To the heckler who just shouted “run, fat girl, run”,
I suppose you succeeded in your aim, which was probably to make your friend laugh. And then just a few moments later you will have forgotten about it. But I can still hear your words.
Didn’t you think about how a comment like that could stick with someone?
At first, I was surprised. Then the weight of what you said hit me, and I stopped to take a breath. Don’t cry, I thought. I don’t need to let those words affect me.
The fact is, you saw me for all of 5 seconds. I was running and I was wearing shorts, so yes maybe you thought your statement was accurate. What strikes me is that you clearly didn’t give a moments thought as to how that comment might make me feel.
I am grateful that I can let your comment roll off my back. Since I started running regularly over a year ago, I’ve almost got used to be shouted at by passing traffic. Granted, usually the calls and shouts are from men and aren’t as personal as what you said, but being heckled is not new to me.
I’m also in a place where I am happy with my body. I have ups and downs like most people, but generally I am comfortable in my skin. That’s because me and this body I’m in have been on quite the ride together. We fought… a lot. I neglected it, but it stuck by me. And so now I respect my body more than I ever have, I love it more than I ever did. Your words might knock my confidence for 30 seconds by calling me fat, but no more than that.
What I dread to think about is who else you might make comments like that to. Do you call all strangers fat? Is it just the ones that are out running? Just the ones that wear shorts? Do you select those you know will be able to bat your insults away? I suspect not. And for all you know, your next target could be in the midst of the journey that I took with my body a few years ago, their relationship with themselves could be volatile and vulnerable, and your vicious comments could exploit that.
Calling someone fat is, in my opinion, one of the most heartless things you could do. And to be honest, I wish that wasn’t the case. I wish that being fat wasn’t one of the worst insults you could throw, I wish that we didn’t all care so much about our weight, how we look or what other people think. But the fact of the matter is, in the context of today’s culture, the word ‘fat’ has a huge amount of power. And by using that word, you are using that power – the power to potentially destruct someone’s confidence and sense of self-worth. It’s not a word to use for anyone, unless they themselves outwardly identify as fat. It’s certainly not a word to shout from a car window.
I wonder when you last felt proud of yourself? Funnily enough, for me it was on Sunday when I crossed the finish line of a 10k race. I was running, knowing I was about to get a personal record. My thighs were probably wobbling, my face probably looked a sight as I grit my teeth to keep up my finish line pace, and after running 6.2 miles in 25 degree heat, I definitely wasn’t looking my best. But at no point did I even think about that. I didn’t care about what I looked like. I was proud of myself, I had just achieved something amazing. You might think I don’t look like a runner, but I run because I love it and it brings me joy, and not for any other reason.
I’m not going to let what you said have any affect on my emotions or behaviour. I’m sure that’s not what you intended anyway…you just wanted a laugh. It’s sad that you would find it funny to insult someone in the way you did, and I suppose it reflects a lack of intelligence, confidence or dignity. Whatever your issue is, I hope it gets resolved, and that no one else has to fall victim to your foolish jokes. Maybe one day you’ll be shouted at by a stranger commenting on how you look or what you’re doing, and you’ll realise just how insensitive and cruel it is, yet simultaneously so pointless and meaningless.
Thank you for giving me the inspiration to write, and I hope that my letter to you is a reminder to everyone else that they shouldn’t let other people’s mindless comments affect them in any way – I’m going to remind myself of how unimportant your opinion is, and that what matters is how I feel. And you know what, I feel bloody great.
The fat girl running.