The first time I was ever called “fat” was in grade one.
To be completely honest, the person who called me fat was not wrong. At the age of six, I was approximately 120 pounds, more than what some of my friends are today. At a whopping four feet seven inches, one could probably roll me down a hill and achieve the closest thing to perpetual motion. (Yes, that’s a fat joke). Looking back on it now, I could only laugh at my naivety, but remember the lessons I learned that day.
As a child, I had never been bullied much. My parents were always to protective and caring of me, so I rarely left my house before my education started. Perhaps it played a role in being a relatively sensitive person that I was, where even a millisecond of time, a period of sound that floated through the air, only caused a pang on my chest and a shiver down my spine. In summary, the words mattered. Some people showed sympathy; others simply laughed. Either way, they struggled to see what those simple letters truly meant to someone like me, and who could blame them? They didn’t understand my story.
The day was forever in my head. I was on the school bus for the second time ever, sat my seat in an empty bus. A few minutes later, a group of high schoolers got on. They all seemed to be in Grade 11 and 12, many years above myself. I gave them all a glance, and went back to reading my book. One of them shouted:
“Hey, Fat Boy! Why don’t you try running to school? Could help fix that problem of yours!”
They all laughed, howling at what they figured was a funny joke. To me however, the moments after that line were a completely different story. It initially started with confusion, a wonderment as to what was just spoken. It then brought on embarrassment, as I was being targeted, scrutinized and mocked for my actions. Finally, it was shame and self-consciousness. I had a “problem”, and it was obvious. It made me realize that I was not only possessing a problem, but I was also a problem to other people. It brought shame to my size, shame to the fact that I was over 120 pounds at the age of six. I felt shame, that people were ashamed of being near me, afraid of being around me, around the “fat kid.” The following events that happened could only be explained as the most natural and expected actions that a six-year-old adolescent like myself could do.
I cried. Tears rolled down my face. All it did was make me seem weaker, dumber, stupider. No one emphasized with me, they either distanced themselves away, some began to nickname me: “Fat boy.” I never had many friends throughout elementary, and stopped going back onto the school bus, afraid that the same people would point out my “problem” again. Quite simply, it altered my life.
I never went on to live that name down. The only reason why it became less and less significant in my life is because I was fortunate enough to meet people who embraced me for who I was, to accept me as someone who was “fluffy”, not “fat.” However, even with the kind euphemisms that people gave, the idea of being “fat” never left me. It was a label that was forever stuck to my 6-year-old heart, all the way to today. As I grew older, I compensated for my appearance through my personality, and I was able to find my place in the social community. Perhaps that part of bullying changed my life for the better, but the scars never faded away.
Words could forever change the world. We always heard of the inspirational speeches that people have, the ones that used words for the powers of good. We saw debaters, lawyers, public speakers, politicians, all who used their words to help us in our daily struggles, the ones that voiced their opinions and helped others. But with every power, came responsibilities. Words were dangerous, they caused conflict, they could bring emotion, they could label, tag and stereotype a person for something that they were not.
So please, the next you speak, always watch your words. You never know who you might accidentally hurt next.