To the boys who called me fat at school,
Do you even remember what you said? Do you remember my face, the hurt, the sadness? Do you remember the underhand remarks, the petulant comments, the hurtful jibes? Do you remember the sniggers you got from your friends as you came at me again, your verbal punching bag? Of course you don’t. But I do.
While those thoughtless remarks were merely throwaway comments to you, they stuck with me for years. They shaped the person I was – the girl, and then the woman, with the low self-esteem and even lower self-confidence.
But you’d be wrong if you thought those comments hurt me anymore. I’m just hurt for the overweight teenager who used to cry on her bed at night in shame.
To the boy who called me a whale aged 15. I bet you don’t even remember saying it. I bet you didn’t even even know that I know you said that. But I saw your message to my friend, saying ‘the whale isn’t invited’ to the birthday party you were throwing. Moulin Rouge theme. I wouldn’t have gone anyway, my thunder thighs in all their glory weren’t made for can-can girl costumes. And you knew it, that’s why you did it.
To the boy who wrote a horrible remark about me on the sign at our local petrol station. Funny, right? You felt really big as your mates slapped you on the back, congratulating you for your #banter. I remember my friends coming back from lunch, timidly telling me what they’d seen. That night my mum went down in a pair of rubber gloves and some bleach to scrub away the message, and my shame.
To the boy who begged me to sit on his mate’s lap in the sixth form common room. I laughed it off at the time and told you to ‘piss off.’ I pretended I didn’t care, but I knew what you were doing. I heard you snigger ‘the chair would break,’ as I walked away. Did you mean for me to hear?
To the group of boys I had to pretend to call ‘friends’ because my group of girls liked to hang out with you. I used to dread meeting you at the beach when our two groups went to the same Spanish resort. Do you remember that I never used to go into the sea? I’d wear an oversized Guns ‘n’ Roses t-shirt over my bikini until you left because I felt so ashamed of my own body. You probably thought I was being weird, but it was your words in the school corridor that made me do it.
To the boy, aged 18 who I slapped around the face outside a nightclub. I’m sorry for letting you get to me that bad, but not for doing what I did. You’d bullied me throughout sixth form and that last comment was the final straw. No, the ladder in my tights was because I snagged it on the wall, not because my thighs were ‘fucking massive.’ I see you now sometimes at the gym, I know you see me too. I like to think you feel ashamed for what you used to say to me.
Throughout school I was ‘the fat one’ of the group. I didn’t just think it, I was told it. I made up for it with opinions, and a loud voice. I began to learn that teenage boys didn’t like confident girls either.
Yes, I look in the mirror now and sometimes sigh at what I see. I pretend it’s not true, but you probably did that to me. Because I never knew what the word ‘back fat’ meant until you told me I had it. I never even noticed my arms until you shouted ‘BINGO WINGS,’ as I walked home from school.
But the saying ‘sticks and stones may break my bones,’ could never be truer. Your words may have hurt at the time, but they didn’t break me, in fact they made me stronger. They taught me resilience, they taught me kindness and most importantly they taught me to spot a Grade A Dickhead from a mile off.
But it’s OK. I forgive you. I could say so much more to you, and about you. I could scream all the insults teenage me would love to have said. But I’m above that. In fact, I sometimes see you in the street and I nod and I smile politely. Because you’re no longer worth my anger, or my sadness.
So before I sign this off, promise me one thing? If one day you have a daughter, never let her feel as small as you made me feel. Tell her every day she’s worth so much more than any nasty comment she may hear down the school corridor.
Main image: Calum MacAulay / StockSnap