*This is a work of nonfiction based on actual events I experienced firsthand; used with permission.
I considered quitting my job before I even started.
I was eighteen years old when I applied for my first proper job. To my surprise, I got hired. I didn't know what to expect when I showed up for my first day of work, but I didn't expect to be insulted.
My first real job was working as a teller at a local bank branch. The branch manager who hired me was a married middle-aged man who moonlighted as a fashion designer. I didn't get any sort of vibe from him. He asked me questions; I answered them, and I got the job.
Then I met his second-in-command. She was a thirty-something mother-of-two who weighed north of three hundred pounds. I don't mention her weight to shame her; I mention it because I'm still trying to figure out why she called me fat when I weighed in at one hundred and thirty-five pounds.
I hadn't been on the job for over five minutes when this woman leaned in and whispered, "I'm so happy he hired you. I was afraid he would hire someone thin and pretty."
It took little to bring me to tears when I was eighteen. I blinked my eyes and tried to swallow the lump in my throat while hoping I had heard the woman incorrectly. "What?" I asked.
I immediately regretted asking.
"The manager had two applicants. One was you. The other one was hot. I thought he would pick the hot one, but he didn't. He picked you."
I stared straight ahead; I was dumbstruck.
"I begged him to hire you," she said. "You're fat and ugly," she bulldozed, "like me."
I was horrified when my new coworker told me she didn't think the manager would hire me because of my lackluster looks. We were bank tellers, not fashion models.
Well, that was clear. Until that moment, I thought I was average at worst. Sure, sometimes I felt fat, but...
I didn't bother trying to correct her. I didn't want to hug her or bond over the fact that we were both fat girls who happened to be sitting in the same room. I wanted to tell her she was wrong but was she?
Before I could say anything, she added, "We need more chubby girls working here." By this point, another coworker had joined us and appeared horrified by our conversation. I was mortified; my face must have turned five shades of red before I gathered myself enough to get up and walk away.
My first day at work ended with tears streaming down my face while I cursed under my breath. This woman made me feel like my size was a flaw, but her behavior made it clear that she was the one with the problem.
She didn't know me, and I wasn't about to stick around and be insulted by someone who had no desire to get to know me.
It quickly became apparent that this woman had little interest in getting to know me as anything more than an overweight coworker who seemed okay enough until you took into consideration how fat she was. What should have been an opportunity for two girls at opposite ends of the weight spectrum to form some sort of friendship felt like an opportunity for two girls at opposite ends of the weight spectrum to tear down each other.
I'm still not sure what she wanted me to say that day when she told me she was glad my manager hired me instead of the pretty applicant. Did she want me to agree? Was it supposed to be some invitation for solidarity? All I know is that nothing could have made me feel worse about myself than her telling me she thought someone else would get my job because she was prettier and thinner.