“You’re such a fat bitch. Always eating.”
“But. . . I’m eating an apple” was my dumbfounded response.
At the time, I thought that I was looking pretty good. I felt so liberated out of my Catholic school uniform. Standing there on my stoop, guarded by the black wrought-iron fence in front of me, my brick home behind me — I thought I was protected in some way, but not from Vinny.
There were so many kids on my block. We were like cousins and their parents like the aunts and uncles we often saw. They were allowed to yell at us, or give the occasional smack on the back of the head for doing something stupid. The kids that didn’t live on the block we deemed outsiders because we believed we lived on the best block in Brooklyn. West Street is the best street, we’d boast. We kind of did have the best block — I felt a closeness to these families that I’d never have again after moving away in my teens.
Vinny was one of these outsiders. Although he didn’t live on the block, everyone knew him because he was a good friend of Victor’s, the neighbor kid. So unfortunately, he was around a lot. Vinny was meaner than a hungry pregnant lady. He said horrible things about girls and women. At fourteen, how could he possibly know anything about women? He epitomized a lot of the male population in Bensonhurst, Brooklyn: tightly worn button down shirt, chinos, Capezio shoes (think: Jazz dancer), and a sexist view on women. It was like being stuck in the film Saturday Night Fever. No female was safe — Vinny would attack anyone with a vagina. Vinny was definitely an asshole.
The thing about this rotten kid was that he wasn’t thin himself. His belly slightly hung over his belt; his school shirt buttons seemed as if they were going to pop at any given moment. He wasn’t pretty, either. Maybe if he was a pleasant human being it would have excused his greasy black hair, his unibrow, his beady eyes and that stupid, wicked laugh of his, as if he were Vincent Price at the end of Thriller.
Nobody likes to be laughed at.
I soon inspected my after-school fashion choice when he walked away: I wasn’t wearing anything flattering myself. I donned dark and tight denim Jordache jeans accompanied by a brown, knit-like tube top. At age 10, I wasn’t old enough for a witty rebuttal for Vinny’s harsh words, and not really old enough, in my adult opinion, to be wearing such an outfit. But after being in my school uniform all day, I wanted to get home and dress like Donna Summer.
Clothes were a problem for me as a kid. Nothing fit right. Size 14 pants for a ten year old girl looked ridiculous; they were so long — I always had to roll up the bottoms. I knew if I was allowed to don a pair of high-heeled shoes, the pants would have worked out better. My thin friends looked clean and neat whereas I always looked like I got stuffed into my clothing. I might as well have worn a potato sack, with the bottom rolled up.
The girls would roll up their skirts once they got closer to school, showing off their lean legs which looked even thinner in contrast with their big hair. The rolled skirt also brought attention to flat tummies; something I’d witness, not experience. When I would roll up my skirt it would puff out like a 1950’s full circle skirt. Ya know, the ones with an embroidered felt poodle on the bottom of the skirt. Not achieving the look I was going for, nor did I have the confidence to rock that look, I’d end up rolling it back down to above my knee, and abiding by school rules.
Life for us chubby girls back then was unlike the chubbsters of today: we didn’t have any voluptuous role models the way young girls do these days. In the 80s there wasn’t a Beyoncé or a Shakira, nor were there Kardashians and praises for big butts. These days Mandy Kaling’s hips and wit make being “full figured” hot! Christina Hendricks is on fire! When I was a kid I never once saw a woman on television over 115 pounds. Marilyn Monroe and Bettie Page were long dead and gone. Everyone in Hollywood was starving themselves. They ate tofu and sipped on wheatgrass. (Californians: way ahead of us New Yorkers with our pizza and chicken parmesan.)
Gladly, in the 21st Century there is so much shit given for anyone who fat-shames another (and rightfully so). I don’t know if the “sizable” kids today are shunned the way I was when I was younger. Kids of all sizes seem more open and willing to try out for the school play, for instance. They’re unabashed on their YouTube channels; they play sports; they wear tight-fitting clothes with a self-confidence I wouldn’t have dared to have as a tubby youngster. These kids have pride. Basically, they don’t give a fuck. They grew up being told that they can do anything. I love it! Fuck it, I say! Do whatever you want, no matter your size.