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Being An 80's and 90's Fat Kid: Part 4

Weight loss is a funny thing. Actually, maybe if it's food addiction if you believe in that. Most overweight people have this desire to be thinner. Healthier. More energetic. To fit into trendy clothes. Heck, to fit into NORMAL clothes. There are of course those people that say they love themselves being fat and don't want to change. That's fine. I could care less how much someone weighs and won't judge them for how they want to live. That's just not me. I always had this intense desire to be NORMAL. Or rather what I perceived to be normal. Which in my mind was the cute girl next door. Slim, with long hair in a pony tail. Not drop dead gorgeous but cute. Liked by everyone. Pretty popular even if not the most popular. Someone that felt comfortable in their own skin. A girl that could sit in a classroom with boys and know that they either thought she was cute, or she wasn't their type. Not worrying that they thought she was disgusting because she was fat.  Someone who kind of blended in with the crowd. Not someone that stuck out for a negative reason. Despite that intense desire, I couldn't get past my compulsion to turn to food. That desire was somehow not enough for it to click in my head "Girl, get a calorie counting book. Start small".

So I started my freshmen year of high school around 230 pounds.  For a 5'4 and about to turn 15 year old girl this was enormous. Not a great body image to start your high school career in. Let me start off by saying that most of us know by now that despite some people saying "Enjoy these, they are the best years of your life!" the majority of people did not experience euphoria in high school. That being said, my time there wasn't horrendous. There were some crappy times, but for the most part I felt like I was just kind of "there". Floating around. Trying to desperately blend in. Get my work done, survive the day, and get on that bus to go home. It was a "meh" experience, but it wasn't the type of hell that some kids experienced and are still experiencing with the rise of cyber-bullying and kids killing each other. This was September of 1995. It was high school. There WERE other fat kids here. Still not to the extent you'd see today, but there were at least 5 other obese kids and a few kids that were borderline. It was a bit more diverse like that. It wasn't a humongous school.  It was what they called a Public/Private school. I honestly don't even know what that means.  At the time it was a few old buildings and a newer building that housed the English and Art department. I'm sure there were less than a thousand kids in the school. These days the school has expanded. It has all new sports fields, a better theater department, a fancy eating facility, new metal shop facility, and a huge boarding house for international students. They expanded from just a few foreign exchange students that stayed with family, to literally housing a bunch of kids from China and other places every year. It's pretty interesting. 

I remember the very first week was Freshmen Orientation. We had to yet again be humiliated with those annoying leadership exercises. It was a whole week of getting to know your homeroom classmates and teacher, as well as entire Freshmen class activities. There was that horrible class sit that I mentioned, where everyone stands and then squats into a sitting position until they are literally sitting on each other. Except it was the entire Freshmen class instead of just like eight kids. Then we had to do trust falls yet again. We had to sit through ex and current drug addicts discussing their troubles. Then we had to come up with our own skit about drugs. It was extremely corny and we hated to do it. At one point we all had to sling our arms around each other's shoulder's and say something really stupid. When the guy next to me did it, there was some hooting and hollering about it. "Ooooh Jason, get'er done bub, whoop whoop". OK.  1:) I should point out that being in mid-coast Maine we had our fair share of hick kids who used Maine accent lingo. 2:) I was so embarrassed because it was obvious that by making fun of him they were really taking jabs at me and we were in front of the entire class.

Unfortunately for me as well, my death note Crush was not in any of my classes that year or my homeroom. His homeroom WAS next door though. The first couple of weeks a few times he walked into my homeroom and pointed at me, called my last name and jokingly made threat hand motions at me. Everyone thought it was hilarious, including myself. I was just glad to have the attention. Sadly the third time he did it, my homeroom teacher, who was kind of a hippy dippy lady, didn't think it was appropriate and asked him to go to his homeroom. He was super embarrassed because he was an amazingly nice guy and would never actually hurt a soul. I certainly was very quiet and would never do anything like that either. People love to joke about that stuff though, don't they ? "Har har, it's always the quiet ones" (that looks like it came out of an Archie comic). My homeroom teacher WAS very nice though. She just didn't get the humor. She had very long salt and pepper hair tied up in a braid. She wore those gypsy type of skirts I saw a lot in the 90s. I even wore a gypsy skirt or two at times because honestly at my size if I didn't, i'd be wearing the same three pants and shirts every week. People DO notice this stuff.

Not only was my crush NOT in any of my classes, but no one I really interacted with at my previous schools were in my classes either. One girl that was pretty nice to me at my old school, was in my homeroom. Here's the kicker: she was friends with Mandy. Somehow, this girl who was nice to me was friends with Mandy. She was a bit of a trouble maker herself but I'd never seen her be mean to anyone. I think she just had this "I'm not taking crap from anyone" attitude and it worked in her favor.  At the time I didn't dare do something so bold as to ask "How can you be friends with someone like Mandy?" or "Hey can you ask her to be nice to me?" I was just left to wonder "Is she messing with my mind? Is she really not aware that Mandy is so mean to me?". I was very confused because an incident that I forgot to touch on in a previous article, was that I met Mandy coming out of the stall in the bathroom once. I was frozen. She was standing there with the girl I'm talking about (I've left out most of the names, I just don't mind putting Mandy's out there) and says "Oh hey there" with a nasty look on her face. They were both standing in front of the sink, so I'd have had to wait for them to move before I could wash my hands. The other girl smiled and said "Hey" and turned back to look in the mirror again. I walked towards the door and Mandy says "Eww, your not going to wash your hands?!" in a mocking tone but I just left. I wasn't going to stand around in there with Mandy. I don't know if this girl laughed with her when I left or she told her to lay off me when I left. I'll never know. More on this girl later though.

   The first week went by, fairly uneventful other than the annoying orientation I mentioned. When classes started, things got interesting. Mandy had failed her first year of science, so she ended up being in my science class. It was a hit or miss kind of thing. She might ignore me for a week and then all of a sudden try and make me upset. One day she sat next to me and said "Hey, do you think you could move towards the back so my friend can sit here next to me?". Now I was stupid. I was so desperate for her to just either decide I wasn't so bad after all or just leave me alone. So I thought "Hey, let's do this for her and see where it takes us". I said "Sure, I don't mind". As I started to stand up, the science teacher, who'd been listening to the short conversation pointed at me and said "DON'T YOU DARE". Whether he just wanted people in the seats they were in, or he knew she was a bully and didn't want me to give in to her, I don't know. At that moment I hated his guts though. I slowly sat down and didn't dare look at Mandy. As her friend walked in, despite my attempt to be nice and agree to do it, Mandy says to her "Sorry, tried to save you a seat but the woolly mammoth over there screwed it up." I was both angry and embarrassed. I didn't understand how someone could be such a jerk.

It's interesting though, because during this same time. I met my friend Matt. I should say though that he was not my friend yet. He was also in the science class.  He and another kid that I knew from my last school that wasn't exactly mean, but would mess around with me a bit, used to open the window to the classroom and grab my bag and set it outside or steal my pencils. They wouldn't give them back until I was practically in tears. They didn't see it as being mean at the time. They thought they were joking around with me. I'd sit at the same lunch table as them and a few other people who were pretty nice. Matt would sometimes crack a fat joke and the people around him would tell him to knock it off. It was weird because it hurt my feelings but he didn't seem like he was doing it to be malicious. He was a little chunky himself. I don't want to assume he had a crush on me, because I can't ever picture that, but while the jokes weren't nice, he wasn't acting the same way as Mandy was towards me. He was nice most of the time but would awkwardly make these jokes. Then he'd apologize for them. 

This reminds me of something I learned in High School. Mandy picked on me for being fat, because she knew that is what upset me. She assumed correctly that that is the low blow to hit me with. She knew I had no confidence. She couldn't have given a crap that I was fat. She was just using it against me because it's what worked. I know this, because she was friends with people that were just as big as me, if not BIGGER. They were tough girls though. They had big personalities and didn't take any crap. It took me awhile to recognize this, as I walked around confused that I was Banana Boat and a Woolly Mammoth and worthy of dirty looks and threats (I had encountered her while walking from the High School down to where my mom worked in town before. She was on the opposite side of the road pointing at me and mouthing threats. Unlike my crush, she wasn't being funny) but Jackie was just Jackie and Chris was just Chris. People are complicated. You sometimes hear that a bully is nothing without people to back them up or see them bully you. However Mandy didn't seem to have any problems trying to freak me out when she was on the opposite side of the street as me in public. I don't know how she would have reacted if I had literally had a conversation with her asking her to stop or stood up to her. Hard to say. I just know that my being fat wasn't her issue with me. It was just her wanting to crush me because I had been deemed unfairly a rat in 7th grade.

Mandy was a problem for me, but she wasn't 24/7 harassing me like she had in 7th grade. At some point during the year she disappeared from science class. She was still at the school though, as she mooed at me in the hallway once or twice. I'm guessing she made up enough work to pass the class. I was just relieved she was no longer in the classroom anymore. Now I only dealt with goofy hijinx from Matt and the other kid I went to Jr High with. At one point I just didn't feel like eating in the cafeteria anymore. I started sitting in the hall near the library doorway and pretended to study textbooks while I nibbled at my lunch. I did this for the rest of the year. Other than Mandy ,oddly enough, no one gave me a lot of guff. Not even in gym class, which I was terrified of.  

I can tell you for certainty that I don't remember every single time someone gave me a hard time in High School. I'll write about the ones that counted enough that I remembered them. It's also a bit hard to remember what happened in what order, but I'll try and get it right. 

Sophomore year was a pretty smooth year. Matt became my friend, as did the people he hung around with. He no longer messed with me about my weight. I joined Chorus class and had the same Chorus teacher that I'd had when I was in Chorus at my tiny grade school. There were also two siblings in that class that had gone to my tiny school for a year before they moved, so it was a nice little reunion. My mom was a little over excited about me being in High School. Despite the fact that I was ONLY a Sophomore, she took me to Service Merchandise to design my class ring. That was a little awkward because most people wondered why I'd already have one. Also, she wanted me to get into the school spirit. Even though I played no sports and had no interest in attending games, she had me order a school jacket and put "Chorus" on the back of it. I was kind of embarrassed about that.  I ordered the largest size they had and I still couldn't zip it so I barely wore the thing and when I did people would ask why I'd put "Chorus" on the back of it, like it was some sort of amazing accomplishment. Ah, High School. The biggest struggles that year were finding clothes that looked nice but still fit for Chorus concerts, and dealing with PE class. Mandy, joy of joys, ended up in my Sophomore gym class. Thank god it was only for three months. I can also be thankful that whenever we'd have group activities we had to do (like dodgeball or basketball instead of just working on individual strength) Mandy seemed to have skipped school or class that day. I heard her remark about some other girl in the class's body and how big their butt was. I'm sure she made comments about me, but I did my best to avoid being in her breathing space. So all-in-all the bullying wasn't really there for me that year. I only had the typical fat girl problems like clothes and confidence issues.

The end of my Sophomore year we got the internet. This time in my life I almost didn't want to write about, because it's embarrassing, However it's important. Being overweight and not really having any friends that were GOOD friends, especially none that lived close by, I got sucked up into the internet. ALL of us were amazed by it and my brother and I would fight over turns on the one computer we had at the time. Once my parents realized AOL was crap with no local access number at the time, we got a real internet provider. It had a REALLY simple website, as in it looked like something one of us back then would have made with Geocities or Angelfire. The first chatroom I found was called "Talk Time" brought to you by Humpty Dumpty Cybersnaxx or something like that.  You could pick from a few avatars like Shakespeare, and other characters I don't remember. What I DO remember is that it took a good minute and a half sometimes for the page to reload when someone posted something. That didn't seem like a big deal back then. Now it does.

I made a group of friends in there, and developed a crush on one of them. We all decided we wanted a batter way to chat than the chatroom. We found PowWow by a company called Tribal Voice. You'd open up the program and send your friends a "chat request" and they would get a window that would pop up with a bird singing, sometimes a voice saying "You have a chat request". Basically, I started to become obsessed with being online and chatting with my friends. Especially the one I had a crush on. We started "dating". I put that in quotations now because I can see it for what it WAS now. Had someone put it in quotations back then, I'd have been offended. In fact, my brother at the time had a girlfriend and my mom would talk to her friends about her and I'd feel very left out and hurt because I knew she didn't consider it real. He had sent me a picture but he'd not received one of me yet. We talked on the phone but we didn't video chat. I think there was a part of me that was convinced I'd somehow lose weight before he had to see me.  I would get to the point where I'd daydream about being home and chatting while I was at school. Then if my parents went somewhere and wanted me to go with them, I'd stay home. I spent a lot of hours just sitting at the computer. Which is not a great thing for someone already overweight who doesn't workout or eat good. 

Two of the saddest things about that situation were these: One, only a percentage of the time I was sitting there, my "boyfriend" was online. HE seemed to have at least something that resembled a life and would go out and do things and couldn't really predict for me the exact time he'd be on. In a time without cell phones, I was afraid if I stepped out of the house, that hour would be the time that he would come. I was the pathetic loser that sat on my butt all day waiting for an online chat that would last an hour before he'd have to go do homework and then leave me hanging. It didn't occur to me back then that I was being incredibly naive. I was being young and stupid. This was the first time I'd gotten ANY sort of male attention and I lived for what little I was getting. I was literally addicted to the internet because I was lonely. If that wasn't sad enough, this next part took the cake. I've been ashamed of this for many years now and apologized SO profusely it's not even funny.

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Vaporman87 Posted on Feb 15, 2019 at 02:47 PM

At this point in your school age years is seems like things are maybe improving some? Like you're not getting harassed quite as much.

I know that feeling you describe when you discuss your internet usage. It was the same for me. I remember the first few months that we actually got the internet "proper", using AOL. I was in chat rooms all the time. Mostly looking for girls to talk to. I think the first bill for that was $600!!! That was when AOL did not yet have a monthly fee for unlimited usage.

Benjanime Posted on Feb 15, 2019 at 12:34 AM

mandy would've really gotten on my bad side if she attempted to make jokes towards me. i was one of those students who would bounce right back after being harshly made fun of. i wasn't fat, but i was awfully scrawny back then and my arms were like the equivalent of E.T.'s slim arms with the potbelly to boot. sucks you had to go through such a mess during your school years.

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