At some point in life we’ve all made fun of someone or laughed at a joke someone made about someone else. Whether it was something we heard on TV or something a friend said, we’ve all made the mistake of entertaining it, and I’m about to tell you why you should think twice the next time it happens...
Let me verbally paint a quick picture for you: As a single, 31-year-old, female whose mother recently (in fact it was this time last year) passed away from anorexia, weight has always been an unavoidable topic for discussion.
Ironically, despite having a mother who weighed between 22 and 32 kgs for most of my life, I’m far from anything that would visually remind you of someone with an anorexic mother. I’ve never been thin, and never will be. I’ve always been on the fairly larger side and up until this week, it’s never really been a ‘massive’ – pun definitely intended – issue.
In my late twenties when my mother was near the end of the road and living in a hospital bed, things weren’t particularly easy. My dad left my mom, my five-year involvement with a guy ended and my mother’s health was deteriorating.
As someone who tends to pack on a few kgs during stressful times, it showed. Several people thought they needed to bring this to my attention (as if I wasn’t already aware that I could no longer confidently wear a small dress or run down the beachfront in a bikini without wondering what others were thinking.)
I had ex boyfriends asking “What happened? You used to be so much smaller.” I’ve had a family member who felt the need to show me pictures of me in my younger years, point out my obvious weight gain, and ask if I was aware of the obvious.
I’ve had people point out my weight my entire life. And you know what...I didn’t care. It didn’t change who I was and it didn’t stop me from not wanting to fall into the same trap that my mother did when she was in high school and when she received similar criticism from boys and friends.
That is until last night.
Last night, while having drinks with a guy I’ve just met, it was brought to my attention that his friends had labelled me “the blonde grenade” just last weekend. In case you’re thinking that the term ‘blonde grenade’ could in anyway be something flattering, it’s not.
In fact just before the guy who was telling me about the label I was given, he stalled and said “no, I better not tell you what David said, it’s rude.”
Of course, I insisted he tell me. I’m not sure why he felt that he should bring it up, even remotely. I can’t tell you what purpose he thought it would serve. But the message was pretty clear.
While this isn’t the first time I’ve been made fun of or reminded of my size, for some reason I felt far more affected by the latest opinion. It wasn’t easy to suck it up, put on a brave face and act like it didn’t upset me this time.
The night came to an abrupt end and I later found myself and a bottle of wine on the couch at home, throwing a big ol’ pity party. For the first time, I allowed myself to cry about it. I felt ashamed, embarrassed, and disgusted with myself.
Several things ran through my mind: “Am I really that disgusting?” “I’ll never eat again” (in fact I still haven’t eaten anything at 1pm the next day), “This must be what Mom felt like.” “Now I know why Mom starved herself to death.”
After last night’s pity-party a raging hangover has brought me to question things more maturely, but more importantly, what’s been brought to my attention is the sad, simple, fact that, children are not the only ones who can be cruel!
I was raised to take things with a pinch of salt and to be tough about things like this, but maybe it’s time to make some exceptions. What sort of example would I be setting to allow people to say nasty things without speaking up or reacting?
If not for me, then for the billions of people in the world who struggle with depression, low-self-esteem, bullying and the endless feeling of not feeling good enough for the world? If not for me, then for my mom, and anyone who feels that they can’t talk about it.
So to everyone who’s ever felt the need to shame someone, please do the world a favour and think before you speak. Whether you’re joking about someone with your mates or discussing your ‘concerns’ for someone’s physical appearance, remember that your words could be responsible for the way someone feels for the rest of their life.
I find it incredible that the adults who’ve been watching 13 Reasons Why (a series about a girl who commits suicide after being shamed for various things) are the very same adults who still make fat jokes, rape jokes, dead baby jokes and/or racist jokes.
I overhear how people talk about other people too. “Wow that chick is HUGE” is something I heard someone say about another girl just two weekends ago.
Initially I didn’t want my name attached to this article. I didn’t particularly want to put the fact that I’ve now had another label added to the list of names people have given me, out there. But you know what...I think it’s time to get a bit brave here and to stop hiding from all the shamers.
As hard as this is to speak about openly and publicly, I’d like to think that perhaps this will encourage others to stand up and speak up against those who shame others. I hope you call your friends out the next time they make fun of someone else, for whatever reason. I hope you stop laughing at cruel jokes.
For those who feel alone, ashamed or embarrassed by the hurtful things people might have said about you, I hope that you stand up for yourself instead of sucking it up and allowing it to affect the rest of your life, like my mom did.
The Blonde Grenade