“The literary equivalent of a summer night, a good friend and a gin-and-tonic: Shannon is a deft writer; a natural storyteller with a wicked turn of phrase and frighteningly specific memory...”

Download Shannon's story, "Beautiful Boy, Brandon Lee," in its full length, excerpted from her book, Smash, Crash & Burn.

I’m the Fat Lady I Judged When I was 20 and I Like Her

My Guest Poster, Kathy Radigan, learned the hard way what happens when you judge fat people. And how life ends up sweeter than you could have imagined. She writes:

“I’m halfway through my 48th year on this planet. Or, as my 15-year-old loves to say, practically 50.

It seems like just yesterday, I was a 20-year-old acting student hanging out in Greenwich Village, drinking black coffee, and going to midnight showings of foreign films that I pretended I liked and understood because the guy I loved happened to like them.

I’ve often wondered what that young, insecure girl would think of the outspoken woman I’ve become. What would I tell her?

I decided to have a little fun today and write a letter to my 20-year-old self:

‘Hi Kathy,

Take off your shoes and sit down. I know your feet must be killing you. But you’re right, your legs do look thinner in three inch heels.

And, I must say, you do navigate the streets of Manhattan and the stairs in the subway stations pretty darn well in them. I’m impressed.

I’d like to tell you that your 48-year-old feet would appreciate it if you could lower the heel a bit, but I know you can’t imagine that far ahead.

That’s why I decided to write to you.

Do you remember seeing a woman walking on Central Park West the other day? She was with her husband and three kids. You noticed her beautiful red patent leather Coach bag and thought she was attractive for her age, but promised to kill yourself if you ever got that fat.

You also wondered how any woman who had a smidge of self respect could ever let herself go that far.

Well, I’m glad you are sitting down, because that’s you in 28 years.

Yes you were looking at your future.

I’ll give you a minute to stop crying.

You sure you don’t want a cup of yogurt or something? I know you haven’t eaten anything all day, and I’m thinking you might be a bit hungry. OK. I will stop trying to be your mother.

I saw you walking with your friend and checking every window to see if you looked fat. You don’t by the way. I know weighing 125 pounds is not something that feels remotely OK right now. I know you were afraid that everyone was looking at you and thinking you were fat and ugly.

They weren’t.

They were far too concerned with their own lives. And even if they were judging you, that’s not your problem. You don’t need to fit anyone’s ideal of what a woman should look like.

I know that boy was telling you something else. I know he told you if you cut your hair, lost weight, or wore different clothes, he’d be more attracted to you.

News flash! He’s gay.

Yes, I know you know that. But trust me, no matter what he tells you, you are never going to be what he wants. Save yourself some time and move on. I know you think he is the only person you will ever love. Trust me, he is not.

You have a few more frogs to kiss, but in about five years you are going to meet the love of your life.

I should tell you right now he is not the type of guy you think you are going to end up with. He is not flashy, he is just a nice guy.

I know that’s the kiss-of-death for any man you meet right now, but in a few years you are going to want to be with someone who is stable and has a regular job.

He loves you for who you are and thinks you are beautiful no matter what size you are.

He is not going to swoop down and save you in the way that the knight in shining armor does in the fairy tales. You’re going to have to save yourself first and start your own life.

Don’t worry, you do.

You’ll go through many of life’s ups and downs with this man. There are going to be some extremely painful times when you will wish the world swallows you up whole. He’s going to be by your side and you’re going to be by his.

I know you’re afraid of opening your mouth and letting people know the real you. I know it feels easier to just do what you think people want you to do.

In reality, it only prolongs the pain. Start speaking up. Today.

Those people who don’t like it aren’t worth your time. Let me let you in on a secret. There are some people who are just not going to like you.

As you get older, you start caring about them less and less and start concentrating on the people who do.

Kathy, you end up getting everything you want.

It just turns out that what you want today at 20 isn’t what’s going to end up being evenly remotely important to you when you’re 48.

Relax. Enjoy being young. Don’t wish your life away.

And when you are about to turn 30 and are trying to capture a bit of your “youth,” listen to the sales lady at Bloomingdales and don’t spend $30 on the black lipstick. Trust me.'”

Kathy Radigan Headshot.postKathy Radigan is a writer, blogger, social media addict, mom to three, wife to one and owner of a possessed appliance. She posts a weekly essay each Sunday on her blog, My dishwasher’s possessed! and has had her writing featured in, What to Expect, BlogHer, Mamapedia, and other publications. She is a contributing author to Sunshine After the Storm: a survival guide for the grieving mother and The HerStories Project: Women Explore the Joy, Pain and Power of Female Friendship. You can follow her on Facebook, and Twitter.

Tags assigned to this article:
fat peopleyounger self

28 comments

Write a comment
  1. Kathy Radigan
    Kathy Radigan 7 July, 2014, 08:58

    Thank you so much for welcoming me in your “home” today! Just thrilled!!

    Reply this comment
  2. Sharon Greenthal
    Sharon Greenthal 7 July, 2014, 09:41

    If only we could all go back and tell ourselves to appreciate our natural, youthful beautiful selves. It’s really one of the great mistakes that so many women make – this constant self-loathing. Thank goodness at midlife I’ve been able to let that all go.

    Reply this comment
  3. Lisa R. Petty
    Lisa R. Petty 7 July, 2014, 09:43

    I just started writing a book something like this — letters to my young self. I thought I was fat when I weighed 105. 🙂 Little did I know… 🙂

    Reply this comment
  4. Kathy Radigan
    Kathy Radigan 7 July, 2014, 09:50

    Sharon I really find it so sad how much time I spent hating my body back then. And so much time caring what others think of me and my looks. You are right, as we get older we really can let a lot of that go and that is so healthy!!!

    Reply this comment
  5. Brooke Sarro
    Brooke Sarro 7 July, 2014, 09:57

    Great read!!!

    Reply this comment
    • Shannon
      Shannon Author 7 July, 2014, 15:05

      I loved “he’s gay.” I had one of those young men in college. I think kissing me may have finally brought him out of the closet.

      Reply this comment
  6. Parri (Her Royal Thighness)
    Parri (Her Royal Thighness) 7 July, 2014, 11:49

    What an absolutely endearing letter! It’s funny. I, too, have recently toyed with the idea of writing a letter to my young self! Hey, I think we led parallel lives: I’m three years older than you, but I, too, went to NY after college to be an actress. I love this piece. I love the certainty with which you tell your younger self to speak up, stop trying to fit into the ideals of others … and that sometimes what you want at 20 is not what you want or need at 48. FABULOUS ending! I love your writing, Kathy, because you are so honest and so authentic!

    Reply this comment
  7. Carrie @ poet in the pantry
    Carrie @ poet in the pantry 7 July, 2014, 12:13

    Loved this, Kathy! And so true! If we only knew then what we know now, we would save ourselves a lot of wasted energy and anguish. But part of the reason why we’re who we are now is that journey, right? (Now my head is starting to hurt…)

    Reply this comment
  8. The Dose of Reality
    The Dose of Reality 7 July, 2014, 13:09

    Oh, GIRL!! You are *so* talking to 20 years ago Lisa, too. I see pictures of myself back then and WOW…but at the time I thought I was huge. Oh, to be so “huge” now. I didn’t appreciate my young and spectacular body when I had it. No wrinkles…or spider veins…it was fantastic. What a waste of time and emotion to have been unhappy then with my body! GAH!!
    I’m trying to get a grip on that because hopefully one day I’ll be 66 year old Lisa and will want to tell 46 year old Lisa (my age now) that she’s really not doing too bad yet either and she ought to appreciate having knees and hips that work (or something). Great post, Kathy!! –Lisa

    Reply this comment
    • Shannon
      Shannon Author 7 July, 2014, 15:06

      Ladies — I recently saw a post or cartoon somewhere that read, “I only wish I weighed the same amount I did the first time I thought I was fat.”

      Reply this comment
  9. Stephanie
    Stephanie 7 July, 2014, 13:16

    “It just turns out that what you want today at 20 isn’t what’s going to end up being evenly remotely important to you when you’re 48.”

    Or at 34, I’m finding out…in November. 😉

    There are days where I almost feel sad for these teenaged girls and early 20-somethings because they have no idea what really “fills them up,” yet. It’s not children and a husband for everyone, but it surely isn’t pretty hair and fake tans, right?!

    Reply this comment
  10. Meredith Spidel
    Meredith Spidel 7 July, 2014, 14:59

    Kathy, you are such a smart lady. I just wish I could bottle you up and send you back to my younger self–xoxo.

    Reply this comment
  11. Kathy Radigan
    Kathy Radigan 7 July, 2014, 16:13

    Lisa it’s crazy isn’t it? What we do to ourselves!! Can’t wait to read your book!!

    Reply this comment
  12. Kathy Radigan
    Kathy Radigan 7 July, 2014, 16:17

    That’s really the rub isn’t it, we tend to get all this wisdom once we get older. Meredith to be honest had I really visited my 20 something self I would have been so horrified I wouldn’t have listened to a thing I said! Lol! Thanks so much for coming over!! xoxo

    Reply this comment
  13. Kathy Radigan
    Kathy Radigan 7 July, 2014, 16:20

    Lisa you make a great point, now that I know the truth I really should be enjoying my 48 year old face and boobs because they aren’t going to be looking the same when I’m 68!!! Thanks so much for coming over!!! xoxo

    Reply this comment
  14. Kathy Radigan
    Kathy Radigan 7 July, 2014, 16:23

    Shannon chances are if I liked a guy in my teens and early twenties they were gay. I was the girl a lot of them came out too! I guess I just had that effect on men back then!!! Lol!

    Reply this comment
  15. Vicky
    Vicky 7 July, 2014, 17:11

    Yet again, you have knocked it out of the park, Kathy. I’ve seen the “letter to my past self” done before but never as eloquently and honestly as you have. Well done!! And for what it’s worth, I know I’ve only known you as “practically 50” but I’m proud to say this Kathy is pretty dam awesome!!
    Vicky

    Reply this comment
  16. KymberlyFunFit
    KymberlyFunFit 7 July, 2014, 17:12

    I had three “boyfriends” in a row who later came out as gay. I must have had a lot of power back in the day. Not sure what kind of power, but effective nonetheless. Fun story that is totally worthy of a post on this high class and always well written TWFKAB real estate.

    Reply this comment
  17. Dani Ryan
    Dani Ryan 7 July, 2014, 17:46

    Oh Kathy, I loved this! And you are so right about the whole weight thing. I used to OBSESS about how I looked, and I thought it was really important, but guess what? It’s not.

    So happy your life turned out as awesome as it did. 😉

    xo

    Reply this comment
  18. Debbie McCormick
    Debbie McCormick 7 July, 2014, 18:27

    I…LOVE this. If only we COULD go back and tell our younger selves some things. Boy would I give “me” an ear full!

    Reply this comment
  19. Val Newman
    Val Newman 8 July, 2014, 04:57

    We could all benefit from writing to our younger selves.

    Val

    Reply this comment
  20. Joy Page Manuel
    Joy Page Manuel 8 July, 2014, 08:29

    Funny, endearing, and most of all, very wise! Thank you for this post, Kathy! It’s amazing how much we really learn through the years if we are willing and open. Life is good! :-))

    Reply this comment
  21. Norine of Science of Parenthood
    Norine of Science of Parenthood 8 July, 2014, 10:17

    Good call on all of it! Especially the black lipstick. 😉

    Reply this comment
  22. Andrea Brovetto
    Andrea Brovetto 12 July, 2014, 15:58

    Great Post Kathy! You were and still are beautiful! Glad you didn’t buy the Black Lipstick!

    Reply this comment
  23. nancy@skinnykitchen.com
    nancy@skinnykitchen.com 12 July, 2014, 21:43

    Kathy your posts never disappoint. They are always fantastic, funny and oh so true. Love this one!!!

    Reply this comment
  24. Andrea B (@goodgirlgonered)
    Andrea B (@goodgirlgonered) 14 July, 2014, 16:43

    I finally got around to reading this and how I love it so. It’s so beautifully written and truly real. Thank you, Kathy, for sharing your thoughts and world with us, and thank you, Shannon, for letting her borrow your space here to do so. If only all the young “girls” of the world could get this message.

    Reply this comment
  25. Jennifer Quinn
    Jennifer Quinn 20 August, 2014, 08:30

    I’m a new reader, Kathy – but this won’t be the last thing I read of yours 🙂 I love how you capture the truth of aging, and the naivety of youth. It’s true what they say, isn’t it? Youth is wasted on the young…when I heard that as a young adult I THOUGHT it wasn’t wasted on me. Oh, but it was. It was.

    Reply this comment

Write a Comment

Your e-mail address will not be published.
Required fields are marked*