Fat Tainted Memories

Fat Tainted Memories
By Kristy Draper


Kristy at an Austin, TX restaurant enjoying the lake and a huge Christmas light display.

Some of my best memories are the hardest to relive. One of the joys of the digital age is that memories are easily accessible with one swipe. My husband, Steve, and I store many of our photos through cloud storage services, such as Google Photos, and are prompted each day with photo memories of the same day throughout the years (dating back to roughly 2010).

I am reminded of vacations, trips to see family, funny antics of our companion animals over the years, significant life changes, our wedding day, and all of the anniversaries that have followed. These are some of the best days, and memories, of my life. But I cringe each time I look at these photos. I see a selfie we took on a Cape Cod beach on our first anniversary, but all I can think of is how fat I look and how round my face is in the photo.

It is funny; I became a vegan because I wanted to live a more compassionate life, and not contribute to cruelty. In spite of that, I am a tyrant to myself where no compassion is shown. I can work up a cruel inner speech before some people can even respond “yes” or “no” to a question. I am sure I am not alone in that ability. I know it is not one of my best traits, and it has caused harm.

Recently, Steve showed me a photo that he took of me at a restaurant we used to frequent. He said that he loved that photo me and remembered how happy he was that day. I only responded with, “I hate that picture of me. Please do not share it with anyone.” He was so upset and looked as though I deflated him. He explained to me, that even though I may not like the photo of myself, I am stealing his good memories, and mentally hurting him and myself in the process. I felt like such a monster and a selfish one at that.

These aren’t just my memories. They are his memories. My family’s memories. My friend’s memories. I never thought about them, or their feelings toward the photos and recollection of the past. I only thought about making sure no one saw these photos of me. I can’t change the past, what I looked like, how I felt about myself, or how anyone else felt about me.

Over the past few years, I have learned more about body and fat acceptance, body and fat positivity, body diversity, and fat liberation. For the most part, I am happy with who I am and accepting of my size body. I am learning that I am not just a size, but a body. But also not just a body, but a person that has much to offer no matter what size. So much happened during these memories that pop up each day. In each photo, I am a different person – a different size in each one, have a different mindset in each one, and usually located in a different state in each one(we have moved around a lot!).

I am now trying to see each memory in a new light. When these daily reminders pop up, I am trying to pause and take in the whole picture, not just my belly size or face size or arm size, but trying to step back into that moment and relive each experience. I remember that day at the restaurant when Steve took my photo. I was happy. It was a beautiful day that we spent exploring and being in the moment with each other. Why I would ever want to taint or tarnish that memory is beyond my comprehension. I know some days I will still only see a fat person in the photo, and I recognize the need to continually unlearn that mentality. I am now more mindful of being compassionate towards myself and others who share these memories. So here is to making and cherishing more memories, but also learning to relive and re-love old memories.

Everything to Gain

I wrote this piece in 2003 on a bike ride home late one night after being annoyed and bored at a music event. I kept stopping my bike and got out my pen and paper and wrote down a new idea and when I got home I roughly had this all put together. It was a very slow ride home! Later that year I performed the piece very nervously at Fat Girl Speaks. I had given numerous talks in front of audiences about fatphobia previously, but this was very different and very personal. It’s also published in my final compilation zine for “Take It- It’s My Body”.

FullSizeRender (3)

This is me, way back then, when I had everything to lose. My skin an inch deep from this surface of soft protection- a makeshift shield from society’s wrath. My true self desperate to shine though all the layers, patiently waiting for the grasp that magazines and bullies are not a reality I am willing to except. I learn to hide my insides just as I learned to hide my skin, for someone might notice my abundance. Pin me up for everyone to mock, just as everyone pinned me down with words that stung worse than any stick or stone and left me broken deeper than bone. Take down notes as to who I appear to be, weak and innocent, unknowing the answers to my happiness. And no one know the answers, just as no one asks the questions as to why we allow this cycle to come bearing down even heavier than my weight.

I would cry almost every day from this overwhelming pressure to fold my layers away forever- out of sight, out of mind. Or reminded by strangers, friends, family that I must devise a way to physically adapt to the dimensions of a very confined box. And as if my clothes represent my cycles of acceptance- I tear them off. All that I am told will mask my excess. A very cautious rebellion, making sure no one I’m not ready to handle can see. My personal scheme for something more than this pain of monotonous images I am plagued with from everyone’s false imagination of what people should be. You cannot judge worth based on my curves. Transformation is not improvement when it comes to my body.

I undress my soul to find myself in a tangle of these layers. But I will not concede to a corner- never exposing my skin, my body, me. In doing so, people mistake my stubbornness as a way of outlawing myself. As if I’m not already cringing inside from the very real probability that with my new challenging self love, people may not get it, just as people have not understood it and gorged my words with comparisons of what really matters to them. Often times I’m not in their equation. And now a friend no longer speaks to me for maybe I spoke too loud- or maybe I just spoke. For sometimes I must scream to be heard and something I must rattle to be listened to.

For my reconstruction is not in vain. As I choose to reveal myself, I chose to open myself. To the backlash, the looks, the questions, the “answers”, the fear, the hate. I’ll give you a lesson about hate. I love this world too much to allow it. So I find myself doing and saying things I would never expect. Just to win the opportunity of possibility to teach others my way of life. For I will not put my life on hold to discover I have no inner, thinner self. So this may be all you see tonight, but it is not as far as I will go. If I feel it will create a shiver and some impact, there is nothing I won’t expose. So the answer is I’m fat! The question is, Who Cares? Now everything for me I gain- my confidence, my acceptance, my fat me.