‘She’s fat. It’s a good thing she’s nice. Otherwise, no one would pay attention to her.’ They both giggled and left the restroom. I stayed in the stall, frozen. I knew I needed to blend in.’

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“‘Gosh, you have such a pretty face..’
‘You are so tall, like an Amazon woman!’
‘I am not sure if they sell clothes in your size, but we should be able to find something super cute.’
‘If you lost about 25 pounds you would be gorgeous.’
‘I can’t date you, you are exactly as tall as I am.’
‘You should join Beach Body/Drink Plexus. Join my gym. Really focus on walking and swimming. Avoid Carbs. Go Keto.’

My name is Kelli. I am 42 years old. I have been 5’10” since I was 12 years old and I am a plus size woman. All of the quotes above have been said to my face by others. And I have probably heard another thousand comments about my appearance, stature, and size.

Courtesy of Kelli J. Gavin

I became very aware at a young age that I wasn’t the most attractive child. What I didn’t possess in looks I made up for in personality. Exuding confidence, I began singing and performing which made me feel like I was amazing. I had big hair, often with a bad perm, and big glasses starting in 3rd grade and lasting until I was 13 years old. The summer before 9th grade, I met a boy, and then the glasses were hidden, only used for class and watching TV at home. I grew my hair out and started dressing better.

Courtesy of Kelli J. Gavin

Absolutely almost every kid goes through an awkward stage. Mine just seemed to last a bit longer. I was very tall in Junior High and towered over most of the boys. I realized that I needed to walk tall, shift my shoulders back, and smile as to draw any and all attention away from the rest of my body. The smile is what came easily. I love life. I enjoy all of it. Often, teachers would greet me with OH! Welcome Miss Smiles or Hello Sunshine! I also became very aware of the positive attention I received from everyone when I displayed an outgoing larger than life personality.

By the time I entered high school, I discovered drama and plays in addition to singing. I was very involved in my church youth group and enjoyed a great group of tight friends. I was often busy with after school activities and occasional dates, parties, and get togethers. I overheard one morning a conversation between two girls in the bathroom at school. ‘She is just so tall. It is a good thing she can sing and she is nice, otherwise no one would pay any attention to her.’ The other girl said, ‘Kelli is I guess a fat girl trying not to look fat.’ They both giggled and left the restroom. I stayed in that stall frozen. What? I knew I was tall. I knew I was nearing plus size. But I thought that was just me and didn’t involve anyone else. Did other people talk about me? Did people think I was overweight? Fat?

I went home and talked with my mom. I cried talking with her even though I didn’t want to. My mom had always carried extra weight on her. She was a lot shorter than I was and never had to deal with comments about being an Amazon woman. She said, ‘Never let the words of others become the truth about yourself that you believe. You are perfectly and wonderfully made. You are tall and beautiful and are becoming a real woman. Real women have curves. Real women don’t worry about what other people think. Real women are few and far between. Be the leader of other real woman. Not a follower of the little girls.’ I know that everything that my mother said, she said out of love and personal firsthand knowledge. But when she said it, I became even more aware of the fact that I was very different from the other perfect, small, very blond girls. And I wasn’t yet at a stage where I wanted to be different. I wanted to fit in. I wanted to blend in.

Courtesy of Kelli J. Gavin

I missed out on a few opportunities when I was in high school and in college that I was clearly qualified for, even overqualified for. I didn’t make it into a singing group in high school and then again in college. I was the same height and sometimes the same size as the boys, towered over the girls. I just didn’t fit in to the ‘aesthetic’ of the group, or so I was told by the directors of the groups. It had nothing to do with my talent, my experience, or ability.

Courtesy of Kelli J. Gavin

When I applied for a position at a financial institution, I was told that my appearance would be a great deterrent for ‘customers’ with shady motives. Was I a scary person? Did my height overwhelm or intimidate people?

My husband and I are exactly the same height. I wore flats at my wedding so that I wouldn’t be taller in the wedding pictures. Numerous people commented on my shoes. I thought they were beautiful. Cream with hand sewn pearls and perfectly pointed toes. ‘Oh, look at your shoes. So nice!’ ‘Perfect shoe choice.’ The comments weren’t really compliments at all. They were back-handed comments about the fact that I was wearing flats, as not to appear too tall.

Courtesy of Kelli J. Gavin

All these years later, and all the odd comments I have received in my lifetime, I have come to one realization. Size does matter. The height of a woman. The size of a woman. It matters. Not too big. Not too small. Just right in the middle.  If you are too small, you have an eating disorder. If you are too big, you must overindulge and have eating issues. If you are tall, you are intimidating. If you are short, you must be young or have a need to be taken care of. What? Where did these ideas come from?

Women just want to exist. We don’t want to be judged. We don’t want to have to worry that all the eyes in a room are on us, judging us. Deciding if we are too big or too small. If we are strong or weak. If we have an imposing stature or demeanor. We don’t want others to form opinions about us based on appearance.

Yes, I enjoy clothes and makeup and I want my hair to have more good days than bad. I wouldn’t describe myself as beautiful, but age has been kind to me. I do not want to be judged positively or negatively based on my physical appearance. When people see me, really see me, I want them to see my heart. I want them to see my love for others. How I care so much sometimes until it hurts. I want them to see that I love my kids, my husband, my friends, and family. That I have a great work ethic. That I don’t give up and I am able to always see what is good in every situation. I want them to see that I am enthralled with what life still has in store for me. I want them to know that what they think about me doesn’t matter. Because I know who I am. I am a woman who loves. I am a woman who is confident and doesn’t rely on the perceptions of others to make up my identity, my value.

Courtesy of Kelli J. Gavin

Size does matter in our world today. But I don’t plan on giving it any more worth than necessary. It might be because confidence sneaked in at an early age. I am grateful for that. And I have shared that confidence with my 11-year-old daughter. She is going to need it someday. The world can be a harsh place to dwell when size matters more than it should. But I will do my best to teach her she is beautiful and loved.”

Courtesy of Kelli J. Gavin

This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Kelli J. Gavin. You can follow her journey on her blog here. Submit your own story here and be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories.

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‘People went out of their way to ignore me, as if being fat was contagious. Others used me as a lesson for their kids. ‘Look! This is what happens when you don’t eat right!’ I couldn’t find happiness, so food was my escape.’

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