Editor's Note: This is a general open letter, meaning it is not targeting one person in particular. I have since made peace with the man who posted the original photo, though I can't say the same for his disgusting followers. Naturally, I do direct some of my comments to the men who made the comments below, but it is intended to be more of a general statement to past, present and future trolls who say similar things to me and other women like me.
Dear Internet Troll,
Happy New Year. I hope you had a wonderful holiday season and the blackness of your soul didn't prevent you from engaging in some festive cheer. Quite frankly, I initially couldn't imagine anyone wanting to spend time with you due to the disgusting comments about people that must spew forth from your mouth daily, but then I remembered that you probably don't even have the courage to say out loud half of the things that you can so boldly write when you're hiding behind your computer or phone screen.
It's not my first time at the rodeo with your kind. In fact people seem to be under the assumption that somehow working as a model or fashion blogger or even sharing a photo of yourself on your Facebook page somehow opens one up to the potential to be barraged with hateful comments. On a normal day, I delete your comments, ban a select few who go too far or simply roll my eyes at your ridiculousness.
But then there are those days, when I pick up my phone because I get a notification that a photo of me , as part of a meme someone else created, and what was seemingly meant to be a message of self-acceptance, has been shared on some man's Instagram with his thousands of followers.
Whereas I'm minding my business, worrying about what's my next move in life and how to stay positive in 2014, one of your kind -- a supposed health & fitness professional whose job is to inspire and teach people to live a healthy life -- decided it was a good idea to discuss whether or not a woman like myself, at my size, could be deemed attractive.
You can see the full post here, but here were just a few of the comments:
Now, whether these "men" think I am attractive or would "smash" (as if you could be so lucky) is neither here nor there. I don't need anyone to tell me I'm attractive or that I'm worthy of love -- my spirit, my self worth, my friends and family, my fiance and most importantly, my God, tell me every day that I am much more than my looks. I realize I am in a profession based on it, but as any model will tell you, most of us are picked apart daily in such a way that some day,s it's all we can do to tell the woman staring back at us "you look nice today." Over the years, I've developed a tough skin.
But to see more than 100 comments from men mentioning God, from men with daughters and girlfriends. Men posting photos of the children in their lives and then writing that fat people are demons or claiming that I NEED JESUS. Well, that's where I draw the line.
Let me school you on a few things, "gentlemen," before I sign off tonight and put this behind me:
1. ) Above all else, it is I and the rest of the normal world that prays for people like you, because realistically speaking, people who are comfortable with themselves ... who lead happy, fulfilling and successful lives, rarely, if ever, find reward and respite from making fun of another person's body on social media.
2.) In that same vein, I also want to thank you for teaching me a lesson. Sometimes we see these memes floating around, like the one that someone created of me and 2 other models, and there are people on there who have not consented to be in the photo but have become victims of ridicule as part of your "debates". People who have feelings and lead lives and are trying to navigate the day to day hardships of this world. We do not realize that we are laughing at their expense. I too have been guilty of chuckling at funny memes of awkward families or unflattering photos and I will try my best, going forward, to avoid derogatory posts and the sharing of anything that engages in the like. In your ignorance, I have found enlightenment.
3.) Despite the fact that I do have someone in my life who loves me and respects me and has asked me to be his wife, my goal is not for men to find me attractive or to have someone "put a ring on it." I do not strive to be the object of your sad affections, especially considering your thoughts on women. I pity the woman who lays her head next to you at night. Sister, I hope you set him straight and I pray that he does not abuse you as he does strangers.
What I strive for is to be smarter, to work harder, to improve upon my craft, to be a good friend, daughter, sister and partner, to leave a small mark of positivity in this world. To live a good life.
4.) Finally, you do not know me or my journey. At the time that photo was taken, I had just begun my own personal journey to live a healthier life. Not just to lose weight necessarily, but to replace my bad habits -- negative thinking, self-hatred, poor sleeping habits, lack of exercise, etc -- with better ones. Since that time, I've lost about 40lbs, run four 5Ks, shaved 3 minutes off my mile, completed training at a a pro-athlete facility and spent a year participating in CrossFit, my new great love. But guess what? Even then, I still felt happy with myself and beautiful. I still loved me.
I am hardly perfect. But I mention these things to show that my life is more than your vanity and your thinly-veiled "concern" for my health and well-being. Save the BS, no one is buying it.
I do not (currently) have a six pack like so many of you commenters very well may. But what I do have, which is far more important to me than a physical attribute, is love and self-respect. What I also have is basic compassion for my fellow humans enough to not suggest that someone who I don't find aesthetically pleasing is a demon or should be burned.
What I have, to which no six-pack or defined muscle can ever compare, is my dignity.
I cannot say the same for many of you.
Love and light,
FULL DISCLOSURE: My first response on Instagram, written in anger and the initial sting of their words, was not quite as thoughtful or without profanity. I said some things I probably should not have. My only regret is that I used the small anatomy comment on a guy who wasn't as deserving as some of the others. Oh well. #SorryImNotSorry
*Update: The man who posted the photo has since apologized on behalf of himself and his commenters. Another commenter I tagged has since told me it was all "banter" and "jokes". Ha. Ha.
*Update 2: The man who posted the photo has decided to take it down as a response to the feedback from myself and those who came to my defense. I don't know if it's a victory or if it was better that it was left up there. Regardless, I appreciate his openness to our point of view.