Why being fat-shamed by strangers shook me to the core

The opinions that matter: Annaliese with her husband and sons.
The opinions that matter: Annaliese with her husband and sons.  Photo: Supplied

I was "fat shamed" twice in two weeks by young men on the street.

Before this I was feeling pretty good about myself. It had been niggling at me for a while that I needed to prioritise exercise and tone up because I've let that go a bit recently and my jeans are feeling a little tight up top but having my weight made fun of separately by two sets of strangers really knocked my self-confidence around in a way I hadn't anticipated. After some deeper reflection I've realised why that is, and it might not be for reasons that you think.

I've never been a thin person. I came out round with a big appetite and a slow metabolism. I had puppy fat as a young child and as a teenager I was curvier than the other girls probably an adult Australian size 10 (which in retrospect is tiny!) but being slightly "bigger" than a lot of girls my age I was teased about being "fat" by boys. Insert eye roll…

It really shook me. Photo: Supplied
It really shook me. Photo: Supplied 

By the end of high school I had grown into my body and have since yo-yoed between a voluptuous size 10-14 throughout my adult life and right now I'm about to turn 35, have housed two humans in my womb and am a size 12. I think I'm doing alright.

So when a group of guys drove past me recently and called out "sucked in fatty" laughing and high-fiving because I dropped my sandwich out of my hand onto the road, I didn't give it too much thought and agreed it was kind of comical that my sandwich fell out of my hand as I was trying to eat it. Why had they called me fatty? I thought maybe it just went with the whole sandwich falling out of hand gag. I was pissed that I had been spoken to like that but didn't take it personally and most importantly my sons didn't hear it.

But two weeks later after questioning some men about "where they got the electrical goods they were running suspiciously down the street with" I was heckled yet again.

Laughing, swearing vulgarities and high-fiving saying they had never seen an ass "that size".  I walked away trying to tuck in my bum somehow and as I slunk away, I listened this time.

I've been trying to reflect on why this hit me hard because reasonably I don't agree with what they are saying at all (or condone such vile pack mentality and treatment of women and again, in front of my kids). So then why take it to heart? Did it take me back to being a teenager? Nope. It's that for the first time (other than pregnancy) it made me feel like maybe I had become frumpy, mumsy even and past my prime. This was new territory. 

I've always been aware I made an impact walking in a room. I don't mean that in an up myself way, I just have a big head of blonde hair, am buxom with a loud laugh and large personality and I notice when heads turn walking past men at a pub. I am happily married so it's not about anything devious, it's just purely ego and nice as we get older to think "I've still got it". I went to a bar with my husband recently and I definitely noticed the young girls heads turn, he's a good looking rooster and six foot four and of course men can still turn heads heading into their 40s but now I'm scratching my head wondering did I make any heads turn? 

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I remember a woman in her 60s who used to be a model once told me she felt invisible in the world as she was ageing, she didn't feel like an old lady but was treated like one. That sentiment has haunted me ever since and not that I can relate to the model good looks of her youth and as vain as it sounds I am scared of feeling invisible - is this the start of it for me? 

When anything like this shakes me I always lean into the advice from my psychologist: "what are my core values and what is important to me?" And I needed that perspective because it sure as hell isn't what a pack of budding misogynists think.

I'm not sure how we get used to feeling invisible and the art of ageing gracefully, or if we ever really do, but I know what's important to me and the impact I have on the world is not determined by my looks, that can only come from within.

I will keep reminding myself of that as my skin continues to sag, wrinkles crinkle around my eyes from laughing and inevitably my "ass" continues to get bigger. Plus thanks to the Kardashians, bootylicious bums are totally in fashion and the person closest to my booty and number one fan (my husband) loves me "just the way I am" and most importantly so do I.

For more on relationships, motherhood and the sisterhood, catch PodcastOne series The Queen Sesh Overshare with Constance Hall and Annaliese Dent on PodcastOne.com.au or iTunes. You can hear more from Annaliese on FacebookInstagram and Sunday nights on The Queen Sesh with Constance Hall and Annaliese on The Hit Network.