Dear Sean

I remember nearly every bad word used on me. In sixth grade Doreen Severs called me “chunky.” I was a round-faced, chubby kid. Her remark made me cry for forty days and forty nights.

DEAR SEAN:

What should I do when a boy calls me fat? I’m not super skinny or anything, but I’ve always thought I was regular.

I want guys to like me, but this guy called me fat and got me thinking I’m ugly and fat, and now I’m wondering what I should say back.

My mom told me to message you.

Thank you,
FIFTEEN IN ALABAMA

DEAR FIFTEEN:

First off: I’m going to tell you what my granny would’ve told me. Though you might not want to hear it—God knows I never did.

Compliment that hateful boy. Tell him how nice he looks. Make a remark about his shoes. Tell him he’s got lovely eyes. Anything sweet.

You don’t even have to mean it.

Of course, this is the last thing you want to do. But it’s an old rural trick which folks like Granny called: drowning outhouse flies in honey.

Something you don’t see many people do these days.

Listen, I wish I could tell you how to forget the insults, but that’s silly. You can’t forget them any more than you can forget being kicked in the teeth.

I remember nearly every bad word used on me. In sixth grade Doreen Severs called me “chunky.” I was a round-faced, chubby kid. Her remark made me cry for forty days and forty nights.

My mother forced me to approach Doreen the next day and tell her she had marvelous brown eyes.

I almost gagged on my words. But you should’ve seen Doreen’s face. You could’ve knocked her over with a residential lawn mower.

She never gave another lick of trouble.

The truth is, I don’t know much, but I can tell you the problem isn’t you. Neither is the problem the boy.

It’s much bigger than him.

In fact, it’s so big that it’s almost invisible. And it can be found in magazines, swimsuit ads, underwear commercials, or the internet.

Photos of girls who are a certain size, eyecolor, inseam, shoe size, bloodtype, astrological sign, and religious affiliation. They have edgy hairstyles, trendy clothes, perfect eyebrows, they eat rice cakes for a living.

And they’re about as real as a tooth fairy.

I’ve known a lot of stunning people who don’t fit the requirements of People Magazine.

Like my friend Bree. She had kidney disease. She underwent intense treatment and dwindled to eighty pounds.

Before she passed, she told me, “I used to think I was overweight in high school. Funny, when you’re dying, you’d give anything to be fat again.”

She left behind two kids and one husband. None of whom care what dress size she used to be.

I guess what I’m saying is:

You’re a girl. And this means the world is out to get you. It wants you unhappy. Miserable. Under-confident. And then it wants you to buy its magazines, makeup, and swimsuits.

But you can’t let it win. Because the fate of the female race rests on the shoulders of girls who have the gall to be themselves.

Tomorrow morning, march up to that dreadful boy and tell him he has lovely eyes.

You’re not fat, sweetie.

No way, no how.

31 comments

  1. Tori - May 23, 2017 1:02 pm

    My grandma had a similar philosophy–killing with kindness was a well taught trick in our household. Thank you, as always, for telling the stories of those who may not be heard otherwise. Happy Tuesday

    Reply
  2. Kati Rutherford - May 23, 2017 1:10 pm

    Good Morning –

    I have only been reading your column/posts for the past couple of weeks. A friend shared one on social media (I think) and I liked it enough to want to get the daily blog. When I have time this summer, I am planning to buy at least one or some or all of your books. I am a school counselor so during the school year, a daily blog is the best I can find time to read. I wanted to take a moment to say how much I appreciate your thoughts on life. I may not always agree but you certainly have made me think. I especially liked the post this morning in which you did your very best to empower a 15-year-old girl. I hope it helped her…I know it helped me to hopefully help all those other 15-year-old (and 14 and 17 and 13…) girls I work with everyday.

    Thanks, Kati

    Reply
  3. Laura Young - May 23, 2017 1:38 pm

    You are so right, Sean. I remember well being “not popular” in school. I remember being teased about “Homemade dresses” (during the years girls were not allowed to wear pants to school). My Mother put so much love in to those dresses but I yearned for a store bought dress because it would make me fit in better. I wonder why it takes so long to recognize the true value of “things” that others say are good, better, best. I also remember a time when I was much older that having a dress custom made was considered having reached the pinnacle of success. What a difference time – no, perspective, makes in our thinking.

    Reply
  4. Sharon - May 23, 2017 1:38 pm

    Thank you, Sean. I have delt with body image for about all my life. And, to a certain extent, I still do at age 63.

    Reply
  5. Jamie - May 23, 2017 1:45 pm

    Amazing ! Bravo !

    Reply
  6. Buck Godwin - May 23, 2017 1:47 pm

    Sean,
    You sure do have a lot of wisdom in your family!

    Reply
  7. Carol Goodson - May 23, 2017 1:51 pm

    I have been fat all my life, and thus have endured a lifetime of rejection. I do think it makes you stronger and more compassionate, even though it never stops hurting.

    Reply
  8. paula jones - May 23, 2017 1:56 pm

    BRAVO! Wish you could see the standing ovation I’m giving you.

    Reply
  9. Jan - May 23, 2017 1:57 pm

    True words to prosper and not to harm! Amen!

    Reply
  10. Ginger Johnson - May 23, 2017 1:57 pm

    My mother always told me to “kill them with kindness”. It was hard but in time it changed my heart, made me more compassionate and less likely to criticize.

    Reply
  11. Nedra Tucker - May 23, 2017 2:00 pm

    Good advice! Kill them with kindness!

    Reply
  12. Ken Baker - May 23, 2017 2:00 pm

    I have always been told “kill” them with kindness. Works everytime just like you have commented.

    Reply
  13. Ken Baker - May 23, 2017 2:02 pm

    Maybe “kill’ is not the best word to use but the intent was to use something that stops the bully from being a bully thru words.

    Reply
  14. Elizabeth - May 23, 2017 2:27 pm

    It absolutely makes my day to read your posts. This, as always, was beautiful.

    Reply
  15. Rev. Steve Baccus - May 23, 2017 2:47 pm

    Amen! You’re a pretty good ol’ boy, Sean.

    Reply
  16. Sandi - May 23, 2017 3:36 pm

    I give this article a high five and then two thumbs way up!

    Reply
  17. Anne Trawick - May 23, 2017 5:37 pm

    I fell in love with you today.

    Reply
  18. Michael Bishop - May 23, 2017 5:51 pm

    This is hardly original, but it’s heartfelt: Bravo! You refuse to say The Thing That Is Not (that is, a lie), but instead you speak the truth and do so tenderly. So, again: Bravo!

    Reply
  19. K. Coxwell - May 23, 2017 6:22 pm

    When I was in 7th grade (about 100 years ago) two boys in band called me Pigface. It hurt. Bad. I’ve never forgotten it. Wish I had had a Granny like yours to give me that great advice.
    I know exactly how the 15-year-old who wrote to you feels. You gave her excellent advice.

    Reply
  20. Kathy Lane - May 23, 2017 7:08 pm

    Brilliant and gracious and wonderful and smart!! Love drowning folks in honey- what a wonderful way to be- high road, high standards, high thoughts!! The world wants to draw us down in the mire-but to rise above the insults and those who insult is beyond this world!! Every day I read your column, it just makes my heart happy!! I am sharing with all the girls out there! Thanks for your wisdom and wit!

    Reply
  21. Diann - May 23, 2017 10:23 pm

    Perfect. Here in Montgomery, we call it “killin’ ’em with kindness”- but I kind of like your description too.

    Reply
  22. Susan Tolley - May 24, 2017 2:05 am

    I wish I’d had SOMEBODY to tell me I was good enough when I was an insecure child. Maybe I wouldn’t have married a sadistic, psycho and stayed for 25 years. Twenty five years of tearing myself apart trying to be “good enough”.

    Reply
  23. Michael Hawke - May 24, 2017 2:16 am

    Thank you.

    Reply
  24. Phil Benton - May 24, 2017 1:38 pm

    Here Here

    ” Don’t expect a free ride from no one
    Don’t hold a grudge or a chip and here’s why:
    Bitterness keeps you from flyin’
    Always stay humble and kind ”

    Lori Mckenna

    Even when others don’t !!!

    Reply
  25. Ben smith - July 17, 2017 10:52 am

    Awesome. Sticks and stones may brake your bones but words won’t hurt you at all. But I like what Sean said try it you don’t have anything too lose.

    Reply
  26. Deanna J - July 17, 2017 12:26 pm

    Best advice ever! He probably has a crush on her!! Kill them with kindness! Works every time

    Reply
  27. Debbi - July 17, 2017 2:54 pm

    My hero!

    Reply
  28. Wanda McGee - July 17, 2017 3:39 pm

    I have always been overweight and can still remember hurtful comments that were made to me in the 4th grade. My own Daddy told me once that I was ugly as a mud fence. Words can hurt a whole lot more than hands.

    Reply
  29. Clint Thompson - July 17, 2017 8:10 pm

    My Dad was a “bootlegger.” Some kids shunned me. They would have nothing to do with me. so, my Dad told me to “prove to ’em you can do anything they can do, only better.” I married my high school sweetheart. She was the prettiest girl in her class. I excelled in academics and sports. I went to UA and law school. I became a lawyer. To my point, don’t listen to the ‘mean kids.’ They have their own insecurities. Fifteen, I bet you end up being Class Beauty.

    Reply
  30. Cheryl Brown - July 17, 2017 9:17 pm

    I have been overweight all my life but was forrunate to have so many good friends in hig school i was only insultted seberal times during my youth but I still remember the hsteful words now at age 64.
    By the time I finished college (War Eagle) I through some positive reinforcement ( BBW magazine) I learned to be happy in the skin I was in and was very self confident in myself and the way I csrrief myself..very frw negative comments. Mid forties through a series of losses(loved ones and personal) I lost that confidence and hated myself and my self image
    Now with health problems I realixe it’s what you are on the inside that counts

    To the 15 year old follow Sean’s advice
    Then look in the mirror and love yourself
    Wear clothes that flatter you..fix your hair put on make-up
    Hold your heasd high shoulders back with a smile on your face..your self confidence will shine throigh and watch people’s attitude change!
    Thank you Sean…your writings are awesome and put into words my feelings anout living in our wonderful little corner of the world!

    Reply
  31. Annette Bailey - July 18, 2017 4:08 am

    Dear Sean….my Mom died last Momday and she only weighed 80 pounds. She was never big but when she got passed a size 14, she said she needed to push away from the table so she would lose weight. Then two years ago, she developed cancer. Six months ago, she lost weight so fast. She couldn’t eat more than a baby jar of food. She said she’d give anything to take her wish back….I would too. For I miss her terribly! I hate that we ladies feel insecure when we are bigger than what we once were in our younger days. But we wish to look nice. I just want to lose to be healthy now. Being overweight usually leads to high blood pressure, diabetes, etc. Being married to a pharmacist, I’ve seen people who have to take bags of meds or they will die. It’s usually for their heart, high BP, and many other problems. This little one made me cry because I fear she will always see herself as fat. But she needs to know how much she’s loved from her family to make her strong again. We don’t always know when things will turn sour in our life. Thank you for your posts though. I enjoy them so much…..I’m a true southern girl and love it.

    Reply

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