It’s amazing what two little words can bring up, even if the person they’re directed at isn’t me.
My reaction took me by surprise. I was watching the American version of MasterChef, and among the top four finalists was a woman named Krissi. For those who haven’t seen the drama, Krissi was not a favorite of anyone, being loud and often outright rude, mean, and opinionated. She certainly didn’t win any points from me, particularly seeing her open hatred for a vegetarian chef who was previously sent home.
Krissi was also overweight, the only one of the final four who was (and one of the very few in the competition in general). And she ended up in a head-to-head competition with Jessie, a thin, blonde, Southern belle.
At one point during the duel, Jessie said that she needed to send “that cow” home.
I was instantly thrown back to junior high and high school, when girls called me cow, and porky, among other less than flattering terms. I remembered the burning anger and shame and humiliation. In that moment, I forgot any grievances I had with Krissi, all the derogatory names she had called people (though I don’t recall any of hers being weight-related). All I felt was an unexpected connection with her, a sort of us vs. them mentality. I wanted her to send skinny Jessie home.
I was amazed at how deeply it hit me. I thought I had gotten past all that. After all, people looking at me now would see me as the thin one, but clearly some part of me is still that fat teenaged girl getting picked on.
I wondered, then, if this is something I’ll ever get past, when thinking about it won't bring tears to my eyes. Then I asked, do I want that to happen? Do I ever want to be in a place where I’m okay hearing someone use fat-shaming words against someone else, where it does not make me take notice? Probably not.
So I was disappointed that Krissi lost, but then pleased when Jessie at least lost the next round.
And my heart, aching, goes out now and always to everyone who has had such words thrown at them. I only hope you know that it’s not the truth of who you are.