I moved down to Miami with only a vague picture of golden beaches, packed clubs with neon signs that read “YOU WERE MEANT TO BE HERE”, and $15 margs on tap. It was the summer after college graduation and I was ready to get out and see the world––and maybe party my face off for a couple of months. You see, my hometown of Seattle, Washington is a maze of misty days and passive-aggressive baristas. The idea of paparazzi chasing celebrities down Ocean Ave was a foreign one – and I was ready to be a part of it.
At first, Miami was everything I hoped for. Instagrammable brunch spots, frying in the blistering 90-degree heat with the ocean roaring softly in the distance, clubs with lines around the corner. But even a few days into my southern party romp, I was confronted with an unsettling reality: I was still fat.
A little naively, I thought Miami would be different, better than the icy cold Washington State. The city is the world capital of the BBL, after all. If Kim K could take the city by storm, maybe my fat ass could too.
This was the same city that allegedly banned plus-sized women from a club at rapper Future’s request and turned away a customer from a party bus. As much as I wanted to think Miami was the southern safe haven for thick party girls, in truth, it could only handle a pinch of fat in the desired places. Still, though, fatphobia doesn’t feel real until it’s happening to you.
The first time I felt awful about my oversized form was at a club called Vendôme, just two blocks off of the iconic South Beach. My (beautiful, thin) friend Ynes and I had come off a good night swindling men out of pocket change for drinks and we were looking for the next spot. Ynes had a sleazy promoter friend who promised access to the exclusive club so long as we arrived before midnight. With three drinks in our system, we entered through a side door in our Saturday night best. I had a bit of a queasy feeling.
It’s not like I was naive about these things. I pulled out my best party dress and a pair of six-inch heels that rarely saw the light of day. While my thin friends could get away with streetwear at a nightclub, I’m stuck with just-revealing-enough business casual if there’s any hope of entry.
Wobbling in my too-tall, gold heels, I introduced myself to a beautiful giantess named Kat, a waitress from New York who was “so over” the club scene. Next, a Russian transplant, Sacha, who barely scraped eighteen. This would be our crew for the night.
With one swooping, judgemental up and down at me, the bouncer pulled the club promoter close and whispered something I couldn’t hear. After a moment of deliberation, the promoter shook his head and looked over at me.
The bouncer ushered Ines inside, then Kat then stopped at Sacha and me.
“She’s got to change her shoes,” he said, motioning toward Sacha. With one swooping, judgemental up and down at me, the bouncer pulled the club promoter close and whispered something I couldn’t hear. After a moment of deliberation, the promoter shook his head and looked over at me.
With nothing more than a shrug, he told me I would not be getting in that night.
Shouting a goodbye to Ines, I called an Uber and stomped several blocks away from the club before I had time to process. A fat girl must always remain stoic. A fat girl must never cry in public. A fat girl must never make a scene. These are lessons I internalized a long time ago, though I’m not sure exactly where.
In the Uber, I fantasized about “Pretty Woman-ing” the club, 40 pounds lighter with an entourage saying “hm, I’d never go here, this club sucks”. Then I fantasized about punching the bouncer in the jaw… and the promoter, for good measure.
Being fat is usually more subtly traumatic. In the clubs, there’s a common phenomenon I call “weaponized invisibility”. Maybe you’ve never heard the term, but many of us have felt its icy effects.
Weaponized invisibility is the idea that men will purposefully ignore women they find unattractive to assert power over them. It can be as simple as an eye roll or posturing one’s body away from the offender who dared to be sexually undesirable.
As the designated fat friend, it was my job to stand complacently in the middle of a conversation where I was entirely unwelcome. Where the man was unable (or unwilling) to remember my name or hold eye contact when I spoke. Where my friends would stand enraptured by someone who was disrespectful to me only seconds ago.
It’s an isolating experience. Without the protective shield of thinness, I had to harsh the brutal Miami elements. I knew immediately which men were trash and which ones were decent. I knew which friends valued my company and which ones saw me as a girl to get drunk with.
So what does this mean for fat girls, is Miami off the table for us? Absolutely not. In a world that wants to relegate plus-sized women to introversion, partying is a force of rebellion.
I took this year to harness my weight trauma and become the life of the party. If I know in an instant who likes me and who doesn’t, I’m going out to the karaoke bar in a crop top and Nikes with the ones who do. While being fat has forced me to grow up a lot faster than many of my thin counterparts, it’s also allowed me to skip a lot of the fake bullshit.
While being fat has forced me to grow up a lot faster than many of my thin counterparts, it’s also allowed me to skip a lot of the fake bullshit.
I started approaching guys (and subsequently met my boyfriend of almost 10 months) without the fear of rejection. I stopped worrying so much about if I what I wore was acceptable or not. In a world where I am judged in an instant, I might as well say fuck your standards and do what I’m going to do. I don’t want into your shitty club, anyway.
About the Author
Emi is an MFA student at the New School and a pop culture fanatic. She is particularly interested in body politics, celebrities, and campy horror flicks.