Fat is the Comic Sans of Bodies.
Poor, maligned Comic Sans. The font we all love to hate. We make fun of it and all who might naively choose it for their presentations, emails, or websites. In short, Comic Sans is for losers. But wait… A few people I like and respect use it. The God Particle people used it. I’m fairly certain almost anyone with access to a computer in the early 00′s used it…
It’s just a font.
But we do love a fall guy, an outcast, a target for our jabs and barbs. Making fun of something unites us. Being in on the joke feels good. I do it. I’ve done it to Comic Sans. I do it to 80′s hair. I do it to Nickleback. I’ve probably made fun of most things at one point or another.
Some snark I’ve outgrown because I’m not as blindly insensitive as I was (sorry, old people) or because I joined the ranks of the previously mocked (parents of toddlers, I’m talking to you). Mostly, I’ve just grown up and know that using words like “retarded” as an insult is a dick move.
Most recently, my eyes have been opened about fat hate*. Fat hate is just one more version of bigotry that I’d like to evolve out of. It’s no more excusable than hate based on religion, sex, gender, race, ethnicity, IQ, age, or language. I didn’t know this until I started living in a fat** body.
I’ve always fluctuated in weight from looking gaunt at 150 lbs to being a fit and beefy 200 lbs. I now walk around in 250 lbs of fat, meat, and bone, and I’m learning that it’s not the horrible, worse-than-cancer, nobody-will-ever-love-me, living death sentence that I thought it was. I am also learning that being fat means being shunned, sneered at, stared at, judged, and monitored. I’ve been thin, and I know how people treated me. Now that I’m heavier than what other people think is appropriate, it’s a stark contrast. Thinness is a social lubricant and a privileged position. People are nicer, flirtier, give better service, make more eye contact, and accept many more behaviours from a person in a thin body.
The other day, while attending a BBQ at a skateboard daycamp, I cracked a joke in front of the staff (who we know well) about how I didn’t want a hotdog because I made the very mature decision to eat chocolate bars for lunch. One man (who I’ve never seen there before) actually sneered and pfft-ed. I know that if I was thin, and made the same joke, it wouldn’t make people uncomfortable or judgey. I’ve made food jokes when I was thinner, and they were hilarious. Now, you could hear a pin drop. Somehow, because I weigh more, I suddenly bear the burden of eating only healthy foods and only in “reasonable” amounts. I have lost the privilege of dessert, or indulging, or eating what I want when I want. If a pretty, thin woman is licking melted ice cream off her wrist, it’s sexy. If that same woman were fat, it wouldn’t be received so well.
Social stigma is not an easy thing to live with. I know what kinds of things people think when they see me because I used to think the very same things about fat people. “Show some self-control”, “god, kill me if I ever get that fat”, “why would she wear THAT?”, “I can’t believe she’s eating that”, “of course he’s taking the elevator instead of the stairs”, etc., etc., etc. I was an asshole and a bigot.
That’s not the worst part, however. Being judged by others will always happen no matter how thin, pretty, rich, smart, or powerful a person is. It’s a fruitless pursuit to try to please others. The very worst part is that I have turned this hate inward. I don’t think I’m alone. Everywhere we look, we are told “fat is bad”. I don’t see myself in magazines, commercials, TV, or movies, except as comic relief. I am never the heroine, the love interest, the winner.I’m Bombarded every minute with ads for weight loss that express disgust at fat, and reality shows that celebrate slim bodies and punish fat ones. I am separated from “normal” people by having to shop in different stores, or different sections. It’s fat segregation, and it feels bad.
I am not an epidemic. How can fat be an epidemic and not stress? Or divorce? Or depression? Or rape? I am not a disease to be cured. In fact, fat people do not die younger than thin people. Fat doesn’t kill, poor health does, and not all fat people are unhealthy just like not all thin people are in good health. On top of all that, humans are not designed to lose weight. Even if a fat person is also unhealthy, it’s nobody’s damned business, but we think it is, because that person is fat.
In the spirit of full disclosure, I am struggling with an eating disorder, and I would like to stop. I’m a binge eater. Like an addict of any other substance, I eat to avoid feeling things I don’t want to feel. I eat when I am not hungry. I eat well beyond feeling satisfied or full. Not occasionally, but almost daily. And like all addictions, it controls me. Not all binge eaters are fat, not all fat people are binge eaters. I just happen to be both. I want to get to a place where food is just food, not an escape. I used to think “if I could just get my binge eating under control, I would be thin again”. Now I think “I want to be free of this addiction”. Not to be thin, just to be free.
This world tells us that thin*** is normal, one body type is normal, and genetics, culture, ethnicity, family history be damned. Fat has gone from being an individual trait, like brown hair or a loud laugh, to being an identity.
Well fuck that.
I am tall, smart, funny, kind, creative, pretty, curious, passionate, have a great husband and awesome kids, I’m good at my job, I’m close to my family, I have lots of friends, and I am fat. I have come a long way from crying in front of the mirror, but I still have work to do. I still try to hide my size in photos. I still dread running into people from my (thin) past, but those shackles are loosening. Therefore I present (mostly to myself)…
My Size Manifesto
I promise to stop hating myself because strangers don’t approve of my size.
I will dress how I want.
I will get whatever haircut I want.
I will eat what I want, when I want, and where I want.
I will respect my body.
I will respect myself.
I will develop a healthy emotional relationship with food.
I will not make degrading or denigrating jokes, remarks, quips, or apologies about my size nor the size of others, small or large.
I will teach my kids that they are excellent human beings at any size, small or large.
And as I’ve said before, hating myself for the way I look is a waste of my valuable, beautiful life.
* Many thanks to Fat Heffalump who has started me on this journey and influences many of my new attitudes about fat.
** I use the term fat because the word “obese” is a medical term that stigmatises and pathologizes fat. I mostly avoid fat euphemisms because I don’t think “fat” is a bad word.
*** I am not anti-thin, nor do I consider curvy women to be more “real” than slender women. All sizes deserve respect.