It wasn't long before she realised that "difficult" was a colossal understatement. "You're Gabrielle Deydier," was the first thing the teacher in question said when they met. "I don't work with fat people." Gabrielle tried to laugh it off, but the difficult teacher wasn't smiling. "It wasn't a joke," she said.
There are many equally bizarre episodes in her life story. Returning to the teaching job, this is how it ended: discrimination on grounds of physical appearance is illegal in France, a law that seems not to have filtered through to employers. Following the awkward introduction, the "difficult" teacher introduced Gabrielle to the class of six autistic children as: "The seventh handicapped person in the room." She accused Gabrielle of sweating too much. The headmaster told Gabrielle: "If she has a problem with you, then so do I.""He said it was unfair on the children because they were now being doubly stigmatised - for their disabilities and because they'd be bullied for having a fat teacher." Gabrielle was asked to "have a think" about her future. "We're going to give you 30 days to prove you are motivated."Motivated? "Motivated to lose weight. To show you're committed to this job." "It was never the children," says Gabrielle. "They were wonderful. But I was finding it difficult and complicated to deal with." It was noted that: "You were seen out of breath after climbing the stairs to the third floor."Why didn't she take the school to court? "I was afraid I wouldn't be believed," she says. It's not an unlikely scenario. She'd experienced many similar events. The gynaecologist who grumbled: "There's so much blubber here, I can't see"; the male colleague who denied he'd sexually harassed her on the grounds that his wife was much better looking: "Why would I try to rape a fat woman?""The police were very good, but said: 'You have a right to make a complaint, but we advise against it because a tribunal won't be on your side.'"