New York: The City That Never Shuts the Hell Up

I travel a lot. I get stared at a lot because I am tall, and, oh yeah, fat. I’ve been stared at in a variety of foreign countries on several different continents.

Once, in Vietnam, I attracted an entire class of high school students who lined up to have their photos taken with me one at a time.

In Cambodia, a roadside food vendor refused to take my money in exchange for food — which is, unless I am very much mistaken, the very raison d’etre of the roadside food vendor — because why does someone this fat need food? In southern Italy, people I pass during an evening’s passeggiata give me a disapproving once-over. When I approach a gate at the airport, I know that a goodly number of my fellow passengers are silently hoping not to be the one who sits next to me.

In all the cities I’ve visited, in all the countries on those many continents, New York City is the only one in which people call to me from across the street, approach me in restaurants, or yell at me from moving taxis to draw attention to and clarify how hilarious and offensive my fatness is.

Upsetting encounters in other places, where I’m already feeling like a fish out of water, are one thing. Upsetting encounters where

(1) I am in a place which should feel like my comfortable home turf, and

(2) The other party’s goal is to shame me while drawing as much attention to me as possible, so that others who might have accidentally failed to actively shame me can be implicated

are even more so.

I feel the urge to make some claim here about weight-loss efforts I may or may not be making, to prove that I am not one of the “bad” fat people: fuck that shit. I am a person. I am fat. The second does not negate the first, and the first does not require that I share your loathing of the second.

I will move around in the world regardless of your revulsion. Perhaps it is surprising to you, but I am actually aware of my size! And while I may be fat, you are an asshole. I’ll take fat any day.

But it still hurts, so thanks for that. Mission accomplished, I suppose.


  1. Oh, well said, Michelle! I can so identify with what you are saying. I love, ‘And while I may be fat, you are an asshole’: brilliant! xxx

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Never change!

    Just always know that the people who really matter in your life don’t give a shit about your weight, and when they stare at you, it’s because they’re waiting for you to say something intelligent, insightful, or funny.

    Liked by 4 people

  3. Sorry for all the jerks 😦 . I was raised with the message that commenting negatively on someone else’s appearance is one of the most crass and vulgar things a person can do, on the level of racist/homophobic slurs. I don’t know what is wrong with people who act the way you describe. You are funny and creative and brilliant, too bad their minds are so narrow. {hugs}

    Liked by 3 people

  4. Assholes who have no idea what they’re missing with their egregious behavior — They deserve to be deprived of the joy of your company and your laser wit. Haters can go sit on a pin.


  5. Good God, people suck. You are one of my most favorite people ever, and if those fools knew anything, they’d be attempting to copy your style in the hopes it would mean they could be even a smidgen as cool as you are.

    It’s always surprising to me that there’s any standard for human beauty at all, since considered objectively, we’re a hideous, creepy-looking species at the best of times. All furless rubbery skin covered in oozing pores. Ugh.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Also, I got the same shit in Vietnam, and I weighed at least 25 pounds less than I do now. I was looking at this T-shirt in a store, and the woman ripped it out of my hands, screamed ‘No plus sizes!’ in my face, and ordered me out of the store.


    1. Some of the other people I was with got it too. Rose, Lori, and I did lakeside jazzercise with some old Vietnamese ladies one morning, and they thought we were all elephantine.

      With me, it was less like “you’re fat!” and more like “whoa, we honestly had no idea it was possible for a woman to grow so large in all directions!” Which somehow made it easier, if more circus-sideshow-freak-feeling.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I also got a lot of very earnest advice like, “You are surprisingly not fat for an American, but you must be very careful not to eat too much food. This is enough for one person, here.”

        Meanwhile, the fat guy I traveled with for awhile got people begging to rub his belly, because fatness in men is a sign of great prosperity and good fortune. Eyeroll.


  7. It’s self-hatred and fear that has people lashing out at each other. I am so sorry and embarrassed by the terrible behaviour of our fellow people. So hard to turn the mirror on ourselves.

    Thank you for this post.


  8. So aggravating. First, I am sorry people are jerks. Stop being jerks, all the people. Second, I don’t know what’s worse – when someone is mean, it hurts, but I can usually reassure myself that they are mean and have their own issues; when the person is “well-intentioned,” I somehow find it even more horrifying. Conclusion: take care of your self, and your body, and trust that others are doing the same, everyone.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. You are some serious amazing, Ms. Michelle.

    I’ll spend hours on my therapist’s couch coming to terms with the nasty things people have said about my figure over the course of my life, which in and of itself is dumb–it’s just a goddamned body, there have to be better things to worry about. And yet…here I am.

    You put it so eloquently, I may just show my therapist this post and save myself some cash. Thank you for writing about it, thank you for being your awesome self, and I’m sorry some people are dicks.


  10. I’ve heard stories about NYC.
    As a tall fat woman myself, I get stares, but I assume it’s also because I’m pretty darned good-looking (my mom told me so). Like, people are confused that it can all happen simultaneously. Or maybe I am in denial. Blissful denial.

    Fatty solidarity.


  11. Always the highlight of my day to read your posts. Seriously. Even your lowlights inspire me to be a bit more brilliant in my everyday. people suck. Your posts don’t. Keep the rants alive and if a girl ever finds her way to Quebec, Canada, we live on a lake, come for a boat ride. You have a been a part of our Saturday morning reading for so many years, we feel we know you. Thank you.

    Scott & Marc (Quebec, Canada)

    Liked by 1 person

  12. I was just in NYC for the first time and was afraid of encountering this, but didn’t (or else I’m too oblivious, which is totally possible).

    However: THIS, SO MUCH: ‘I feel the urge to make some claim here about weight-loss efforts I may or may not be making, to prove that I am not one of the “bad” fat people: fuck that shit.’


    1. Either way, I’m glad it didn’t happen-slash-wreck your trip.

      Also update: to the ladies on 21st Street who felt the need to yell about what a crazy experience it would be to motorboat me: thanks but no thanks.


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