I am a fat girl, and I hate it. I hate the way boys will only fuck me with the lights off, and I hate when they offer to walk me home once the whiskey wears off enough for them to realize that the rolls don’t stop at my perfectly formed 38DDD tits. I hate going to bars and holding my friends drinks while they flirt with new men, only to be interrupted from my angry daydream by whatever friend of theirs gets lucky enough to be on “fat girl patrol” (don’t be fooled, this is really just a ploy to get my pretty friend home alone without me noticing). I hate the way the servers look at me in the cafeteria at school when I ask for “just a little more broccoli,” as if broccoli is what got me to look like this. Most of all, I hate when my friend (size 4, tall, big ass, Hispanic beauty) tells me that she really thinks she’s gonna go on another diet, because she’s “just not skinny enough.” I hate the yo-yo dieting and the way I fluctuate between defending my confidence and picking the skin off my stomach, hoping I can lose just one more pound on the scale. I am a fat girl, and I hate it. But I don’t hate it just because I’m fat in a society that doesn’t believe in fat; I hate it because I have my mother’s body.
When I meet people for the first time, they often say, “Oh, you look just like your mom. And your sister is a spitting image of your father.” This pisses me off. I’m Italian. I have olive skin and brown hair and brown eyes, and I talk with my hands. I stamp up the stairs like my dad, and I swear when I get pissed off. My mom is short and plump with blonde hair and blue eyes. We don’t look anything alike—except our big boobs and our round stomachs. I defend myself, begging them to look past my double chin and see the color of my eyes, or the way my freckles mimic my dad. “You probably can’t see it because it’s winter. I get really tan in the summertime.” Some people agree; most people look with skepticism, doubting that I could ever resemble anything other than my mom.
“Brooke, I’m going to the store. What do you want for dinner?” Mom asks me as if I have a choice. No matter what I say, I know she will return with steak or chicken, potatoes or rice, and peas or carrots. “I don’t care,” I yell from my room. Two hours later, she returns with a pre-made rotisserie chicken, a box of rice and a bunch of carrots. I don’t question that it took her two hours to drive 10 minutes to the grocery store, pick up pre-made food, and drive 10 minutes back. I know she probably smoked on her way, and most likely got lost somewhere on the back roads looking at the trees high as a kite. I watch as she unpacks the grocery bags on the kitchen counter and follow her as she returns to the car, carrying in three cases of Coca-Cola. She barely makes it inside the house without cracking open a case and chugging half of a can in one sip. The sweet smell of marijuana permeates the kitchen, and I know my assumption of her long trip were right. These are her two favorite things: weed and Coke. If she had the choice, she might give up my sister and I for the weed, and she would definitely give up my dad for the Coke.
I was surprised she even made dinner tonight. Most nights, she left it up to my dad to cook when he got home from work. I was used to smelling the Italian aromas of Pasta e Fagioli begin to fill the house around 9pm, coupled with slamming dishes and cabinet doors. My dad was pissed, rightfully so, and my eight-year-old stomach would beg for something to fill it—enough to get me to breakfast the next morning. Mom didn’t care; she went out to dance, or wherever the fuck she actually was that night.
Slowly, she takes three carrots out of the bag, puts them on the counter, and looks to me; the only thing separating us is a long kitchen table backed up against a wall stenciled with a white cross fence and flowers of all different colors. “Can you please help me? I’ve had a really long day and I’m tired.” She finishes the last half of her coke and takes another one from the fridge. I don’t know how she’s had a long day—I’m sure she went to bed at 4am and woke up at 2pm just in time to pick Emily and I up from school. Begrudgingly, I take a carrot, open the drawer below the small television on the counter, grab the peeler, and move towards the trash can. If my head is down, and I am peeling, she can’t find my faults. I hear her put the rotisserie chicken back into the oven, and I know this will leave it too dry to eat, swallowing each bite with a whole glass of water. She puts the water on for the rice, walks over to the television, and turns on Dr. Phil. Maybe she can learn something.
From my place at the trashcan, I look up, and follow her body from head to toe. It’s a rectangle, and ever since she had her breast reduction surgery, nothing separates her neck from her torso, or her torso from her legs. She leans over the counter with her chest resting on the granite, and I notice how her ass doesn’t fill even a small bit of the flabby fabric covering it. I turn around and look at mine. Still flat. Damnit, how did my sister get such an ass? I get disgusted, and I turn back to the carrots.
When dinner is ready, I sit at the head of the table, next to my sister and across from my mom. My dad’s place is empty tonight, because he’s still working one of his three jobs. I take in a bite of dry chicken, cover it with overcooked rice and syrupy carrots. I choke it down, dreaming of my room that waits upstairs. I finish as fast as I can, throw my plate in the sink and run upstairs. I don’t ask to be excused. I don’t ask my sister how her day was. I don’t tell my mom that her fourth coke by the time dinner is done makes me want to vomit.
Looking back, I feel terribly for my sister—I didn’t ask her questions, I didn’t tell her how much I loved her. I didn’t take advantage of the best friend I had residing under the same roof. I just hid out in my room. Part of this was jealousy—she had small boobs, an even smaller waist, and a huge ass. Her body was “perfect.” When I left her at the dinner table, I went upstairs, undress, and stand in front of the long mirror attached to my dresser. I held my arms out, like I was going to fly, and I shook them. I watched the flab trail behind, trying to keep up with my bones. I picked up my boobs, one in each hand and I tried to push them back in, tried to make them look more like the ones I saw on TV. Then, I would move to my stomach. How I hate my stomach. I hate the way it protrudes out, as if I was pregnant once, and something is still holding its place in there. I hate the way it sags down, and hangs below my hips. I pick it up, and I suck in. I turn to the side, and I look at my body. “If only I could grow a foot and lose 50 pounds, I could be happy,” I whisper to myself.
“Brooke, I’m not doing these dishes.” Fuck. My mom yells from the kitchen, and I know she’s already packing up to lay on the couch watching something for the rest of the night, or move downstairs to her office where she can lock the door and pretend we don’t exist. I tug my clothes back over my body and head back to the dreaded kitchen. As I wash, I watch the door, waiting for my dad to come home.
“Brooke, can you help me with my homework?” Emily timidly walks into the kitchen carrying a worksheet, and I know that tonight I will be playing Mom again.
“Bring it here,” I dry off my hands and look at the sheet. It’s basic sentence structure. I don’t remember much from first grade, so I try to help as much as I can. “In fourth grade, we use this trick.” I teach her how to remember which part of the sentence comes first. She finishes, I check it, and she runs to put it away. Dad walks in the door, exhausted, his brown eyes graying with each step he takes into the kitchen. “Hi,” I say.
“Where’s mom?” He asks.
“What’s for dinner?”
“Chicken, rice and carrots.”
“That’s fucking great. Is it still warm?”
He heats up a plate and eats quickly, standing up watching MSNBC on the TV. He cleans his dish and finishes loading the dishwasher, and then heads downstairs to write up records. I head back upstairs and start my own homework. I look at the clock and see that it’s already 9:15pm. I count the hours until I have to wake up for school, and know that everything my teacher says in the morning will probably be a blur. Plus, I know that somebody will probably make fun of me on the bus and tell me to call Jenny Craig.
The first time I remember someone calling me fat was fourth grade. The boys on the bus would tell me to sign up for Weight Watchers or stop eating altogether. For the next five years, I wore jeans and a baggy sweatshirt so nobody could see my stomach. I learned to eat in secret, sneaking food after my parents were asleep, or when they went out. This caused me to binge eat, which made me feel worse about myself. I saw a nutritionist in fifth grade and she told me I was overweight. In ninth grade, my doctor told me I was obese. I was 5’1, 171 pounds. I’ve never looked in the mirror and been proud of what I saw. Before I started writing this, I stood naked in the mirror, arms outstretched, and checked to make sure that my fat was really there—that it was all still attached. I blame my mom for teaching me that it was okay to eat bad food, drink soda all day long, and live a sedentary lifestyle. I have spent my entire high school and college careers trying to reverse these habits. I can’t drink coke anymore, and cooked carrots make me sick. I try so hard to be happy with my body, and love it for what it does for me. But when I catch my reflection in a mirror, or the side glances of well-meaning friends at the dinner table, I can’t help but feel like if I had a different mom, I could have a different body, and I fucking hate that. I am a fat girl trying to love my body after being taught to hate it for twenty-one years. And I still fucking hate it.