We’re Not in High School Any More

I’ve mentioned before that in high school, I got picked on for being fat. I don’t remember many specific moments, but I do have memories of certain people (all boys) being particularly mean.

Sometime during college, I was home for the summer and ran into one of those people. Not to talk to – we just saw each other in passing, and did not acknowledge each other. Later, that guy talked to a very good friend of mine, and told her that he had been scared to see me, because he’d been so mean to me in high school. I thought that was pretty hilarious. He was a couple of years older than me, and a very popular athlete. The idea that his behavior to me in school would cause him guilt several years later was interesting and unexpected.

I saw him again yesterday, for the first time in over fifteen years. We made eye contact a few times, and then he said hello and I went over and he gave me a big hug. We talked for awhile, comparing notes about our lives since high school. I met his wife. We parted ways with another hug. He’s a really nice guy now. It’s good to know that the people who are bullies and jerks in high school don’t always grow up to be bullies and jerks as adults.

Interestingly, he’s put on quite a bit of weight since high school. Because of it, it actually took me a minute to realize who he was. I’d be willing to bet that the experience of being fat himself has given him a new perspective on what it was like to be me, twenty years ago, just trying to walk to class without being judged, heckled, and teased.

It’s easy to judge other people. But the truth is, you don’t know why any other person looks the way they do. Just take a look at the comments on any post about weight issues, and you’ll see how easy it is to judge why someone is fat. We’re lazy, unmotivated, stupid, gluttonous. If we would just “try,” we could be thin. Judgement is particularly easy when you’re hiding behind a computer screen.

We should all take a lesson from my old high school friend, and learn to embrace each other, without judgement. It would make the world a safer place for each unique body on this planet. Plus, hugs feel good!