You need a burger
You are too skinny
Do you not eat
What’s wrong with you
Let me feed you
I’ll give you a good meal
Does your mother not feed you
These are just some of the things that I have heard over the years directed towards me. I am going to tell you my experience of being bullied throughout the years – by not only peers at school, but by professional colleagues and even medical specialists.
I have always been tall and get this from the paternal side of the family. My mum on the other hand is wee dinky small at only 5’2 but both my parents were thin. In 1986 out pops me, a normal weight but long legs – this is why my poor mum took so long to get me out apparently.
My first recollection of being bullied was in year 4 in middle school. Our primary school was split into two – first school and middle school. Year 4 was the first year of middle school, and even though we had only moved over the other side of the playground, it was a big thing and I remember feeling nervous. Very quickly, a pair of year 7’s (we didn’t start high school until year 8), targeted me. They would follow me home, follow me around the playground, follow me into the toilets and waited whilst I would hide. They never said anything to me, nor did they touch me, but it was bloody scary for a 10 year old. I don’t remember what ever happened with this – I’m pretty sure I spoke to a teacher and shortly after they stopped following me.
Fast forward 2 years into year 6 – so I would have been 12 years old. I got targeted by a girl who had learning difficulties. The girl would follow me around the playground, and trip me up. She would also follow me home and tease me calling me names. It all came to a head when in a classroom; she grabbed my hair and bashed my head down onto an upright pair of scissors. Luckily for me there was no damage done, but safe to say I was really upset and told my mum what was going on. This then prompted a meeting with the teacher who I think informed my mum that they couldn’t really do anything due to the bully’s “difficulties” – or at least that is how I remember it.
These 2 events in primary school really stood out for me – but they were not the only times I experienced bullying in primary. In between these 2 big events, and right from first school I was called various names like twiggy and lollipop head because I was tall and skinny.
This carried on into high school where it intensified a little due to all of our bodies changing and hormones rolling around all over the place. I was so self-conscious, and really hated my body. I would try to wear baggy clothes all the time. In PE, I would opt for jogging bottoms and a jumper rather than shorts so that people wouldn’t see my skinny legs. It really didn’t help that I was a total dork – a lack of confidence had made me a little anti-social apart from a select few friends, and I became an easy target.
I remember one particular incident. Shopping with friends in Topshop (yes I was apparently trendy once!) and I tried on the most gorgeous pair of really baggy jeans that had a patch on the bum pocket. I was buying baggy because I didn’t want to show off my figure. And I just remember a friend saying to me that the jeans looked good as they hid my bulging hip bones. She thought she was being kind when she said this, but it stuck with me ever since, and I have only ever worn jeans that sat on my hips to hide them.
Because I had started wearing baggy jeans, I became adopted by a new crowd. The moshers. Here I felt accepted, I wasn’t teased and I made some really good friends. I started listening to their music – keeping my love for Britney Spears hidden away for appearances sake.
In 2003, I started college and really started to find myself. I hung around with the alternative crowd where no one teased me. And I just remember starting to feel comfortable. Having a long term boyfriend going into college helped, and slowly but surely I began to accept that I was just skinny. Acceptance is not the same as confident. I still hated the way I looked but I accepted that was just the way it was going to be.
I moved to Manchester in late 2005, and had to register with a new doctor. In fact every time I moved I had to register with a new doctor if I moved out of the catchment zone. I used to dread this because I knew as soon as they weighed me I would be asked THAT question. Do you eat? Yes I frigging eat, I’m just skinny OK?! It used to put me off going to the GP for anything as I didn’t want to be questioned about my weight.
The absolute worst time, was when I went to get a referral for counselling. It was a locum doctor I saw rather than my usual. He asked questions about my weight – what the hell has that got to do with counselling? Anyway, I went with it and gave my usual spiel about having a really high metabolism yaddy yaddy yada. He said he would put a referral in and off I went on my merry way. When the referral came through, it was with an eating disorder specialist. Are you freaking kidding me? I called the counselling service and explained that this is obviously an error etc. etc. but they told me I had to come in and be seen in order that they can re-refer me. At the first appointment, and because of my low BMI I was told that until they were satisfied I did not have an eating disorder they would not sign me off. I was fuming. FUMING!!!!!! I had to keep a food diary for 4 weeks, AND drink complan with every meal for ‘extra calories’. So I did what they said. Kept a food diary for 4 weeks and with the complan I was consuming on average 2500 calories a day. Did I put on weight – did I fuck! Anyway, long story short they were satisfied that I did not have an eating disorder and sent me on my way. Needless to say I put in a very big complaint and that particular GP no longer works at the surgery.
So that’s school peers and medical professionals at it. Complete strangers join in too.
I was at the pub with my friend and housemate who I lived with when I first moved to Manchester. This complete stranger comes up to my friend and asks if I am her daughter. My friend jokingly says yes. This stranger then takes it upon herself to tell my friend she needs to feed me up, I’m too skinny and look unwell. Needless to say my friend told her to do one. We had frequent nights of ice cream consumption and chick flicks and she knew of my deep love for cheese. But this woman was a stranger! If you went up to someone who looked a little overweight and told them to go on a diet I guarantee you would get a punch in the face – so why is it deemed ok when it is the other way around?
Adding to this, there has been a spate of skinny bashing on social media recently with various memes being posted. I have included 2 of them below. Every time I see one of these, I see the words ‘Kay you are ugly’. I have deleted friends and un-followed people for sharing memes like this. And when I have confronted people about it, the response is oh well it wasn’t about you!
It doesn’t matter if it’s about me. Who knows who is reading this – what if someone does have an eating disorder or body dysmorphia? What if the person seeing it is very very depressed, and thinks you are targeting them? People need to seriously think about the possible consequences of what they say or post on social media. Every time I’m faced with ones of these it just serves to re-inforce those thought telling me I am ugly, and that being skinny is not attractive.
The bullying I’ve experienced has been mostly psychological warfare. I am damaged. This really annoys Phil as I just can’t see what he sees. I have 0 body confidence and wish so badly to be able to put on weight and grow a couple of cup sizes. Now, I have very bad posture, and am often hunched. This stems from being told to crouch down in school assembly so people could see behind me. And from trying to make myself seem shorter than I actually am. These are things that I will carry with me for the rest of my life. I have accepted that this is the way I am, but this does not mean I am happy with it.
We all need to be kinder to one another. You have no idea what the other person is going through. Or how you are making them feel by making a throwaway comment, or passing remark on social media. In a way, I’m glad I was bullied in the 90’s. School bullying stopped when I got home. I would hate to be bullied in a world of social media where it is impossible to escape it.
I’ve rambled on enough now so will finish with this.
Think before you act. Compliment one another and stick up for those around you.
Bye for now.