Ah Yes. Over at Feed Me, Harriet wrote a nice post about how people try to cheer us up about our relative fatness. Since many of us have people in our lives who embark on the quest for the Holy Grail of thinness, and since this quest involves a lot of self-negating talk about I’m Fat/You’re not fat, even around those of us who actually are fat, I’d like to expound on this topic further.
I remember sitting at a bar with some friends not all that long ago, and the topic of bodies came up. One woman, who had been quite thin not all that long ago, and who was not interested in dieting, began talking about her body. She is striving to get used to it, although she admits that she has been walking around in this new body for some time now, but simply hasn’t identified with it, and still identifies with her old, thin body.
She said something along the lines of, I’m not used to being fat.
Someone at our table chimed in, immediately: You’re not FAT!
I, of, course responded with: Fat? Who cares? Half the people in this room are considered fat by today’s standards. And I ranted on. The people at the table were shocked as I continued on my little platform about fatness.
This woman is considerably smaller than me. What is interesting to me, is that at this current size I inhabit, I have also said: I’m fat! and people have said: Fat? You’re not fat!
Um, yes I am. I wear a Size 20-22-24. I weigh 263.8 pounds. I most certainly am fat.
But I know what they mean. What they mean is, you don’t act fat. You don’t smell fat. You don’t do fat. Because fat isn’t just a physical characteristic, it’s a moral one.
This is particularly poignant for me.
A number of years ago, I was cleaning out the massive mess in my now-ex-husband’s apartment. I was moving in, and I needed space for my stuff. He had a suitcase full of mail, and I was annoyedly sorting through it. Who keeps a suitcase full of mail?
In this suitcase were a bunch of composition notebooks. In my haste of tossing out stacks and stacks of mail, I started flipping through these notebooks. And they were journals. I perused a few entries, which were fairly boring, actually, so I didn’t pour over them too much. This is true. I am nosy, and so I might be tempted to actually read every notebook, front to back. But they were … boring. So I didn’t.
However, flipping through one notebook, one phrase caught my eye: “large women.”
There was no way I could let that pass.
The entry detailed how he was not attracted to large women. Period. It was in the context of several large women being attracted to him. It was a few years prior to my meeting him. I was floored. I was a “large woman.”
A few days later, I asked him, in a circuitous fashion, about fatness and what that meant to him, in terms of relationships. He said this:
“You carry yourself so well, though.”
I guess that meant I walk, and don’t roll.
Which is similar to: You’re not fat!
My first boyfriend was unsure if we would have sex, pointing to my belly as the reason why, while we were both naked and rolling around in the sheets.
Later, after we consummated our relationship, he claimed:
“But you don’t act fat!”
Which is the same as: “You’re not fat!”
What people really mean when they say: “You’re not fat,” or any of the variations thereof, is the following: “You’re not fat. Because if you were, that would mean I would have to admit I was hanging out with, sleeping with, marrying, living with, fucking, eating dinner with, working with, dating, and generally occupying the same space as a real-honest-to-god fat person, and that idea is the most disgusting thing I can think of, so I am convincing myself that You Are Not Fat, and don’t tell me otherwise, Ok?”
I reject that. I don’t want to be reassured about my body, whether I am secure or insecure in it at any given moment, in order to assuage other people’s feelings of shame about being seen with me. I don’t want to be relegated to a position of reflected guilt. That’s not for me. Not anymore.