To the Woman Who Called Me Thick On the Bus

By: Ashley Spencer

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Yesterday was Tuesday. It was not a Tuesday of great variation from most Tuesdays, except that I did make good use of my lunch break from work to bake a birthday cake for my friend, Shannon. I’d like to note at this time that the cake was vegan-friendly and would have been made from entirely natural ingredients if I’d had a better liquor to use than Southern Comfort (It was a pear caramel whiskey cake) and was almost entirely fat free. Because you can do that with cake and it can still taste like cake. Tangential, but important to note.

In addition to being Shannon’s birthday, it was also my dad’s birthday. I called and sang to him prior to mixing up cake batter and later marveled over his willingness to trade in his guitar for a power tie and program his way into upper management with no complaint to support mom and me and the menagerie of animals I’ve forced him to buy food for in the past 26 years.
After work, I did dishes and put away dishes and scrubbed my stove and vacuumed. Just like any other day. I defrosted meat for Shannon’s birthday dinner and passed the dinner making off to Taylor to go get ready, but was of course, still in yoga pants and a tank top when Mollie, Bailey, and Shannon trickled in from the snow. I changed at least 4 times after realizing my initial ensemble choice was not going to be appropriate for the weather. When my hair didn’t cooperate, Bailey curled it. When I was trying to decide what lipstick to wear, she let me borrow her new Tom Ford Crimson Noir lipstick to try. We ate and were off to celebrate: 4 pretty ladies and one dapper dude.

On the bus, a woman shoved by us and then some shifting happened and I ended up standing near her, of course. When another woman pointed out an empty seat, woman number 1 said I was “too thick to sit in it.” And then proceeded to say that my fat ass was blocking the aisle and holding up the bus. I know she was just some woman on the bus with no filter, but my hair looked fabulous and I was wearing $50 lipstick. And I was still just some fat girl on the bus? My knees were weak; I couldn’t breathe. I had to get off the bus before hysterical ugly crying happened in front of a bus full of people. And trust me, the sobbing was not the cute, endearing single glistening tear in the streetlight kind of crying.

It was horrible. I mean, I get it. I know exactly how many pounds and ounces and inches I comprise and what dress size that makes me. I am in my body every single second of every day, going to spin class, going running and walking to places that are within a mile, even when I’m tired or cold or sore. Drinking diet coke instead of beer and wine at bars and eating celery instead of wings at wing night. Eating salad while my best friend eats cinnamon rolls on vacation. I really really get it. Do you, ma’am, think that you are enlightening me about what it’s like to be in my body?

I have PCOS and I’m insulin resistant and I’m currently spending $150 every single month on medicine to help treat my symptoms. Another $45 on Weight Watchers. And $70 for my membership to the gym across the street. My endocrinologist costs $50 per visit. Trust me, I’d rather be buying amazing shoes and lovely handbags. I spend roughly 5-7 hours a week at the gym; sometimes more and maybe a little less. I plan my meals every week and track every bite of food that goes into my body. Losing weight is not about my vanity and looking good in some pipe dream of a bikini; it’s about making my body a habitable place for tiny lives to grow when I want to have them. Which I’m clearly pretty committed to, judging by the aforementioned statistics. I have been trying to lead my life in a healthy way for a long time, even though until I started taking the meds I’m on now, I hadn’t lost any weight. I actually gained weight training for a half marathon and eating 1200-1500 calories per day.

To say it’s been frustrating is a gross understatement. It’s like throwing yourself at a brick wall. I’ve been depressed and tired and the only thing that’s kept me going is the thought that if I can’t lose weight and help my body with exercise and by putting things that are good into it, I’m not going to be able to achieve the one dream I’ve been carrying with me my whole life. And that is a really scary thing to wake up and face every single morning with your cup of coffee. So, these ten pounds that I’ve lost make me feel like I’ve won the lottery. I mean, they are barely noticeable, but they are gone and I feel great about that and last night, as I left the house, feeling awesome about that and my voluminous hair and my crimson lipstick, I was just completely unprepared to be so cut down by someone who knows nothing about me, nothing about my struggle. And it has been an awful struggle. When was the last time someone called you fat in public? You were probably 7 and had hit an early growth spurt. It’s worse when you are 26 and 5’2″ and have been diligently doing what your doctor says you should be doing to no avail for almost two entire years.

I didn’t want that woman to be nice to me or tell me I was beautiful. I don’t need people to flatter my vanity; my body is my own to make peace with and feel beautiful about. I didn’t want her to notice me. I just wanted her to be, to leave me alone, to not comment on the size of my ass or my hips or my lips or my boobs. To not ask what it’s like to sleep with a fatty while I’m walking home from the bar. To not say anything. I know that I’m more than my closet full of Size 16 dresses or a number on a scale, but when that woman called me thick last night, I have never felt more reduced to my physical being. More like a bull squeezing into a chicken coop.

But again, thank you, ma’am. Your interjection really took my night to a place I wanted to go.

I’m glad to say that most of the people in my life don’t define me by how I look and remind me that true beauty is an inward trait. That health and strength are qualities to be fought for hard. And so, I will keep doing what I’m doing. What I’ve been doing. I have too many more battles to fight to get caught up on something that some woman on a bus said.

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