Why you should care
Quinn Bartlett struggled with her weight and abuse from her mother. At 37, her search for love and acceptance is ongoing.
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It was always about my weight.
Everybody always made it about my weight, and I was always depressed because of it. I would start different fad diets to please everybody around me, but I would always fail because I was doing it for the wrong reasons.
People would always tell me, “Hey, you’re pretty … for a big girl.”
I was always a big, healthy girl — always was the biggest, tallest in the class. I was always teased, always shunned. I was never part of the girls’ clique. I was a tomboy, so I would cling to the boys — shooting marbles, climbing trees, riding bikes and playing in the yard barefoot, growing up in the Bahamas and Miami.
Family never supported me — especially my mom. So I had no support, which made me introverted and afraid to talk. My grandmother tried to help me, but she had 11 kids of her own to deal with.
We would fantasize about getting married and having a big wedding, and how we would include each other. So when she called me to tell me she was getting married, I was happy. But then …
I grew up thinking that my mom hated me. At a young age, I even thought about suicide.
And I didn’t know what it felt like to be loved — by anyone — until I was 16 when I met a girl. We just automatically connected and considered ourselves “distant cousins” as if we were more family than best friends. She saw how I was suffering and she felt bad. She would ask, “Why is your mom treating you this way?” We used to sneak out at 3 o’clock in the morning just to embrace each other, and I would often go to her house to get away from everything.
I saw how her parents loved her and treated her; I wanted to somehow get some of that love. Her house was my safe haven. We stayed close until she left for college.
As little girls, we would fantasize about getting married and having a big wedding, and how we would include each other. So when she called me to tell me she was getting married, I was happy. But then … a bomb.
“I’m having all petite girls in my wedding party — you’ve got to lose some of that weight.”
She had saved me from so much; she was my safe haven, my best friend. I was crushed. She did finally offer me a spot in her wedding, though. As an usher. I swallowed really hard, but I said, “OK.” I didn’t want to show her that I was embarrassed. And hurt.
People have asked me why didn’t I tell her how shallow she was. I didn’t because I loved her, and I wanted her day to be special. Even though my image wasn’t good enough for her, I think my presence was — I still felt that I owed her that courtesy, to be there on her special day.
It’s crazy, but when you grow up not knowing real love you tend to hold on to whatever it is that can keep you afloat. So even though I was only an usher I still felt included.
Her feelings were almost more important than mine. I had elevated her above me, but that’s how I’ve always been. I love everybody else around me before I love myself because it was drummed into my head that I was never good enough.
I tried to find love in a number of ways. I became rebellious. I even became promiscuous. It was because I was seeking love and wanted attention. Some men would only give me attention because they wanted to get me in bed. And I would allow it.
My friend got married in 2007. Our relationship was pretty much done after that. But in 2014, I got a call late one night. From her. She called to tell me she was pregnant. She asked me to be her kid’s godmother.
I said yes. I’m all about forgiveness. I mean, I forgave her but not enough to be her best friend again.
I’ve struggled. Even now, sometimes, I hate to look in the mirror. I love myself but not as fully as I should, and when I go places, I’m still bigger than the average woman. That’s why I wear a lot of makeup: I feel like the makeup masks my weight. And when I take pictures or selfies, I do it at an angle so you can’t see too much of the weight.
As for my mom, I still think she hates me. I think she’s hated me from the day I was born.
We don’t speak to this day, and sadly, I see the cycle repeating itself in a strange but troubling way: My mother treats my 17-year-old daughter more like a friend than a grandmother and lets her hang out on the streets, and even live with a man. I would never condone that. That’s why my daughter ran away from home to live with her. I think my mother is using my daughter as a way to say, “Let me make it right with her because I failed with Quinn.”
I’m 37 years old now. I know I’m not emotionally healthy. I’m a wreck, but I think about other women who feel the pain of not being loved or accepted and I would tell them: Learn to love yourself and don’t change for others.
As told to Mark W. Wright