Colleen Christi Willett


I officially unapologize for being too big. Too big physically, mentally and personally.

The most obvious way to frame this unapology is my physical size: I am a 5'6" woman who currently weighs close to the "dreaded" 200 lbs. I have been bigger. I have been smaller. Never small enough, of course. Because there never IS a small enough, is there? I am chubby, curvy, padded, living in that middle land between "regular" and "plus" size clothing. Oh, the relief to get a pair of "regular" sized pants! Because what is the "plus"? Plus...fat? Plus...shame? Plus...apologies.

I ran the NYC Half Marathon a few years ago. Yes, ran it. It was my third half marathon, and I was VERY excited to be running Manhattan with a good friend of mine. We headed over to the runners' expo the night before the race to pick up our numbered bibs and our "official" race tee shirts. The lines for the shirts were split up by size, and gender, from XS-XL. At a 12/14, I hopped into the L women's line, and figured I could always size up. By the time I got to the front of the line, my friend, who is smaller than me, was next to me complaining that the medium was too small for her. Fast forward - my friend, a size 8, had to go for the ladies' XL. Clearly, I wasn't able to get a ladies shirt, and was politely and awkwardly told to see if a men's shirt might work for me.

Which is total bullshit! I am a woman. I want the cute, sexy, fitted v-neck shirt, not the shapeless shirt meant for a man. The ability to wear a sexy tee shirt doesn't stop at a certain size. And the ability to run doesn't either. There were women and men of ALL SIZES AND SHAPES running along with me the next day. When I finished, I was surrounded by size 2s, 8s, 14s, 20s, and beyond.

Here's a secret: as someone who is big, who takes up more space than people are comfortable with, I explain a lot about my body. And my explanations are veiled apologies.

I will no longer apologize for running multiple half marathons (no, not walking).

Also, I want my goddamn cute fitted tee.

I will no longer apologize for eating healthy, wholesome food.

I will no longer apologize for having excellent health numbers.

I will no longer apologize for sleeping deeply, waking with no physical aches or pains, or for walking 8 miles a day.

I will no longer apologize for wearing stripes, or patterns, poofy skirts, fitted, sexy clothing, sparkly tops or whatever the fuck else "big girls" are not supposed to wear.

My bigness goes beyond my physical size, as well. I talk big, loud. I talk a lot. I listen, too. I have big ideas, crazy ideas, hard ideas. I had a friend lovingly tell me long ago to "get back in my box", meaning, of course, I was TOO BIG for whatever was happening. Too loud, too enthusiastic, gesturing too wildly.

I will no longer apologize for being present and enthusiastic in the moment.

I will no longer apologize and keep it down, for godsakes.

I will no longer apologize for great, big belly laughs when something tickles my soul.

The desire to be small, and to apologize for NOT being small runs deeply through my life and story, and my last stop is the brain train. I was, genuinely, a fat child and hung my hat on my smarts. My intelligence was my safety net and my blankie. I could wow adults by reading the same novels they were reading when I was a pre-teen. My favorite words were "pernicious" and "imbecile" and "behoove". With my peers, I had to dumb it down to survive, barely. I still apologize for my intellectual pursuits in subtle ways, and I won't anymore.

I will no longer apologize for not knowing what reality show someone is talking about.

I will no longer apologize for liking the book A LOT better than the movie. Like, A LOT.

I will no longer apologize for liking books better than movies, in general, frankly.

I am big. VERY BIG. If people don't like it, that's cool.

I am not sorry. Not anymore.

About the photo:

Singing has always been a significant part of my life, on many levels. One of the characters that I have always loved from musical theater is from the show “ On the 20th Century”, a drudge-turned-glamorous-movie-star whose escapades are showcased whilst on a moving train during the 1930s.

There’s a flashback scene early in the play, where mousy Mildred Plotka shows up to play piano accompaniment for the auditions of famous actresses. During the scene, Mildred, at first hesitantly, then with growing confidence, corrects the famous actress’s performance, and is ultimately drawn from behind the piano to the forefront. Mildred Plotka transforms before our eyes into Lily Garland as she belts out one of the show’s best numbers. I hoped to capture that feeling, of coming out of hiding, and into the foreground. It doesn’t hurt that Lily Garland was originally played by Madeline Kahn, a hero of mine, who embodied bigness (in her small body) and showed audiences that funny and big are damned sexy.