense.
You can throw blonde jokes at me at your leisure. I might roll my eyes as I’ve heard it countless times during my forty-five years, but I won’t scream discrimination and wave my white flag.
But I would never call a young girl fat, regardless of her size.
There are far more liberal and, indeed, helpful ways of addressing one’s size. Encouraging them to exercise, eating more sensibly are just two of them.
While it may seem that your friend is up for a laugh, you will never know what their inner demons are taunting them with.
I learned the hard way. I used to hide in the school toilet when the lunch bell rang. I spent years making excuses to avoid dinner parties out of sheer terror. Every aspect of my experience was depressing in its entirety. Dark and depressing. I have never, to date, felt as alone as I did with anorexia.
Eating disorders are easily triggered. In truth, I never established what caused my own as I was always slim, verging on thin. But something did, and name-calling in any context is unacceptable.
As a woman, always consider the way that you address another female. If you have a teenage daughter or son, teach them the pitfalls of this new, transparent dialogue that seems to drown social media.
I’m an advocate of honesty and openness. But I also practice caution with my words.
You never really know what someone is battling.