I am not ugly, unintelligent, or unlovable. I am just fat.

Years ago, a dear friend made a fat joke about me.

We were incredibly close then, as we are now, and had found ways to joke about our identities that brought us closer together. At that point, I had never described myself as fat: not to friends, family, myself. If the topic came up, my face would flush, I’d stammer out something about being "overweight" or "big" while a hot wave of blood rushed through my full cheeks, coloring my whole face. I would feel searing embarrassment for hours, sometimes days afterward. I’d come out as queer at 15 — a surprise to friends and family — but still couldn’t muster the language to describe the body that everyone could see.

We were at work on the day my friend made the joke. At the end of a long day, he and I lugged dozens of heavy boxes up and down the stairs. On our last trip, I got impatient and tired and opted instead for the elevator. "Elevator, huh?" He looked at me, his eyes lit up in the way they do when he’s ready to make a joke. "Is that why you’re — you know,” he said before stage-whispering, “large?”


There was a moment of silence, his face frozen in a grin before I broke into a huge, cathartic laugh.

It was such an absurd, stupid joke — that taking the elevator once was the difference between being fat and being thin — and it was exactly the kind of joke we’d make with each other about our other identities. In that moment, fat was a normal part of who I was — not the sole focus, not a secret to keep, not a fact to deny, not a cause for an intervention. It was just one of the many identities and characteristics that made me who I was.

It was the first time someone had talked to me about being fat in the way that they talked to me about anything else. It was normal; it could be joked about.

And really, my friend wasn’t joking about me; he was joking about the absurdity of judging tiny moments like this one as an explanation for why I was fat and the ridiculousness of others’ feeling of entitlement to know why I had the body I had.

Fat jokes don’t work for everyone, and they certainly don’t work in every context. But for me, in that moment, it was the most exquisite, divine, cathartic moment of freedom.

Because it was, and is, true: I’m fat. I’ve been fat my whole adult life. Sometimes I’m less fat, sometimes more fat, but always fat.

Saying that makes people around me uncomfortable. Sometimes, the discomfort comes from other fat people, who feel the shame that fat people feel in a world that tells us we ought to. Often, it comes from people who aren’t fat, who remember deeply ingrained scripts about what it means to be fat (unlovable, slovenly, ugly, unintelligent) and who think that naming such a harsh truth would be impolite. They substitute other words, either euphemistic (plus size, fluffy, big girl, more to love) or medical (overweight, obese).

I say fat.

I say fat to take back a heavily charged word.

It’s a word that can be used with the sole intent to cause pain and harm — in street harassment, in arguments with loved ones, on TV, everywhere. For many women, fat is among the most hurtful things they can be called. Thin women often say they "feel fat" as a shorthand for feeling unattractive, rejected, ashamed. Fat — that one short word — has become the site of so much pain. It comes with a long string of assumptions and insults, dragging noisily and clumsily along behind it like so many tin cans.

For many women, fat is among the most hurtful things they can be called.

At the center of that cacophony of hurt is my body. Not an insult, not a feeling, not rhetoric: the body I live with every day. When friends say they "feel fat" or strangers call other strangers "fat" as a cutting insult, I feel it. I understand that for many, my body is the worst-case scenario. Whether directed at me or not, the culture of talking about fat people derisively, dismissively, hurtfully — it all stays with me.

For me, though, fat is a statement of fact. It is a description of the body I have.

Fat is not a referendum on my morality, willpower, character, attractiveness, intellect, or worthiness. It is a descriptor. It captures an important aspect of the way I look, like saying I’m a woman, I’m white, or I’m tall.

Calling myself fat describes my body, but it means so much more than that. When I say I’m fat, it takes power back. It’s hard to be hurt by someone calling me what I am.

It's hard to be hurt by someone calling me what I am.

When those around me get uncomfortable or say, "Sweetie, no!" when I call myself fat, I don’t mind. As a fat person, there are little moments every day that wear away at you: the nurse that takes your blood pressure for the third time in a row, insisting that it can’t be right. The patronizing "Good for you!" at the gym you go to every day. The unsolicited advice at the grocery store. "Cantaloupe is so high in sugar. Have you tried grapefruit instead?" Over time, these moments mount up, rain droplets turning to torrential downpours, slowly but surely eroding the topsoil, then the clay, then the bedrock of our senses of self.

When I call myself fat and when I make jokes about my own fat body, I’ve got an umbrella, just for a few seconds.

It gives me a momentary respite from that steady stream of judgment and harsh advice. It gives those around me a brief taste of that discomfort, leaving them to sit with the bizarre awkwardness that comes with these little moments when we judge one another’s bodies.

Good, thoughtful people say harsh, judgmental things to fat friends and family every day. If you lost 30 pounds, you’d be a knockout. The dates would just start pouring in! It’s often unintentional, borne of a culture that expects fat people to feel shame about our bodies. Comments that deride, erase, judge, or punish fat people are predicated on the idea that we won’t object to cruel and thoughtless remarks about who we are. And many of us don’t. Neither do otherwise good-hearted, well-intentioned thin people. The more those conversations go unchallenged, the more charged that one little word becomes.

Fat holds so much power over so many people. When I use it to describe myself, I take back a simple, small, important thing: the ability to name and own my experience.

When I talk about being fat, I take control of what that means. Instead of being forced into reductive conversations about weight loss and shame, I get to talk about my actual life. I can talk about the partners who’ve loved my fat body. The friends who understand and support me. The clothing that fits me. The people who shun me for having the body I have. The doctors who treat my fat body and the ones who deny it. The way my body is seen as a reflection of my character, of public ills, of morality. And the disconnect between that and who I actually am.

Fat holds so much power over so many people.

Calling myself fat allows me to wrest my own experiences from the jaws of a powerful, pervasive narrative that says I ought to be ashamed of the body I have always had, the body I am learning to take care of, as we all are. It allows me to carve out a space to say that the treatment I receive isn’t deserved just for looking the way I look.

We all have things we wrestle with: parts of our identity that we can’t quite reconcile, that our families struggle to accept, that our friends and partners can’t quite respect. That struggle for acceptance — internal or external — keeps us cloistered, cold, and isolated from embracing ourselves or fully engaging in our relationships. Over time, the cold sets in, sinking into our bones, and the isolation becomes a way of life.

When I call myself fat, I step into the sun. I feel the warmth rush over me. Suddenly, I can see myself — and be seen — for who I actually am and the body I actually have. It is a moment of arrival to a sense of security and assurance in my body, and myself, that was out of reach for so long.

It is a homecoming. I am home. I am fat.

Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
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Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

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When "bobcat" trended on Twitter this week, no one anticipated the unreal series of events they were about to witness. The bizarre bobcat encounter was captured on a security cam video and...well...you just have to see it. (Read the following description if you want to be prepared, or skip down to the video if you want to be surprised. I promise, it's a wild ride either way.)

In a North Carolina neighborhood that looks like a present-day Pleasantville, a man carries a cup of coffee and a plate of brownies out to his car. "Good mornin!" he calls cheerfully to a neighbor jogging by. As he sets his coffee cup on the hood of the car, he says, "I need to wash my car." Well, shucks. His wife enters the camera frame on the other side of the car.

So far, it's just about the most classic modern Americana scene imaginable. And then...

A horrifying "rrrrawwwww!" Blood-curdling screaming. Running. Panic. The man abandons the brownies, races to his wife's side of the car, then emerges with an animal in his hands. He holds the creature up like Rafiki holding up Simba, then yells in its face, "Oh my god! It's a bobcat! Oh my god!"

Then he hucks the bobcat across the yard with all his might.

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2020 was difficult (to say the least). The year was full of life changes, losses, and lessons as we learned to navigate the "new normal." You may have questions about what the changes and challenges of 2020 mean for your taxes. That's where TurboTax Live comes in, making it easy to connect with real tax experts to help with your taxes – or even do them for you, start to finish.

Not only has TurboTax Live helped millions of people get their taxes done right, but this year they've also celebrated people who uplifted their communities during a difficult time by surprising them with "little lifts" to help out even more.

Here are a few of their stories:


Julz, hairdresser and salon owner

"As a hairdresser and salon owner, 2020 was extremely challenging," says Julz. "Being a hairdresser has historically been a recession-proof industry, but we've never faced global shut down due to health risk, or pandemic, not in my lifetime. And for the first time, hairdressers didn't have job security."

Julz had to shut down her salon and go on unemployment benefits for the first time. She also had to figure out how she was going to support herself, her staff and her business during this difficult time. But many other beauty industry professionals didn't have access to the resources they needed, so Julz decided to help.

"My business partner and I began teaching basic financial literacy to other beauty industry professionals," she says. "Transitioning our business from behind the chair to an online academy was a challenge we tackled head-on so that we could move hairdressers into this new space of education, and create a more accessible curriculum to better serve our industry.

Julz connected with a TurboTax Live expert who helped her understand how unemployment affected her taxes and gave her guidance on filing quarterly estimated taxes for her small business. "I was terrified to sit at a computer and tackle this mess of receipts," Julz says, so "it was great to have some virtual handholding to walk me through each question."

In addition to giving Julz the personalized tax advice she needed, TurboTax Live surprised her with a "little lift" that empowered her to help even more beauty professionals. "When my tax expert Diana surprised me with a little lift, I was moved to tears," says Julz. "With that little lift, I was able to establish a scholarship fund to help get other hairdressers the education they deserve."


Alana, new mom

Alana welcomed her first child in 2020. "I think my biggest challenge was figuring out how to be a mom, with no guidance," she says. "My original plan was to have my mom by my side, teaching me the ropes, but because of COVID, she wasn't able to come out here."

She was also without a job for most of 2020 and struggled to find something new.

So, Alana took it as a sign: she decided to launch her own business so she could support her new baby, and that's exactly what she did. She started a feel-good company that specializes in creating affirmation card decks — and she's currently in the process of starting a second, video-editing business.

TurboTax Live answered Alana's questions about her taxes and gave her some much-needed advice as she prepared to launch her businesses. Thanks to their "little lift," they provided her with a little emotional support too.

"I got my mom a plane ticket to finally [have her] meet [my daughter] for her first birthday," Alana says. "I was also able to get a new computer," which helped her invest in her new business and work on her video editing skills. "It's helped my family and me so much," she says.


Michael, science teacher

When schools shut down across the country last year, Michael had to learn how to adapt to a virtual classroom.

"As a teacher, I had to completely revamp everything," he says, so that he could keep his students engaged while teaching online. "At the beginning, it was a nightmare because I had no idea. I had to go from A-Z within a couple of weeks."

Michael's TurboTax Live expert answered his questions about how working from home affected his taxes and helped him uncover surprising tax deductions. To top it all off, his expert surprised him with brand new science equipment and supplies, which allowed him to create an entire line of classes on YouTube, TikTok, Instagram, and Facebook. "Now I can truly potentially reach millions of children with my lessons," he says. "I would never have taken that leap if not for the little lift from TurboTax Live."



Ricky, motivational youth speaker

As a motivational speaker, Ricky was used to doing his job in person, but, he says, "when COVID-19 hit, it altered my ability to travel and visit schools in person [because] schools moved to fully virtual or hybrid models."

He knew he had to pivot — so he began offering small virtual group workshops for student leadership groups at middle and high schools.

"This allowed me to work with student leaders to plan how they would continue making a positive impact on their school community," he says. He wasn't sure how being remote would affect his taxes, but TurboTax Live Self-Employed gave him the advice and answers that he needed to keep more money in his pocket at tax time — and the little lift he received from them has helped him serve even more students.

"[It] has been a major blessing," he says "There will be multiple schools and student groups from across the country that I can hold leadership workshops with to empower them with the tools to be inspirational leaders in their school, community, and world."

Plus, he says, it was great knowing he had an expert to help him figure out how being remote affected his taxes. "I felt confident and assured in the process of filing my taxes knowing I had an expert working with me, says Ricky. "There were things my expert knew that I would not have considered when filing on my own."

Filing your taxes doesn't have to be intimidating, especially after a year like 2020. TurboTax Live experts can give you the "little lift" you need to get your taxes done. File with the help of an expert or let an expert file for you! Go to TurboTax Live to get started.