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Being An 80's and 90's Fat Kid Part 1

Being an overweight kid in the 80's and 90's was weird. It was awkward. Uncomfortable. You might be thinking isn't it that way for ALL fat kids that are painfully aware they are different and don't like it and don't know quite how to change it? Sure! But back in the day, there weren't that many of us. Today there are overweight kids everywhere. Back then, we WERE that one goofy fat kid from the TV show you liked. We WERE the sarcastic fatty in a group of thin kids playing baseball in the movie. We were far and few and in between. In my very small grade school,  I was the fat kid. We only had maybe 200 kids total in the entire school K-8 and I WAS that kid.

I wasn't obnoxious though. I also wasn't outgoing or the class clown or a jerk. I was very shy and very quiet. THAT was my downfall. Had I BEEN the funny one or the obnoxious one, i'd have been better off I imagine. Now don't get me wrong, my childhood wasn't total crap. It was actually pretty darn awesome. I just felt like writing about what it felt like to be a chunkster before there were a whole gaggle of us. Oh yes, and I had super thick hair and had to wear glasses for many years. That was helpful as well. In all reality I was fairly lucky. The bullying I received could have been much much worse, but at the time if you had told me that, it wouldn't have made me feel better.

I grew up in a very small town in rural Maine. (Purely coincidental, I'm not really Ben. In fact, i'm a girl. That made being fat even worse by the way.) I  lived literally a two minute walk from my grade school. My best friend and her Brady Bunch style blended family lived right down the road from me. All of us kids could see each other standing at the end of our driveways waiting for the bus. That's right, I lived two minutes walking distance from the school and rode the bus. Hold up, it wasn't because I was the fat kid. It was because until I was in 3rd grade the school wouldn't allow me to cross the stretch of road to get to the school. It sounds ridiculous, but cars did and still do drive WAY to fast on that stretch of road. As soon as I was able to, I started walking too and from school and enjoyed it, because riding the bus when you live so close and are a fat kid, makes for some pretty obnoxious comments despite the fact that I was specifically told I wasn't allowed to NOT ride the bus until then.

I couldn't tell you WHY it was that I started gaining weight. Anxiety? too much access to junk food? My dad was in rehab for alcohol and getting sober at the time. I COULD blame that, but honestly I don't even remember witnessing my dad being drunk and I blocked out his failed rehab attempts I guess. I don't even remember him going to rehabs out of state. I was eight years old at the time.  Apparently my mom took my brother and I to see The Song Of The South (Which as you probably know they no longer release) when it was brought back to Theaters in the late  80's and my little brother cried because he could relate to the boy missing his dad. Whatever it was, I started putting on a lot of weight. Maybe between the snack cakes for practicing tying my shoes (I was in occupational therapy to work on my motor skills so I did certain things later than other kids), the Domino's pizza every time we visited my dad at rehab and the Happy Meals after grocery shopping, I found my own addiction. 

While I stuck out like a sore thumb at my grade school, everyone knew me there. MOST of the kids treated me normally.  I got the occasional rude comment, like someone saying "You make a better door than you do a window" instead of politely asking me to step aside. However that's pretty darn tame. Of course there were the "Fatso" comments. Everyone gets those. The "How much do you weigh anyway?" that a lot of kids  got. This could be a kid being a jerk, or just genuine curiosity. Again, I was like a sideshow. I think the absolute worst possible things to hear, are the negative things people say about you that you over hear. When they aren't holding back at all to spare your feelings or fear getting in trouble.

I remember once during Silent Reading (if you didn't have the pleasure of this time of day during school, it was basically a study hall where all kids were required to read something. Half the kids screwed around and tried to get those of us that were reading to laugh by farting and blaming someone else) I overheard a 6th grader say "Yeah, I'd totally get with Megan. Sara isn't so bad. That Alyssa though..ugh. She's about the ugliest thing I've EVER seen. No one would touch her".  If you haven't guessed, I'm Alyssa. That stung. As a twelve year old girl, it was everything. I've never forgotten it. There was another time when I read something I wasn't supposed to in an IEP document. For those not aware, an IEP is a document stating you require or are entitled to certain help with your education. Whether that be special education programs (Yes, sped. Special Ed) or Speech Therapy or tutoring in a certain class, etc. I had one for extra help in Math. The lady that had evaluated me a few months before had written down some comments about me. I still don't know what these comments in particular have to do with my math skills at ALL. However, she wrote "Alyssa is a quiet individual. Her hair is thick and she dresses frumpy". Really lady? I'm 10, thanks. 

A lot of the time I FELT like a typical kid. I loved picking milkweed with the other girls and tossing the sticky seeds into the air. Hunting for praying mantis, daring each other to taste test a dandelion, drawing on the blacktop with chalk, playing Four Square. I took the same type of lunch as everyone else back then. Bologna sandwich, Ecto-Cooler juice box, Little Debbie Snack Cake, Wilted piece of fruit, etc. We all had the same crappy bad for you lunches. The big difference was, not only was I eating junk at home, but I wasn't as active as the other kids. Yes, I played on the swings and jungle gym at recess and participated in PE twice a week.  However, I was literally the only kid in 3-4th grade who didn't join Farm Team (I think that was some sort of local baseball league) and the only kid in 6th grade that wasn't on the 6-8 Soccer Team. I just didn't feel confident. I knew if I were to go out there during a game with another school the kids (Maybe even the parents) would make comments about my size. 

That wasn't the only difference between myself and the other kids. When we'd play Red Bull and Unicorns (a game we made up from the film The Last Unicorn) someone would always comment that I should be the Bull because I was too big to be a Unicorn. If we were playing pretend at Recess and we were supposed to be married couples, no one would pair up with me. Not because it was "ewww girls, cooties!" but because I was fat. Once my mom tried to pay a cheaper price for my best friend to get into the movies with us. She was actually the OLDER between us both, but she was slim and because of this my mom felt she was more believable as the younger one. Then there was the clothes. Ah, the clothes. Back in the late 80s and even into the very late 90s, they didn't cater to people of size like they do now. I was somewhere in a K-mart browsing between old lady sweaters and small maternity jeans trying to figure out where the heck I belonged. Forget the cool clothes that DJ from Full House was wearing or Clarissa. So while I wasn't overly bullied in my grade school years, it was very clear to me that I was different. It was a weird feeling, because I knew I was fat. I KNEW I hated it. I KNEW I was unhealthy and I knew that kids were judging me. I knew that other adults were probably judging my parents for me being fat. However. I didn't know what to do about it. My parents took the stance that as kids they were never allowed treats (My mother wasn't even allowed to sit on the couch until she was 12 and it had plastic on it) and they overly spoiled us. They wouldn't push me to exercise and they didn't shove a diet down my throat. The one and only time my mother said something was over summer vacation when I was about to start Eighth Grade. She was vacuuming and I was eating Salt and Vinegar chips in the recliner, watching game shows. I think my brother was on her last nerve because she snapped at him about something, and then looked at me and said "Why don't you put down the chips.Your going to weigh 300 d*mn pounds".

In retrospect, I don't know if that was a jerk thing to say or she should have said it more often. I know for a fact I'd have cried and been embarrassed or angry. Maybe I'd have lost weight earlier, maybe not. I want to make one thing clear though. I don't really blame my parents. Should my food in take have been monitored better? Yes. But it was a different time, people weren't as in your face with health and fitness just yet. As parents we all do the best we can in the moment.

During the summer before seventh  grade, my best friend and I won a week at Marine Biology camp. I wasn't very excited. I was happy my best friend would be with me though. The camp was at a small research center right off the ocean. There was a dock and Canoes there. As well as motor boats. We spent a lot of time observing sea life under microscope slides and doing worksheets. That for me was the good part. What I wasn't looking forward to, was the ONLY thing everyone else was looking forward to. The boat rides and the canoes. I had already overheard a few comments from some of the seventh grade boys.about my size so I was truly hoping that my best friend and I would be in a canoe and it would work out ok. My life jacket barely buckled and was uncomfortable as all get out. I felt sea sick on the motor bed when it stopped in the water and we rocked back and forth. The mix of the choppy water and the anxiety was getting to me.

Thankfully we soon pulled into another dock and walked onto the shore. We looked around at what many years before had been Indian caves. I'd have been more interested if I wasn't so nervous about the canoes. We'd been told we'd have to canoe back to the previous dock. This was one of the worst parts of being a fat kid. Not knowing how something was going to turn out due to your weight but being pretty sure it wasn't going to end well. The time I was an understudy in a small play and had to try on the costume and of course it didn't fit and we all just prayed i'd never have to play the role. The time I barely fit on the Polar Coaster at Storyland in New Hampshire but thankfully the bar went down. When your involved in one of those embarrassing leadership building activities where you have to do trust falls or get all classmates to fit onto a small plank of wood. Pure hell for fat kids. I've always wondered what it felt like to not have to worry about things like that. 

As if we didn't know, when it came time to canoe back, my best friend was assigned to a different canoe. I was with a woman counselor and a seventh grade boy. He was teased for being stuck with me and they didn't care if I heard it or not. We tried to get out canoe moving in the water with me in the front and back and it just wouldn't work. On the verge of tears they had me sit in the middle while they paddled and it finally worked. I wanted to hide in a hole at that point. There were a lot of issues like that growing up. Things would arise like I was late getting on the school bus for a field trip and everyone already had a seat and having to see who wouldn't mind my fat butt squeezing in beside them. Most of the time, again, my best friend was there beside me. We were insuperable. She practically lived at my house during the summers. Her step mother had to drag her home. It was always us that paired up together, us that sat on the bus together, us against the world. 

About two weeks after the Marine Biology camp, we found out that our little grade school was closing down. This meant that our last two years of Jr high would be spent at a different school. We'd not get to finish out our 8th grade year in our own school we'd gone to since the beginning.This would be another school filled with kids we'd never met that rule that particular school. We'd be the new kids ripe for the teasing. At least my best friend and I would be together. Or so we thought. 

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Raelgoth Posted on Aug 29, 2019 at 01:23 AM

I can totally relate to this. It's good that you don't blame your parents, though I probably would. Growing up mentally is hard enough as it is. Having something physical added to that can make it super-difficult at times. I'm assuming that you embraced and learned from your experiences, aren't an axe-murderer and that you did in fact turn out ok.... which is very cool.

Dalek227 Posted on Dec 15, 2018 at 05:53 AM

Thank you Hoju! I will seek out your article

Vaporman87 Posted on Dec 15, 2018 at 04:27 AM

Reading this made me think back to yours, Hoju.

Hoju Koolander Posted on Dec 15, 2018 at 02:59 AM

Great read. I wrote an article from the male perspective of a fat kid during this same era a few years back, so it was interesting to read your experiences. Thanks for adding your voice to the site.

Dalek227 Posted on Dec 14, 2018 at 05:40 AM

Benjanime thank you! And yes I've got great friends and family. I'm working on more parts to this article and at some point i'll go into how it didn't all suck LOL

Benjanime Posted on Dec 14, 2018 at 05:02 AM

i had a couple of fairly plump friends in the past and they were pretty humble and fun to be around, sorry to hear that you had a rough experience about your weight. but i'm sure you have friends who value you no matter what now :)

Dalek227 Posted on Dec 14, 2018 at 04:28 AM

Thank you for the comment!
I absolutely agree that it's made us more compassionate adults. At the time it sure did feel like a big deal but as an adult now, seeing the severe bullying that teenagers face today, it's nothing compared to that. However writing this is kind of like therapy. I don't dwell on the bullying, it was only a little blip in my life. However when I'm reminded of it I like to gab about it haha!

Vaporman87 Posted on Dec 13, 2018 at 10:26 PM

Thank you for letting us into your world circa the '80s and '90s and being open about some of the difficulties you experienced. I know there are a few here with similar experiences, and like you they still cherish their youths despite the troubles.

I often wish I could change my own behavior towards larger kids in school. I wasn't kind, even though it was all muttered under my breath or to friends. I'd like to go back in time and smack myself in the head... for a lot of things really.

But, to a certain degree, I can empathize. I was the shortest kid in my entire school for a long time. And my high school included everybody from 7th to Senior. That meant you had 7th graders constantly available to pick on if you were in the higher grades. I took my share of insults in stride. Still, it's not the same as what you and others had to endure.

Hopefully these things help us to become better people in our adult lives. I know that has been the case for me. As a husband, father, and business owner... all those experiences helped to shape who I am now and how I interact with others, be it friends, family, or just customers.

I'm guessing you feel the same.

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