Weight “problems”/addressing fat

I was talking to an acquaintance while eating dinner today, and the issue of fatness came up.  It was the first time I’ve ever talked with anyone in Real Life about it, and the conversation went like this (semi-paraphrased):

Me:  (blah blah blah, something mentioned kinda-sorta in passing about the fact that I’m a fat Native woman; we were talking about a bigoted assbag in our department who likes to oppress everyone)
Her (direct quote):  Well, despite your… fatness… you dress well!  People with weight problems should dress well.
Me:  Well, I don’t think it’s a problem. I’m actually a very healthy person.
Her:  Yeah, but your self-esteem is up because you dress well, and if you had low self-esteem, you’d probably get bigger, THEN it would be a problem.
Me:  …

I honestly wasn’t sure how to respond.  For whom would it be a problem if I gained weight?  If I gained so much as to be non-ambulatory, I suppose it would be my problem, but my weight has been fluctuating since middle school and it hasn’t adversely affected anything besides my own self-esteem until recently (that is, until I stumbled upon Fatshionista and came across the Fat Acceptance movement).

I remember when I was in seventh grade, a size 14, and I was staying the night at a friend’s house.  She was going to lend me a pair of pajama pants, which wouldn’t have been a problem–they’re usually stretchy, after all–but I went to put them on around bedtime and couldn’t get past my thighs.  I said something about how they didn’t fit me because I was too fat (which was the truth, but I meant it more as a statement of self-deprecation), to which she promptly responded “you’re not fat!” just like any good friend in the eyes of a tween would do.  (I’ve since read Kate Harding’s essay in Feed Me! and am working on my own automatic emotional response to the word “fat.”  Hearing it out loud still makes me cringe a tiny bit, but progress is being made.)

I have all kinds of experiences with the F word, from the first time someone called me fat when I was in the third grade (that person happened to have a lot of the same friends I had in high school, so I felt sort of weirdly compelled to pretend to like her, but we were never friends) to the guy who said “God, Linda, you are so fat!” in a completely disgusted tone while I was getting a drink of water from the fountain before our tenth grade English class (I still see him sometimes when I go home for breaks or a weekend or whatever, and I still don’t acknowlege him when we run into each other at the grocery store or the movie theatre.  He pretends I don’t exist, too, so it’s kind of like a symbiotic relationship of passive-aggression), to the asshole sitting behind me who told me to “turn around, fatty” when I shot him a withering stare while he was being extremely rude and disrespectful during a school assembly, to one of my best friends at the time who said something (I can’t remember exactly what it was) about how I was kind of pretty even though I was fat (I’m sure she meant it as a compliment), and our other friend with whom we were eating dinner got all flustered and kind of angry and said when the aforementioned friend got up to use the restroom, “well, she didn’t need to say it like that!” while I just shrugged apologetically.

I have a love-hate relationship with my fat.  I’m very new to FA, so I’m still in the process of eliminating the hate part of the whole situation.  When I first came across the Fatshionista LJ community, I’d look at someone’s (anyone’s) outfit post and think “Argh!  She’s fat and beautiful, why can’t I be too?  Maybe if I were less fat, or if I were differently shaped, or if I had bigger T&A in comparison to my stomach…”

It’s weirdly similar to the Fantasy of Being Thin, which is ironic.  I went from realizing that fat ≠ ugly/disgusting/unlovable/etc. to immediately comparing my body to others’ just as I’ve been doing for years with thin women.  OHAI, fat acceptance = accepting fat!?!?!?  I’m getting better, at least.  I’m learning to own my fat instead of apologizing for it and being ashamed of it.  That’s something I’ve had to do on my own, no matter how many FA blog posts I’ve read (and I’ve recently spent many a night scouring the archives of said blogs, refusing to believe that they’ll still be there in the morning).

February 27, 2009. Tags: , . FA, real-life wtfery.

3 Comments

  1. Miranda replied:

    Hi! I found your blog through your LJ from fatshionista and I wanted to say that I’m new to FA, too. I hadn’t even thought about it before, in the way that some women might not think about sexism.

    I had the exact same conversation with myself when I first started reading Fatshionista, I would think “if only I was a size 20 instead of 24 or was curvier, I don’t have to be thin, just a different kind of fat, a pretty fat.”

    In any case! I just wanted to express some solidarity with you on that point.

  2. Leanne replied:

    I can relate to your experiences back in junior high- the one memory I really recall was when my friend invited me to her house for a sleepover in elementary school and suggested playing in the sprinkler outside. Since I just had one outfit and my pjs, she offered me a bathing suit. Yeah… the leg holes were too small for my calves. And that’s a stretchy swimsuit too. But instead of letting me beat myself up about it, my friend was SO encouraging; she didn’t act disappointed that we couldn’t go in the sprinkler, and instead just switched gears towards another activity.

    The one line that still really elicits an emotional response from is “you have a beautiful face”. That bugs me SO much… I’m thinner now due to a chronic illness, but when I was bigger that would drive me crazy. Thanks, I’m glad you think my face is beautiful, but that phrase carries the connotation that I would be pretty if only I lost some weight. Did you experience this ever?

    • ampleproportions replied:

      Yes! It’s so frustrating. Even/especially when they mean it as some sort of weird roundabout compliment. My favorite was “you see so many thin people with ugly faces. Put that body on you–total hottie!” I was speechless.

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