Let me begin by saying that your actions this evening were not appreciated.
I love running. I try to do a bit of running each day. Most days I get a 1/2 mile in before work. On particularly good days when my knees aren't hurting and my shins aren't beginning to ache in a way that makes me wonder how I'll manage to get up the stairs at the end of my run, and when it's hot enough that I'm finally feeling warm just being in the sunshine but not so humid I feel like I'm swimming through the air, I can get in another 1 1/2 to 1 3/4 miles after work.
And that's what I was doing this evening.
In my running shorts (which I finally realize are NOT a fashion statement but serious exercise equipment) and my two-sizes-too-big cami and my beloved Brooks.
And this is where I was this evening, a half mile into my run, when you showed up.
I love running. For me, running is a meditative act. It is a time when I am fully present in the moment. All that matters is this moment, this breath, this step.
I love running. When I am running, I feel strong, confident, and powerful. I love those feelings even if I cannot yet carry them over into other areas of my life.
There are very few things that can pull me out of this meditative state. One is most certainly traffic, because body shame runs deep and is taught to women beginning in their girlhood and it is something we will likely battle for the remainder of our lives. I understand we have begun teaching this body shame to men and boys in recent years, and this makes me sad.
But, there you have it. A car on the roadway will usually snap me into a state of self-conscious awareness of what I might look like to the individual driving past and what might they be thinking and what business does a fat girl have running anyway, slightly thinner or not?
Because I am self-aware, because I know that this is where my mind tends to go; because I know that this is my struggle, I can acknowledge that vehicle on the roadway, I can acknowledge the feelings it evokes, and I can re-center myself on this moment, this foot fall, this breath before our paths actually cross.
Not so this evening.
Whereas most cars will continue on their way at 55 or 60 mph, crossing the center line to give me a wider berth, you slowed down to about 30 mph. And then, you turned your head and leered at me as you passed by.
Let me tell you a few things about myself so that you can know me more as a human being rather than merely as an object of your leering gaze.
Although I was mistaken for a high school student as little as a month ago, I'm 32 years old. (That many people remark upon my youthful appearance and believe that I must be younger than I am, if you're among those who cannot tell my true age, your leering makes you an even bigger creeper).
Because I am in my 30s, let me assure you, I am not working off a little extra baby fat. I've lost 98 lbs since I started making lifestyle changes 11 months ago. This weight loss has carried a heavy burden.
Beneath my short running shorts and two-sizes-too-big cami, I carry loose, saggy, and rather wrinkled extra skin that bears the marks of having recently been stretched over a great deal more body. Rather than my skin holding my body together, it seems that my body is holding onto my skin.
Furthermore, beneath that loose, saggy, wrinkled skin, I'm carrying another 88 lbs of wobbly, gelatinous, excess fat. And as I run, it wobbles and jiggles like Jell-o; the saggy fat filled pockets of skin across my abdomen swaying from side to side like a flesh-toned, silent metronome. You could pull out an instrument and time music to its swy. I'd recommend a funeral dirge, considering my incredibly slow pace.
Additionally, I am fully confident that were I one of those women who felt comfortable running in nothing but tiny shorts and a sports bra, rather than slowing down and leering, you would have instead averted your eyes, sped up, and fervently prayed, "Dear God Almighty, please burn that image from my retinas."
As it happens, your slowing down and leering not only pulled me out of my meditative state and evoked feelings of self-consciousness and body shame, it also left me feeling vulnerable, at best, weak and terrified, at worst. Which, given the culture in which we live, I imagine was, if not your intent, certainly an effect of which you cannot be unaware.
Having this effect on women does not make you strong, powerful, masculine, macho, or important. Engaging in these behaviors with the intent to frighten women makes you a bully; someone who is dangerous and threatening.
In the event that you are simply willfully ignorant of how your behaviors dehumanize and objectify women (and which, as a result, can be quite frightening to the women at whom you leer), you're just a garden variety douche-bag.
So, please, the next time you see me running along the side of the road, do not slow down, do not leer, do not watch me in your rear view mirror. Keep your eyes on the road! It's safer that way for you as a driver anyhow.
Do that and rather than being disgusted by and frightened of you, I might instead respect you and appreciate the respect you've shown me.
A Slightly Thinner Fat Girl, running