top of page

Fat shaming in first grade

Updated: Jul 6, 2023

I hate getting weighed. I dread getting up on the scale. There is actually a term for this: gravitophobia. Even though I have been maintaining a healthy weight and a BMI of 21.3 for a few years, I still don’t seem to be able to get over this fear.

Part of my job involves weighing others, and I really am kind and non-judgmental about whatever the scale says. I imagine that the person weighing me is the same.

Yet, I still abstain from weighing myself and rely on other ways to evaluate my body size, like how my clothes fit.

And while one would be hard pressed to find someone who loves going to the doctor, I definitely dread it because it means facing my foe: the scale. I ruminate about it for weeks in advance.

My fear dates back many years, all the way to first grade. Today, there are many children who are overweight or obese. They have my full sympathy and empathy. But if misery loves company, then they have the comfort of knowing that they are not freaks on display.

I was fat at a time when zaftig children were not common. If a grade school class had one token fat kid in the class, I was that kid. And I was bullied and called names.

One slur thrown at me was “Fatso Fogerty.” Years later, when I discovered that Fogerty was a real last name, I felt really bad for anyone unlucky enough to be branded with it.

One day, my first grade teacher, Mrs R., had a doctor’s balance scale in front of the classroom. The entire class was to be weighed. Why the teacher was doing this in the classroom, and not the school nurse in the privacy of her office, I will never know. But I do know that I was not happy about it.

We were all to line up and get weighed, one by one. I, of course, made my way to the end of the line. Maybe something would happen before it was my turn. I was silently praying for there to be a fire drill, that the scale would break, that someone would knock on the classroom door and say that I needed to leave now, that the earth would open up and swallow me; ANYTHING that would save me from the evil ordeal.

One by one, my classmates had their turn. The teacher called out their weight numbers in pounds: name of child - forty-something, name of next child - fifty-something, name of next child - forty-something, and so on. Why she called out the numbers is something that will remain a mystery. But I knew that my number would be substantially higher than either forty or fifty-something.

The line shortened. I kept on hoping and praying that somehow, some way I would skirt that scale. But there was to be no salvation.

After the person before me stepped down it was my turn. I didn’t move. “Come on, get up onto the scale,” Mrs. R. commanded. I didn’t budge. “Let’s GO!” I remained planted in place. My hesitation probably pulled more attention my way than marching forward would have, but I really didn’t want to get weighed, especially in front of everyone.

Finally, I saw no way out. There was no option of simply asking the teacher not to weigh me in front of everyone. I inched toward the scale and stepped onto the big monster.

“Seventy-five!” called out my teacher.

“Whoa!” “That’s a lot!” “Ooh, she’s really fat!” “Ewww!” “What a fatso!” And so on and so forth. Arrows that pierced my heart.

The saying, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.” is a big fat lie. Words really do hurt. They may leave the body unscathed, but oh, the way they wound the soul.

Even now as I’m writing this account, I feel pain welling up inside. Children can be brutally cruel.

I hadn’t loved the scale before this ordeal. Afterwards, it became a larger-than-life dragon that may never be slain. A boogie monster hiding in the closet waiting to pounce and destroy me.

J.K. Rowling would make my boggart a scale. Riddikulus! I do not seek help to deal with this. Systematic desensitization has a valuable purpose, but I choose not to use it.

Instead, I avoid my demon, except when I can’t.

I have a doctor’s appointment coming up soon. Gulp!


bottom of page