I’m that person who only goes back home a few times a year. When I do, my time is reserved for my immediate family and a handful of old friends. This time around, I had to brace myself when I went home in August for my grandmother’s funeral.
My grandparents had lived one street over from us, and during most of my childhood I’d see them every day. My relationship with my grandparents was a huge part of my life and helped shape who I am. I took the loss very hard and wasn’t looking forward to going back home for a number of reasons, one of which was that I was going to be forced to see all the people I had happily avoided in the eight years since I left home.
My mother and I went to my sister’s house to finish making arrangements. While we were there, we received the call that my grandmother’s body was ready and we could view it and approve the makeup.
I was the only one who hadn’t seen her, and needless to say I was on edge about it.
In a small room with two caskets, I slowly approached the coffin and broke down crying.
After about 20 minutes more, people started to show up, including the first person I didn’t want to see: Cousin Lenny. I was sitting away from the casket with my head on my stepdad’s shoulder, when my cousin rudely announces, “Dia, you don’t look like you’ve missed any meals.”
That was his hilarious way of telling me that I had put on weight. Well, you haven’t seen me in eight years. I’m not the size I was at 18 years old, most 26-year-olds aren’t. I was in the room with my grandmother’s dead body, and that seemed like an appropriate time to call me fat? Real classy.
This was just the beginning.
Next up to bat was Cousin Candace. I was alone at my parent’s house washing my hair in the kitchen sink when there was a knock at the door. I wrapped my hair in a towel and saw who it was.
“Here we go,” I thought.
I stood there rubbing conditioner into my hair and she says it, “Oh, you done put on some weight!”
The rude, unsolicited comment trifecta was completed on the actual day of the funeral when I saw Ms. Terri (Cousin Candace’s sister-in-law). My older sister was holding my sister’s hand on the way out of the church after we finished telling our grandmother goodbye one final time.
Ms. Terri’s mother saw me, gave me a hug and told me, “You’re growin’ up into such a beautiful young woman.”
Her daughter commented — while I still had tears on my face, “Somebody’s put on some weight.”
When I ignored her the first time, she repeated herself. I looked her right in the eye, shook my head and just walked away.
When will people learn that fighting fat shaming isn’t about enabling unhealthy lifestyles but about teaching people to keep their unsolicited opinions to themselves.
Weight and health aren’t black and white. Looking at someone doesn’t give you instant access to every aspect of their health just like it doesn’t give you the right to verbally scold their appearance.
The truth is, I may be bigger on the outside, but I guarantee you my diet at 26 years old is much healthier and balanced than it was when I was 17 years old.
In a world where little girls have to worry about living up to Photoshopped models, women are tearing themselves up enough without people feeling the need to verbally pick them apart.
We need to be careful when today’s youth are getting criticism around the clock thanks to technology, a time when young children are killing themselves because of the horrible words people say to them or write about them.
Sticks and stones may break your bones, but words can devastate you.