Photo of writer Shannon O'Neill

“Voluptuous Breakdown” by Shannon O’Neill

Memories you could light a matchstick by:

Sitting up at 2am wanting to scream while girlfriends tell me with sincere concern that I should consider playing for the other team because they want me to be able to have “choices”. This is code for men won’t want you.

Family identity game where you read aloud famous people that your assigned family member reminds you of. Dad got me. Dad said Rosanne, Rosie O’Donnell, and Monica Lewinsky. Someone else said Linda Tripp once.

         Fat bitch, not trying.

Pig, Sow, Heiffer, Wide Load, Brick Hooouse, Shave The Whales!

“My LORD, look at the SIZE of that ASS!” while walking in Pricechopper.

Men always ask me:  Hey, who’s your friend? Can you get her to talk to me?

Terrified eyes from tittering gal-pals sheepishly standing in Lane Bryant with me for fear someone we know will see them there.

Told I’d be the last in the gang to lose my virginity: “Because, you know… Obviously.” He was wrong; but so was I in succeeding to prove him wrong for all the wrong reasons.

No one made me this way. G-d did not create a fat girl and neither did Snickers: I did it.

But always; stark hunger for recognition: to be seen past what is seen first.

To be seen as something positive besides smart in this lookist world.

(This is inherently an aesthetic fantasy in the universe of Vogue. For Christ’s Sake, they airbrushed ADELE!)

Young Reuben’s women beware; he’ll say you’re great but just want to be friends. And the one that you just want to be friends with will always arrogantly assume you want him. He might say he can’t get it up because you’re not his “physical ideal”.

Just one of the guys: Weight jokes whirl by one’s head with the precision of an intentionally misfired bullet. And not just by the guys, but by the girls they lust after.

Camryn Manheim’s Wake Up, I’m Fat! becomes an emotional IV.

Hit on by old men, self-closeted gays, & pedos, oh my!

Learned what “Dyke” meant in 4th grade when half the class came up to me at recess asking if I was one. Prayed Melissa McCarthy wasn’t one, not because of homophobia, but because she would just reinforce the stereotype.

What stereotype? Large women are large because they gave up on men. Because they just don’t care. We’re often (subliminally) taught early on: Dyke = fat chick who loves other fat chicks; Lesbian = hot women who love licking other hot women (for your male viewing pleasure) in bad porn.

You hide your actual Queerness from your own fat self, because you are ashamed to admit it. Because they all saw it anyway, and they assumed it because of your size. And somehow even when behaving wrongly, they were STILL fucking right.

You try every diet known to man, swimming every day all summer, desperately attempting to reinvent one’s cheese wheel diet only to give up when one doesn’t magically become Audrey Hepburn overnight.

O-oreo: the right stuff?

No matter how much you do lose, it might never be enough to change your mental waistline.

Especially reading articles in O magazine telling you to love your body and then have ads for diet pills right next to them. Articles in Cosmo about the dangers of eating disorders alongside models shaped like a Praying Mantis.

Diabetes heart attack pregnancy-DANGER high blood pressure asthmatic nightmare failure


Not a failure.


YOU are not a victim PERIOD.

Just a perpetrator of the Linus blanket food provided, but that doesn’t change the struggle.

It’s not about a pity-party. It’s about assessing & re-building.

It’s the cold, fat truth.

If it still stings this much at 43, think of how it feels at 14.

When you’re the one at bars looking for hot male tail, not crumbs of affection. And get arrows of “you’re pathetic” written into amused glares when you walk in the door as you proudly assert you are NOT a member of the “Itty Bitty Titty Committee”!

Where most of the Chubby Chicks on T.V. are written as one galumphing, jolly joke.

Godammit, Fat girls CAN be sex fiends!

This one assuredly is.

Ignored in offices & pay raises, condescended to by younger men, berated by exes, used by Amazonians of social vortexes to justify bulimia.

They all smirk in the casual truth that no one loves a big girl who isn’t just settling or as a beard.

This is what it can mean to be fat & female in Amerika.

3-Piece Suit 1% wing-men can kiss this bootylicious



Sister of the Song of Ophelia revived!

Young girls crying in your mirrors hear me:

Refuse to be Second Choice!

Even if

Even if

…we secretly, silently admit a dirty truth of defeatism; every Catherine’s-wearing woman will forever second guess that mirror.

We can win smaller battles, but we have to keep weighing in.

To fight for the dream of Rubenesque meaning beautiful, instead of meaning invisible.

“The Fairest of them All” throne is to infinity reserved for the Queens of Other Realms.

Be warned Thick Sisters; that isn’t a chair we are allowed to sit in, even if we don’t give up trying,

and never, ever should.


This piece was originally written and performed as a presentation at Columbia University.


Shannon O’Neill is currently an Administrative Assistant and former NYC English Teacher. She lives, writes, and enjoys the 518 life with her family in Troy, NY. A Belle of the Bard and lover of all things ELA since her childhood in Southern Vermont, Ms. O’Neill encourages everyone to find their voice among the keys and exhale in as many words per minute as suits you. She also encourages fighting the patriarchy and loving all creatures, great and small.

2 thoughts on ““Voluptuous Breakdown” by Shannon O’Neill”

  1. Marvelous poem! I loved the “…models shaped like ‘Praying Mantis’ ” among so many great lines. Your poem evokes memories from my own youth – heaven help you or you weren’t the “norm,” too fat or too skinny; too short or too tall (short was worse); wore glasses (“four eyes”); buck teeth or crooked teeth; embarrassing in phys ed and most sports; too shy or too gregarious – ad infinitum. Not being asked to dance at school dances was brutal (is the term “wallflower” still is use?)
    Thank you for sharing your words. Love the title too.

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