How My Middle School Teacher Shaped My Personal Style

She embarrassed me and made me hate my body, yet fueled my fire to become a fat chick who wears whatever the hell she wants.

Elizabeth Fever
Jun 6 · 3 min read
The author today — photograph thanks to Quarter Moon Co.

I gave a presentation, a speech if you will, in front of the class. Public speaking has never been my favorite thing, and I tend to get nervous before talking to a group. At this point in my life, I can get into a groove and be great in front of an audience. At the age of 12, I was terrified to talk in front of my peers. I made it through the presentation, but was called back to the classroom during lunch.

My teacher gave me a lecture about how I needed to dress more appropriately when presenting in front of the class. I was a chubby(ish) 12 year old girl wearing jeans and a Simpsons t-shirt. She said that I looked sloppy, and that my stomach was peeking out of my shirt during my talk. She felt that was horribly inappropriate. Everyone else was wearing something similar… we were kids for goodness’ sake! What had a done wrong?

I remember leaving the classroom burning hot, wanting to cry, but instead, I went back to the lunchroom and got on with my day. I tried to put this conversation far, far from my mind. I know for a fact I didn’t tell my parents (hi mom!) or my sister or my friends. I have never really told anyone this story until today. Teachers shape their students, and this teacher made me hate my awkward middle-school body more than I already did.

Bullying is a huge topic of concern for school-aged children in the 21st century, yet no one seems to discuss the idea of teacher-student bullying that may go on. I like to believe that my teacher didn’t mean these things in a malicious way, and I can assume good intent. However, no one gave me the tools to be able to stand up for myself, or talk about ways that adults might have upset me. I trusted them and obeyed them, no matter what.

My dressing habits from that day forward were impacted by this incident. I spent many years covering my body, wearing a tank top under every garment to concealing my stomach. But since this incident occurred about 15 years ago, my style has totally evolved. I went from the girl who wore strictly jeans and t-shirts to a total fashion lover who tries new styles, embraces her VBO (visible belly outline) and shows off every part of her personality through clothing.

When I think back on this now, I laugh a bit. I know for a fact that I was called out by this instructor because of my size. My belly was peeking out, and had it been flat, no one would have said a damn thing. Still, to this day, I get called out for some of my fashion choices — things are too tight, show too much belly, or aren’t appropriate for my small-fat body. Too bad. I am no longer afraid to show my belly, show my body, give it love and appreciate this amazing vessel that carries me through life.

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Elizabeth Fever

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almost-30, higher education advocate, fashionable small fat, learning to write again.