Yesterday, I read about a gal named Rebecca Jane Stokes who got fat-shamed on the subway. In case you don’t know what that is, it’s when you’re fat and someone shames you. Ta-da! Usually, it’s about what you’re wearing or eating at the time. Like, “If only you lost some weight, that dress would actually look good on you! Such a pretty face.”
You get the idea. It’s an ugly form of communication.
In this case, the young woman in question was carrying a box of freshly baked cookies home to share with her roommate. You can read the original article here. Warning: the article contains profanity. I understand her response to the lady who addressed her.
‘I looked up and she said “You’re so lucky, just eating whatever you want and not caring. I’m a dancer so I can’t do that.” ‘
As someone who has struggled with self-esteem and has never been traditionally skinny/scrawny/underweight, I felt her shame.
Her thoughts would be some of my thoughts:
‘Do I tell her that I first knew I was fat when I was 7?
Do I tell her I saw my first nutritionist, started counting calories and working out at the gym when I was twelve?
Do I tell her that even on my good days I don’t look in the mirror and automatically like what I see there?
Do I tell her that every day is a battle to love myself?
Do I tell her that I’m still half convinced the last guy I dated didn’t want me in the end because I was too fat?
Do I tell her that she has just made one of my biggest nightmares come true?
Do I get snotty and say I can tell that she doesn’t eat much because of her wrinkled skin?’
You can see where this interaction was going. Nowhere good.
But what if she had it wrong? Stay with me here. What if this young woman, haunted by her failure to meet societal norms and pressures, has her own baggage? What if she has her own grenades to toss? I mean, doesn’t she?
She didn’t come into the encounter with a clean slate. She had past hurts hanging around. That shame doesn’t just dissipate; it loiters, it lodges, it makes a home in our hearts. She didn’t hear a friendly, innocent statement. Maybe the dancer felt lonely and wanted some company. Maybe she was hoping for an offer of a cookie. They probably smelled delightful, filling the train with their intoxicating aroma.
I don’t discount Rebecca’s experience or her interpretation of it. But she had a definite filter. We all do. I’ve had people blow up at me for nothing I’ve done. All I’ve done is been the one nearest the dynamite when it exploded. What if Rebecca tried to diffuse the situation instead of escalating it? She took the bait, if that’s indeed what it was. She could have made it a joke – “Glad I’m not a dancer!” Or just smiled and looked away. Every statement doesn’t need a response.
My point is that not everyone is out to get us. If we carry rejection around with us, we’ll find it. If we expect to run into shame, it’ll show up around the next corner. We can get healing and extend forgiveness to ourselves and others. Jesus offers it to us freely. Grace is even better than fresh-baked cookies. It’s fat-free and it lasts forever.
This is the message you have heard from the beginning: We should love one another. – 1 John 3:11