I’ve struggled with my weight pretty much since the third grade. As I became more aware of it, it seemed the more I gained. But from first through eighth grade I was also pretty active. I spent every summer cheerleading, and when middle school hit I tried out for the school cheerleading squad. Not only did I make it in my first year of middle school, I made captain. This also happened to be the year I lost more weight and ate a lot healthier. I remember the captain got these white skirts, which made them stand out from all the blue skirts the other girls wore. I was a little self-conscious but mostly proud of myself. I had worked really hard and it was a great achievement.
Until one game day when I had to wear my skirt to school. One of the boys saw me in my skirt and was surprised to see I was on the cheerleading squad. Then he asked me, “ But aren’t you too fat to be a cheerleader?”
It’s moments like these that can haunt a adolescent girl forever, and he didn’t even know or care how his words had cut. We think we bring up our kids or be compassionate and respectful but the truth is we also teach them how to be mean. When I think about those words, and how I can remember that moment like it was yesterday, I remember my heart breaking a little. I was just a kid, and I was an active kid. Maybe I wasn’t super skinny but I was not leading an “extreme and dangerous lifestyle.” I was, in fact, on a healthy path. And when I see that, today, beautiful girls are still being fat shamed, skinny shamed, built shamed my heart breaks all over again.
But while this memory can remind me of how cruel people can be, I want to let it serve a bigger purpose. Instead I choose to remember what happened afterward and a choice I made from that day forward to not let anyone bring me down. After that kid said what he said, I may have missed about half a beat before retorting, “Well, then I guess that makes you too stupid to be a human being.”
It was not my best comeback. Not even in my top ten. I now have 10+ years of trash talking experience. But that’s not the point. In that moment I decided not only was I allowed to, but I was obligated to stand up for myself. Now I consider myself a pretty timid person. I let a lot of stuff fly by before opening my mouth. But if you outright insult me, whether it’s out of ignorance or malice, I will defend myself.
There’s something about the present that irks me- people have become more cruel. And while I’m happy to see many role models stand up for themselves and for those groups of kids who are bullied, that doesn’t stop things in the moment that the kid is being bullied. I don’t have all the answers on how to handle it but I do know one thing: sometimes it gets worse before it gets better. And it scares me that some people can’t handle that pressure or the pain in the moment. Many times they just keeping silent until they are pushed so far as to harm themselves or others. I feel like I could have gone that way myself. I still could. I still struggle. As comfortable as I am becoming in my own skin, it’s other (idiotic) people who remain uncomfortable and who try to bring me down because they think they have some right to judge me or my life.
But I look back at that 12 year old, fragile, little Chigirl and smile that I chose to stand tall that day. Yes the words hurt, but it did not kill me. In fact, that kid never said anything like that to me again, cause he knew this chigirl would dish it as much as she could take it. To this day, when I’m feeling a little more vulnerable, I start thinking of comebacks- kind of as an insurance policy. Anyone wants to call me a fat cheerleader today, I’ll be fine. But that person may want to get some Neosporin for the burns I got for them.
I do not condone violence or bullying. But I do believe in defending yourself. Here are some comebacks I have thought up in case you ever want to keep some in your pocket for a rainy day. Or just to make you laugh!
Aren’t you too fat to be a cheerleader? (hopefully some of these will work in more than just this scenario)
1.Let me worry about the cheerleading, you worry bout working on your game (if they’re on the team)
2.Don’t worry, you don’t have a chance in hell in seeing what’s underneath this or any other skirt.
3.I’m sorry what team did you make?
4.Well I almost went for the team mascot but they were saving that spot for you to cover up your face along with your mouth.
5.Apparently not since I’m on the team. But save those last brain cells. You might need them some day. (Credit to Don’t Tell Mom The Baby Sitter’s Dead for this one!)
6.Thank you for the daily douchebaggery commentary. But no I’m not. And if you disagree don’t look.
7.Well I wanted the best seat in the house when for you personally get your ass whooped on the court/field. (again if they’re on the team)
8.You’re a little unevolved huh? (then drop the mic and walk away)
9.Do you see me asking you how you managed through life this far on that tiny little thing (read from that what you will)? Be gone, don’t worry bout me.
10.And the classic- Does that make you too stupid to be a human being?
I love Community can you tell? So stand a little tall today and always stand up for yourself. As this fat cheerleader can tell you, sometimes it gets better, sometimes it gets worst, just don’t let it get the best of you.