The fat girl you photographed for fun

I’m sitting in the lobby of Patterson Hall, the English building on the University of Memphis campus, and exactly four minutes ago a random woman took my picture as she waited in line at the Edgar Allen Joe’s coffee shop (located in the middle of the lobby) WITHOUT ASKING. It’s awkward, uncomfortable and creepy. I wish I could say it was the first time, but it’s not. It happens to me quite frequently actually.

In the age of technology, arguably the fastest way for someone to get likes on a Facebook post is to post an unflattering photo of someone the poster has deemed to be of less value and make fun of that person. It works. I see it all the time, and I have seen the practice explode since I first joined Facebook six years ago. I just never realized then that I would wind up being the person of less value over and over again.

I’m fat, and the internet knows it several times over, I’m sure.

People (like the woman who took my photo) are obsessed with weight and fatness. Shows like TLC’s “My 600 Pound Life” have created a stereotype of a fat person that includes not being able to walk or bathe and eating enough food in a day to feed four normal people for three days. And while that’s true for some fat people, it isn’t the reality for most of us.

The W8H8 (weight hate– get it?) goes so deep that I honestly think my friends and even strangers are much more obsessed with my weight than I am. I don’t like being fat, but I don’t spend every second of my day thinking about it…. until I have to deal with people who do.

People are often surprised that I enjoy photos, and when I ask why, their silence implies that they thought my weight should be making me run from the camera. My own “friends” have failed to invite me to parties and nights out because they assumed I wouldn’t want to be seen in my “current state.” I enjoy going out, and if I stay in, it’s because I’m tired or need time to myself, NOT because I’m embarrassed to be seen. (WTH?)

I can’t tell you how many of my friends have brought up their need to diet or exercise and then apologized to me for being insensitive or proceeded to mention how their needs really didn’t compare to mine, expecting me to be upset that they wanted to get in shape or fit into an old pair of jeans, BECAUSE I’M SO MUCH FATTER.

My weight has nothing to do with him wanting to look good to pick up chicks now that he is divorced, with her wanting to be in shape so that she can keep up with the kids she hopes to have a little further down the road, with his desire to build muscle and join the military or with her wanting to fit back into the clothes she wore five years ago.

Why would it bother me that someone else wants to get healthier? I like eating healthily too. But they don’t see that possibility. And they don’t see me.

To them, I’m not a person. I’m a fat person, because all they can see is my weight. That’s it. Just the fatness. They don’t see Paula at all; they see Fatty Fat-Fat McFatterson.

I don’t advocate for BEING obese, because well– why in the hell would anyone do that? It’s not a great aspiration. But I do advocate for kindness, which I think should be shown to everyone, even fatties like myself.

This sounds like a character lesson for kindergarteners, but there’s obviously a need for it. Sure, I’m fat and unattractive. SO WHAT? There are great things about me too, and the best one is that I see PEOPLE, not just their attributes. I just wish those people would extend the same courtesy.


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8 thoughts on “The fat girl you photographed for fun

  1. jed says:

    I think thats an amazing quality u have, n u r a very interesting and amazing person with many more to offer than maybe u even realize. Im really glad i read this, i hope no one can change how u think on that subject.

  2. Nikki says:

    Wow, you are able to provide great insight and dialogue on a topic that people both tip toe around and abuse. It is interesting though because some of the comments you make are opposing to what other heavier friends of mine have said. ex. You don’t need to work out, you’re SO skinny(I’m not), no pictures below the waist etc. Although I do agree with you, I think you’re friends need some education and talking to about your personal feelings on these topics.

    • paulakpeyton says:

      Hey Nikki,

      Thanks for your response!

      I do prefer pictures from the waist up (I’m pear-shaped, or so every magazine tells me.), but I definitely want to be in the photos. :)

      If I make a comment about being fat, I hate it when someone responds by saying, “You’re not fat!” I can obviously see that I’m fat, and I find it offensive that it bothers them so much to hear/see me acknowledge my weight.

      It’s like– if I’m OK with it, why do they have such a problem with my size? I don’t get it.

  3. David says:

    Hey Paula,
    My name is David and I’m a fellow fatty. I don’t know you at all but I am going to share this on my Facebook. I hope you don’t mind.

  4. Magellan Taylor says:

    Good for you, Paula! I graduated from the U of M in 2011 and I definitely had my fair share of encounters on campus. I dated a fraternity guy for a year and a half and I kid you not, within a couple of days of us breaking up, his brothers- who I thought were my friends- felt it necessary to flood my Facebook wall with fat comments. I had never been bullied to my face (regarding weight) until that moment and it crushed me. I finally decided after a couple of months to use that negativity as a fuel for changing my life rather than let it bring me down. Also, I too have been the victim of someone taking a photo of me for their own ignorant laughs and when I saw it happen, I confronted the person.Let’s just say I don’t think they will ever be victimizing someone again :) Don’t let those people bring you down- if they can’t accept you for who you are now, then they don’t deserve to have you in their life now or in the future. I personally chose to start losing weight for my own sake and I have gone from a size 28 to a 20 (my goal is a 12), and from someone who hadn’t worked out in years to someone who now works out 6 days a week. But more than that, the best part is I am now inspiring others to start their journeys which I never thought my story would do. I have used those bullies and ignorant people to fuel my journey so in the end, I can go to those people and thank them for being a bully, because it turned me into who I am now. I feel that will speak so many more volumes than what I could have done in the moment (reported them to the university, filed a suit for harassment, etc.). I’m proud of you for not letting the negativity affect you and I feel that is a true testament to what a wonderful person you are.


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