Fat and Happy
My posts are almost always just for sh**ts and giggles, as they say, so I’m stepping out of my comfort zone with this one. It’s been triggered by the fact that tomorrow’s issue of a widely read women’s magazine will feature an article on one of my friends. I’m proud of that, and very proud of my friend.
The article is in the magazine’s section on Health, although it should rightfully be in Beauty. My friend is very pretty, and very feminine. She is also, and I use a word she has reappropriated and uses, fat. Not plump, or chubby, or corpulent. That, as my friend would say, is beating around the bush. People using those words make her feel worse about herself. I can’t help but agree. I myself am less than slender, and have been so almost since I can remember. And I always, always hated it when someone, usually a well-meaning member of my family, called me “well-developped”. What the heck is that, if not saying I am unacceptably fat?
My friend talks in the article about how her body is less of a problem than people’s reaction to it. I must confess, that when we first talked about it, and she told me how people more or less insulted her to her face, or looked at her critically when she wore a nice dress or ordered a cake in a restaurant, I did not take her as seriously as I should have. I didn’t really think she was making it up, more like … she was over-sensitive. Although I should have known better. Then came the day not so long ago when we were both shopping and wanted to go into a second-hand store down my street. Yes, I know it is Berlin and people are rude and strange (see my gazillion other posts). But still. While we were still in the doorway, the owner called to us from the shop, very loudly, staring at my friend: “Sorry, we don’t have clothes in your size here!” We froze, more or less paralyzed in shock. “Sorry,” she repeated in a shrill voice “no clothes in your size here. Soooo…”. What I said, once I recovered a bit, was that I wanted to know the size of a dress on a mannequin outside the store. “For you?” “For me, or for a friend” I replied, not wanting to back down. And then, dear reader, the lady went out, briefly looked at the dress, and muttered that she should take that inside. And she physically carried the mannequin in and more or less closed the door in our faces. What I should have said while she was carrying her precious, not-to-be-soiled-by-fat-people-dress inside, instead of inanely talking of imaginary slim friends, was that her behaviour was appaling and discriminating. That obviously she had more than clothes in her store, and shoes and bags tend to fit any body type. And that she was not helpful, but extremely hurtful to two strangers who, in effect, were able to help her make a living.
My friend was not exagerating. But maybe I tended not to take it seriously because that has been my own coping mechanism. Ever since I was a teen, I knew I weighed more than my friends. I have learned about various diets from my close family, and my female relatives, directly or indirectly, reinforced the idea that thin is good and fat is … well, undesirable to say the least. It is something that you should hate about yourself, and try to change. Doctors have plied me with WeightWatchers plans, and osteopaths told me how losing even 5 kilograms would do wonders for my back pains. It is always, always about the weight. As my friend says, you cease to be a person, and instead, all many people see, is a lump of fat.
But I don’t really like dieting. I love cooking, and I eat balanced meals. I don’t overdo it on sweets, or eat crisps or any other myth about overweight eating habits you can think of. True, I don’t exercise. I know it’s good, and important, and I feel great about myself those rare times I manage to do it. I’m lazy, and I admit it. But exercising also takes time, time I’d rather spend doing something else, like reading. And that’s my issue with this. Trying to lose weight, and change your body dramatically, takes an awful lot of time, energy, and emotional investment. And it is, as my friend likes to say, not simply a matter of will-power. It is policing your every move, bite, every action and every second in a way that I, frankly, find neurotic. Give me lack of control anyday, if that is the alternative. It is also, sometimes, an exercise deemed to failure. On the one hand, because you might not lose the weight, or once lost it may not stay off. On the other, being “thin” it’s not all it’s cracked up to be. Yes, people will stop giving you dirty looks when you have that sundae, but your other problems will all still be there.
That is the crux of it, though, isn’t it: with losing weight comes the promise of happiness. If only you’d lose those extra pounds. But it goes much further than that. If only your hair was shinier, or longer. If only you didn’t have to wear glasses. If you weren’t so fat. If you weren’t so thin. If you weren’t so short, so tall, so freckled. Who are we really trying to become? who is this imaginary, Ford-assembly-line ideal that we are all striving towards, buying shapewear, contact lenses, heels, bleaching creams, stooping, sweating for, starving for, throwing up for, crying for?
I say stop living in the future, and start liking who you are today. Easier said than done though, especially when well-meaning others don’t hesitate to make you feel like s***t now. Maybe it’s time to speak out, and the next time someone gives you advice to change because it will make you happier, point out that the only reason you are not happy NOW is because they won’t let you. Stop allowing other people to pass judgement on you. Stop allowing them to see you only as your body. Be yourself. Be happy.