As I dressed myself for work today, I couldn’t get Hunger, Roxane Gay’s searingly personal memoir of her body, out of my mind. Since growing fat, I’ve made so many negotiations with myself, and no, not all of them have been about ‘losing it’. I’ve tried, so hard, not to lose myself. By which I mean, me, in spite of fat. Me, because of fat. Me, a being capable of cruelty and innovation and all (in)human caprice, with fat as a reality, no more or less profound than my long eyelashes, my big nose, my hairy forearms. To even address this, my fat, feels wrong. It is, after all, the conversation I’m told I should never have in public. It’s a shaming I’m meant to only have with myself. Perhaps I will always be having it. I would, one day, like to know what it means to speak into the mirror of me without shame. Hunger helped. Helps, now.

Yes, I feel many things other than fat shame. Fat defiance, for one. Fat rage. Fat weariness. That’s different from being tired of being fat. I’m tired at having to defend myself from the censure of people who other me for my fatness, who side-eye and scorn my existence. Openly.

There are people who’ve lost hundreds of pounds, and yet feel their ‘ghost fat’ riding them like an inconvenient, untameable horse. People who are never certain exactly how much space their bodies take up in public, whether they have the bravery to squeeze into that seat, ascend that flight of stairs, fold themselves up in biddable crumples in bank queues or Subway lines. People who are afraid to eat in food courts because they’re fat. People who’re afraid to be pregnant because they’re fat. People who hoard their wedding photos in private folders, because fat. People who simply don’t show up, because fat.

No, this is not the only fat narrative. I’m an expert in no one else’s journey with fatness except my own. I can tell you, frankly and without fear, that there is fat joy, as much as that’s an affront to many people. There is fat, copious, generous, glowing self-acceptance. There is fat dancing. Fat flexing! Fat gyrations of greatness. Like everything else, it costs. Like everything else, the exact measure of what it takes to make yourself happy while fat, is an imprecise, wobbly science. It all comes down to what you see when you behold yourself in the mirror, what parts of you say, ’Today, you’re worthy of a little fat love.’

Shivanee Ramlochan’s first book of poems, Everyone Knows I am A Haunting, was published in 2017 by Peepal Tree Press.