We’ve Come a Long Way Baby

Published November 28, 2012 by sleepydumpling

Looking out my window this evening there is no mistake that summer is here.  There is a storm brewing, it’s hot and it’s sticky.  I’m sitting here in a camisole top and a sarong, the fan blowing on me and my balcony door open to get the evening sea breezes until the storm hits and I have to run around and shut everything to keep the rain out.

It has now been about 5 years since I first started hearing about this thing called “fat acceptance” (my first foray into fat activism of any kind), and started entertaining the notion that I wasn’t worthless because there was more of me than there is of many other people.  In those years, my life has radically changed.  I’m a different person than I was 5 years ago.  I no longer put my life on hold, waiting to do things “when I lose weight”.  I no longer apologise for being the size I am.  I no longer allow people to treat me as sub-human because of my fat.  And I no longer hide myself away behind baggy, shapeless, dark clothing because others suggest it is “flattering”.

I realised the other morning as I was getting dressed for work, the me of 2012 really resents having to wear sleeves and cover my body in this hot weather.  That astonished me.  Was it really only a couple of years ago that I would never have dreamed of being seen without my arms covered?  There was once a time, that even in the hottest of summers, I would not leave the house without my arms covered past the elbow, my legs covered past the knees and a full face of makeup.  Now I often roll out of bed, shower, throw on a sun-dress and sandals and I’m out the door.  If I’m working and I have to have my arm tattoo covered, I find tops with the barest minimum length to cover the bits I need to, and then leave the rest free.  On the weekends I will chuck on a cami or tank top, a pair of shorts (sometimes plain shorts, sometimes bike-pants) and go for a walk along the waterfront with the sea air blowing on my skin.

As the weather heats up, I’m currently looking for a new swim suit, preferably a tankini or halter neck top with boy-leg shorts (so they don’t creep up my bum!) to go swimming at my local pool in.  No more wearing a huge t-shirt over the top to cover my body, no more dropping the sarong off my bottom half at the side of the pool and slipping quickly into the water.  Where my arms and legs were once pale white and untouched by sun, never seen by anyone, they are now gently ripening to brown and are adorned with magnificent ink.

I only wear makeup now when I want to dress up a bit, or have fun with some colour.  I no longer feel that I have to have a “face” on to be acceptable to be seen.  I once wore glasses that were plain and unobtrusive, now they are bold and make a statement.  Where I once wore my hair long, thick and heavy because I was told it was flattering to my round face, slowly cooking my own head under it’s weight, I now crop it uber-short with clippers, cool and light, and dye it bright hues as it grows back to a short back & sides.

Once I would hunt the sparse racks of plus-size clothes looking for black, navy, burgundy and forest green, now I am drawn to red, turquoise, magenta, mint, peach and cobalt.  From plain dark colours of my past wardrobe to the now busy prints, bold patterns and clashing colours.  I embellish them with big, fabulous accessories, shiny, colourful and jangly.  I like accessories that move and make noise, they stimulate my senses.  I look for shapes that skim my body, not blouse over it like I’m trying to hide it.  Where my legs once were always covered in plain pants, they now are bare under skirts and dresses.  When I did wear skirts before they were always with heavy black tights to hide my legs.  Now they are bare, or if it’s cold enough to need cover, have bright tights and leggings that draw attention to the shape of my legs.

In the past I walked with my head bowed, looking at my own feet, avoiding eye contact with anyone, trying to disappear.  Now I walk with my head held high, my shoulders back, surveying the world around me, smiling at the things that make me happy, meeting the eye of anyone who dares stare at me.  I would never, ever eat in public, always uncomfortable in restaurants or cafes, preferring to drink vast quantities of alcohol instead of being seen eating.  Now I don’t touch alcohol at all (I figure I drank all my share at once) and I love to dine out, to socialise with friends over brunch, lunch, dinner, coffee and cake.  I enjoy the food that I eat, and eat what I want, stopping when I’ve had enough, even if there is still food on my plate.  I know the foods that make me feel good, and those that make me feel cruddy.  I refuse to allow anyone to shame me for my food choices.

When I am home alone, I am comfortable with my naked body.  My new flat has a large mirror level with the plain glass shower stall.  The past me would never have been able to shower in this bathroom without covering the mirror, lest I catch a glimpse of my large, round, naked body.  Now I see it and value it, for being strong and capable, and for carrying me through my life.  I admire the roundness, the curves and bumps, the thickness and the marks of my life – stretchmarks, scars, moles and freckles, adorned with the ink that documents my life.  I am not bothered by the hairy bits or the saggy bits.  They are part of the road map of my life, signs of my maturing body.  Nor am I bothered by my natural hair, greying at the temples.  I feel no need to cover it as I grow it back ready to colour it something bright and fun.

This is the first phase of fat liberation for me.  I am free, I have been liberated from the prison I lived in for the first 35 years of my life.  A prison that I was both forced into, yet for many years was too afraid to leave.  My choices are mine.  My body is mine.  My life is mine.  I may never see fat bodies truly valued and celebrated by society in my lifetime, but my body is valued and celebrated by me.

I wish that for each and every one of you.

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45 comments on “We’ve Come a Long Way Baby

  • What a beautiful, uplifting, motivating and insightful post, my absolute favourite so far, thanks Cath!

  • I feel like I need to print this post out and frame it or something. You are a wonderful writer Kath, and I love this post so much. Thank you for being you! xx

    • All of us are a work in progress VickiR. Sometimes we’re groovy, sometimes it’s a bit harder a chore to do with. I hope you find yourself having the same lightbulbs go off as I have been lately.

  • This is so beautiful and I will never cease to be thankful that I get to be a part of your life and call you a friend.

  • This is beautiful :-)

    If I may ask a question, where do you get your stockings / leggings from? I’m in a size 20, and while Autograph had some coloured leggings for a while, I mostly struggle to find any leggings other than black, or any stockings that fit well. I have some gorgeous dresses for both work and social events, and I’m limited in how often I can wear them because I can’t get enough leggings etc (and I’m not comfortable without them).

    • Angela, most of mine come from We Love Colors (www.welovecolors.com). I tried the Autograph leggings but they were pretty bland colours and I am between sizes on them anyway. WLC leggings and stockings are really good quality and reasonably priced, and most years they have free shipping in an Australian winter (and it’s only about $15 for the rest of the year). The best thing… over 55 colours and the largest size in the tights are huge! The leggings only go to 3X though. Get the Lycra blend tights BTW, they’re worth the extra dollar or two.

  • Lovely post. It’s because of people like you I was able to finally face my fears and get married. It’s something I’d put off for a long time due to the “I’ll do it when I’m thinner” mentality.

  • THIS – is how every person of size deserves to feel, all the time. No exceptions, no “good fatty/bad fatty”, no “it’s only OK if you exercise a lot”, ALL people of size ALL the time.
    This would be my wish for the world.

  • I always wear tights when I wear skirts and dresses, purely because otherwise I get really bad chaffing between my thighs. I’ve tried talc and some barrier creams to stop it, but have so far failed.

    Do you have this problem? If so, what do you do to fix it?

    It’s weird because I can’t remember exactly when I started wearing tights under things. I certainly didn’t at school or in my late teens/early 20s. It just came into being somewhere along the line, and I hate it.

    Do I just need to tough it out through the initial chaffing and it’ll sort itself out?

    • Hi Fae! I have the same problem as you and I think it’s just anatomical. Some people fatter than me don’t have the chafing issue, some people thinner than me do. A friend of mine swears by 3B cream but it just doesn’t work for me. I wear very light cotton pantaloons under dresses on hot days.

    • Fae I sometimes think I’m the only fatty on the planet that has never had an issue with chub rub. Maybe it’s because I’m wookie-like hairy? I don’t know, perhaps someone else can help you.

    • My body runs hot. Hot hot hot! And I get the thigh chaffe. Even in winter. I wear mostly skirts and dresses. Because I like them. I love light, floaty clothes. I wear cotton/lycra bike shorts under my dresses and skirts. You know the ones that come about half way down to your knees? I buy them cheap at BigW. The light gray marle colour can even be worn under white without showing.

      The added bonus is that they absorb perspiration and stay fairly cool. This all makes me much more comfortable and much less grumpy in the heat. ;)

      • I really must be an odd-bod. I run really hot as well, but don’t sweat much on my body (my face however is a different story!) and don’t have any chafe.

        I like the idea of the bike pants – those BigW ones are $8 at the moment.

  • Wonderful post! One of the things that stuck out to me was your talking about clothes and color. While dark clothes aren’t necessarily drab and depressing, too often the large sized ones are that way. It can be like wearing a black hole, the clothes are just swallowing you up, making you into this big shadow in the corner of the room. The colorful, better made clothes are so much different, more like a bright and happy celebration. I’m glad you’re happy and celebrating your life. :)

  • “and started entertaining the notion that I wasn’t worthless because there was more of me than there is of many other people.”

    “And I no longer hide myself away behind baggy, shapeless, dark clothing because others suggest it is “flattering”.”

    “In the past I walked with my head bowed, looking at my own feet, avoiding eye contact with anyone, trying to disappear. Now I walk with my head held high, my shoulders back, surveying the world around me, smiling at the things that make me happy, meeting the eye of anyone who dares stare at me.”

    “I refuse to allow anyone to shame me for my food choices.”

    “In the past I walked with my head bowed, looking at my own feet, avoiding eye contact with anyone, trying to disappear. Now I walk with my head held high, my shoulders back, surveying the world around me, smiling at the things that make me happy, meeting the eye of anyone who dares stare at me.”

    “I refuse to allow anyone to shame me for my food choices.”

    “This is the first phase of fat liberation for me. I am free, I have been liberated from the prison I lived in for the first 35 years of my life. A prison that I was both forced into, yet for many years was too afraid to leave. My choices are mine. My body is mine. My life is mine. I may never see fat bodies truly valued and celebrated by society in my lifetime, but my body is valued and celebrated by me.

    I wish that for each and every one of you.”

    That’s so amazing. I’m so glad.
    Your body is yours.
    Your liberation is inspiring and encourages me to walk on.

  • Dear Kath, its taken me a few days to write this but I wanted to say to you how much your words mean to me. I am a person who has lived my whole life obsessing about being accepted. I can trace it back to when I was 12 years old and a man commented to me that I was “big” for a girl. I was born into a family with a slim mother, slim sisters and average dad. No one was overweight in my family. I was always the biggest – I was taller than the others but not overweight. That didnt matter because I was always the butt of jokes because I was different from the others. I longed to be petite and slim – just like everyone else. I felt like an ugly outcast and have had serious problems with self esteem my whole life. I am not proud of some of the things I’ve done because of this. The time, money and heartache that I’ve spent trying to be accepted have amounted to zero. I have been thin (through eating hardly anything and exercising fanatically) and guess what my self esteem was still crap, I still sweltered in jackets in summer because I didnt want to show my arms and wouldnt go swimming for fear someone would laugh at me. As it is, I havent been swimming now for many years…
    Probably my biggest regret is a few years back I somewhat indirectly caused a falling out between my mother and aunt – this was due to me not attending my cousins wedding because I felt ashamed of my size (I hadnt seen these relatives for a while). My mother decided not to attend either and long story but they had an argument and havent spoken since. This was a big thing for me because this auntie is my late dads sister and the only member of his family that we still had a relationship with.
    I have missed concerts and social events due to being embarrassed about how I look and am sure that many people probably few me as rude and unreliable.
    I’ve been laughed at and abused too and all of this has made me a person who is hypervigilant to others reactions to me (and to other fat people). I’m sick of living like this and am so grateful to you for helping me see theres another way to be.
    Thankyou so much for what you are doing and what you have articulated so well in this post.

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