Dear Young Man:

As I was walking to my car after work today I saw you and your group of high school friends approaching me on the sidewalk. You might not know this but often women purposely avoid making eye contact with men on the street to avoid unwanted comments and attention. I, however, looked at you and your friends and smiled and said hi. You, unfortunately, decided to take that as an open invitation to call me a fat bitch after I walked past.

As I drove home I couldn’t stop thinking about you and the words you said to me. Here are a few things I’d like to tell you.

I’m sorry that you’ve learned from a young age that commenting on women’s appearances is OK. I know you learned this behavior from various media outlets and even the men in your own life that modeled this. I’m sorry that you haven’t yet learned that words matter and words hurt.

I’m sorry that the word FAT has such a negative connotation in our society. I’m sorry that you think that three letter word means something about my morality. I hope that someday someone tells you about the body positive movement and you come to understand that while I may be FAT, I am NOT fat. I am so much more.

I’m sorry that I’m way more upset about being called fat than being called a bitch. You see, the word fat has the power to cripple women, to make us feel unworthy of love (or anything), to “put us in our place.” I know I’m not a bitch but deep down I am insecure about being overweight. I’m sorry you felt the desire to remind me of that.

I’m sorry that you don’t know that you can be fit AND fat. In fact, I can dead lift more than you weigh, thankyouverymuch (my personal best is 225 pounds). Weight is not necessarily an indicator of someone’s athletic ability. I’m sorry that it probably never even occurred to you that I go to the gym.

I’m sorry that you also haven’t developed the ability to empathize with others. You must have a female figure in your life that you love. What if I was that female figure? Would you ever dare to call her a fat bitch? Then why use that term with anyone else? A little empathy and compassion go a long way in this life.

Lastly, I’m sorry that this body that grew a human being and survived a traumatic birth experience offends you so greatly. I’m sorry that my daughter is growing up in a society where men like you think it’s OK to degrade women. I’m sorry you got a sick power trip off of putting me down.

But I forgive you. I forgive you because you haven’t had someone in your life to model positive behavior, to tell you that treating women in this way is not cool. I forgive you because I’m no longer my 13-year-old self that after being called Free Willy at the town pool never regained the confidence to go to pool parties. I forgive you because I know that I’m more than the word fat.

With Compassion,