When I was born, I weighed 18 lbs. My mother thought she was carrying twins. No, it's not a joke. As a baby, I looked like I had rubber bands around my wrists. I hit triple digits at the age of 6. Today, I'm 5'10" and weight 375 lbs. I'm not obese. I'm not chubby. I'm not big-boned. I'm a fatass.

You know who I am, and I know you. We've seen each other, walking through the halls, driving down the street. Perhaps we made eye contact, but looked away. It was a look that said "I know your pain, your struggle. I've shared it." Growing up with Weight Watchers, going from one fad diet to another as if they were hair styles or designer jeans. Having to listen to one well-meaning person after another describe their technique for weight loss. Worst of all: being told time and time again that there is something wrong with us, that we're not "normal."

I'm a fatass. I weigh 375 lbs and I'm perfectly healthy. My blood pressure is normal, my colesterol count: normal, my EKG: normal. I didn't start out skinny and get fatter over time, I was born this way, so how can anyone say that I'm not healthy? I enjoy exercise. I work out with weights. I dance. I take brisk walks. I eat no differently than any of the skinny people I know. They don't count calories, so why should I?

They say we're a growing part of the population, but I disagree. True, more and more people are starting out skinny and growing fat as they get older. Many are former athletes who started putting on weight when they stopped exercising. But we, the true fatasses, are a different breed altogether. We know how to carry ourselves. We stand up straight, we walk fast, we don't complain about once being sports heroes or prom queens before "letting ourselves go." Ours is a pain totally different.

I'm tired of having to apologize when somebody isn't paying attention and bumps into me. I'm tired of spending $80 minimum for a decent pair of jeans. I'm tired of not being able to go on roller coasters because the seats aren't wide enough. I'm tired of people commenting on how "lazy" I am, how I should get more exercise. And most of all, I'm tired of that self-satisfied, superior leer that says "I'm better than you because I was born skinny."

When I was younger, kids used to ridicule me because of my size, now they just don't mention it, like it's some kind of dirty secret. And we treat each other no better. Like 40-year-old men in brown trenchcoats walking in and out of adult bookstores, we've learned not to make eye contact, not to greet each other, not to try to recognize one another if we meet on the street. It's something to be ashamed of, so we don't talk about it, can't talk about it, like a secret sin that everyone knows, but no one acknowledges.

I'm not saying we should rise up, lobby Congress and demand our priviliges as a "minority." I'm not saying we should form community groups or go marching on "Fatass Pride Day." Maybe it's just time we grew up, learned that being fat is the way we are, that it's not something to be ashamed of. I want to be able to meet my fellow fatasses on the street, look them squarely in the eye, and know that we have something in common.

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