An Open Letter to the Fat Girl in My Swim Class

I see you. I see how you hide in the dressing room, tucked in a corner, shielded by the room’s lone privacy curtain.

I see you. I see how you avoid eye contact with the rest of us- women who greet each other loudly in a crowded room while dressing. Women who exchange hugs in a state of half dress. Women who talk about the weather while toweling bare breasts.

I see you. I see how you are so intent on your own private shame that you can’t see the rest of our bodies for what they are. Imperfect, majestic bodies, many larger than your own. Loved bodies, powerful fat bodies no different from yours.

I see you. I see how you emerge from that curtained area in swim layers instead of a swimsuit. Biker shorts, sports bra, tank top. Protected, knees to neck, from all of our eyes.

I see you. I see how your shoulders round in on themselves and you hover near the edge of the room. I see how you clutch your load of flippers, kick-board, and paddles against your chest in defense.

I see you. I see the way you pick the furthest lane and swim against the wall. I see how you slip out a few minutes before the rest of us to head back to the locker rooms unobserved.

I see you. I see the way you emerge from the shower stall fully dressed, not sauntering around in bra and panties like the rest of us.

I see you. I see how week after week after week you step on the scale in the dressing room. I cannot see what the scale tells you, but I can imagine by the look on your face. Still not good news. You just swam an hour and the scale has defeated you.

And I want to tell you….

You don’t have to hide. Your body is beautiful, every curve, lump, and fold.

Hold your chin up and meet our eyes. You are no less a woman than any of the rest of us. Smile.

Look around you. Notice how your body is just one of many- one like the others with cellulite, sags, creases, and a story. Flawed does not negate fabulous. Fat doesn’t have to equal shame.

Wear a damn bathing suit. Shoot, wear a bikini. You are not an indecent thing which must be shrouded to spare us. You are a thing of glory.

Put your shoulders back and strut straight through the center of the walkway. Full round hips sway with mesmerizing weight, a hypnotizing pendulum.

Swim where you like. Appreciate the fierce regal beauty in the way your thick thighs churn and glide you like a porpoise through the water.

Don’t dress for the rest of us. You have as much right as any of us to blow dry your hair in front of the mirror clad only in your underwear.

Screw that damn scale, sweetheart. Stop letting it define your worth, ruin your mood, or measure your progress. Your value is priceless. Your joy is not dependent on a number. Your victory is in your dedication, your strength, and your hard work. Don’t let some number deceive you.

I see you. And you, fat girl, are lovely.

Photo credit: Figure 99 by r8r. April 14, 2008; Flickr. Used under Creative Commons License.
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