A Special Place is a new weekly series in which we’ll cover all of the special places in hell and all of the special people who might reside there. This week, I’m talking about my body (and maybe your body) and everyone who finds it offensive.

If you find other people’s bodies offensive and make a point to shame them for your inability to accept them for who they are (tell your insecurities I say hi), there might be a special place in hell for you.

As someone who has been bigger, fatter, darker and more “ethnic” than many of those around me for most of my life, I know what it feels like to have a body others find offensive. Sheltered men and women who thought my thick thighs and wide hips were offensive. Assholes who thought my “big” nose was offensive. Racists who found the shade of my skin to be offensive. I know what it feels like to be talked into a dark cave of shame.

In fact, I haven’t worn shorts since I was in high school because of camel toe and cruel kids. I’ve never taken off my cover up at a pool or a beach until I was as close to the water as possible in fear that I might offend someone. I’ve cut tags off of my clothes just in case someone else had to do my laundry and simply found the idea of my size offensive. Even at my healthiest and skinniest — a size 12/14 — I hid the hanger labels when I was shopping and strategically held the clothes over my arm so they didn’t look so “big” while I shuffled through the store. Today, I shop online. I’ve spent my life thinking about food, regretting food and wanting food. I’ve wished I was someone else; even if they weren’t a fraction of the person I was, I desperately wanted to be them because they were fit into a body that was a literal fraction of the body I filled.

I don’t see my body how I want to see it – full of experiences, ups and downs, a safe and miraculous place to grow babies, a work in progress riddled with scars, a decently-oiled machine. I see my body how others see it – unhealthy, obese, too big, too soft, too round. I’ve never been lucky enough to have a body that belongs to me. I was raised to believe my value came from the way others perceived my body. I was brainwashed to believe health was indicated by my pant size. I was bullied to believe it would never matter what I did or accomplished, I would always be the sum of my size. As long as my body wasn’t what everyone else thought it should be, they had a right to make comments, make assumptions and find me offensive. After all, that’s what being fat was all about. 

Since having kids, I find myself wanting to be healthy but also wanting to finally embrace the body I was given. This body with generous portions of everything. The body both of my healthy and active boys once called home, the body that once fell out of a second story window and remained unbroken, the body that has endured ridiculous diets and an unending variety of workouts, soaked up copious amounts of sun and alcohol, the body that has protected two of my best assets — my mind and my heart — for 34 rowdy and unstable years, the body that has stretched when it needed to and shrank when I coerced it to. The body that’s held me upright when I wanted to melt into the floor, that’s kept moving when I wanted to quit, the body that has always been deserving of praise but never felt like anything but an embarrassment.

Last week I saw a headline about thin privilege and as I perused the comments, I couldn’t help but think happy thoughts for all of the people who’ve been blessed with good genetics, loud mouths and a load of unintelligible things to say. If you’re offended by other people’s bodies, don’t understand health isn’t in a number and find those who don’t look like you offensive (whether it be their size or their race) and have the gull to rant about it, it might be in your best interest to go read a book, travel outside of your comfort zone or find another hobby before you find yourself in a warm special place in hell.

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