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Fat

She was one of those fat people who was beyond hope; not the kind who always had an extra 20 pounds to lose, or even the one of the ones who could stand to lose 50 lbs. Those kind could lose 20 or 30 and look decent--pass for normal, at least. But she was the kind of fat person that needed some serious work to pass. She was the fat camp or surgery sort. In the young adult books that taught girls lessons about being themselves, accepting themselves, being strong, having esteem, she would have been the fat friend who did nothing but whine, cry and then eat. They were always eating in those books. They couldn't seem to be around their friends in school without cramming food in. They only went to their friend's homes for the snacks their parents wouldn't buy. She didn't think this was very realistic. She was always trying not to eat in front of friends. She would never ask for food, she was fat, she knew what the score was. Even if she was passing out from hunger, no one would think she had the right to eat. Or at least that as how she felt as a child.

Her mother gave her a book like that to read once, when she was about 6 or 7. It was from the church library. The girl in the story was going out with other kids from the youth group, to a swim party. But this main girl was fat, and her bathing suit looked bad on her. It made her sad that she looked this bad, so, of course, she ate. She bought candy bars from the vending machine and got chocolate all over herself because she was so disgusting. She couldn't hide the fact that she had been eating. The little girl who was reading the story was confused and felt bad. She knew she was the fat girl in the story. She didn't really understand the social setting of teens/preteens at this point in her life, and the idea that she would have money to go out and buy candy bars out of a vending machine was about as likely as being able to buy a pack of cigarettes from a vending machine.

Her mom probably gave her this book to read because she saw how her daughter was a little chubby. At that point, she really wasn't the girl in the story, but the course was set. Her mom had her on diet pills by 10, bought Ayds diet candy, was constantly exhorting her and trying to shame her into losing weight. Weight Watchers just after her 14th birthday, then a meals in a pouch system. None of the weight loss lasted for long, and she was beyond hope. Her mother had tried everything, even bribing her with a trampoline if she could get under the 100 lb weight limit for the one she was willing to buy.

When other girls talked about toning and pinching an inch or even dieting, she couldn't join in. Dieting was for thinner people, the girls who could be even more beautiful with a little weight loss; what would a fat girl know about a diet? The knowing looks and sarcasm were palpable. To her a diet felt a lot more serious, a do or die situation, not an acknowledgement that she could improve herself with a little effort. She couldn't ever publicly admit to being on a diet, because that was embarrassing to her. On some level, she resented admitting she was fatally flawed like that, she wanted to pretend that she was a real person. She couldn't really share dieting with people because of what it meant in her life. She wanted just to quietly lose weight with no one noticing, and then the pretending would somehow be actual and she'd be a real girl. She didn't want people to notice her. Sometimes they did, and that could be bad. Sometimes teachers made fun of her and sometimes other kids hit her and said they'd stop picking on her if she wasn't so fat. She wasn't the only one, she knew.

But she was one of those fat people who was beyond hope. She got older, got married, had kids, came into your world for one reason or another. You'd be interested in talking about the benefits of exercise and whole foods eating and combatting this rampant obesity crisis that was responsible for so many of the worlds ills. But when you happened to turn and catch her eye, you quickly looked elsewhere, to those more amenable to the message. There were always going to be those problem fatties, the ones who never lost weight, who just didn't get it. You'd try and tell them about how they just needed to lose weight for their health, and you were nice about it. You smiled when you asked them if they had thought about going on a diet or taking a walk, or parking their car farther away from the door, or not eating a whole pie every night. They were surly and rude in response, or non responsive. There was no help for people like that, those disgusting people who had no self control. She was one of those fat people beyond hope, the one for which a juice fast or 6 week toning program would not show much of a result, if it showed any at all.

When she got stronger and exercised more and ate vegetables and lived her life and got married and had kids and worked and volunteereed and grew older and started feeling tired and cold and gaining weight, she went to the doctor. The doctor asked her if she had tried going on a diet. It's just middle age spread, he said.

So she knew she was beyond help. She looked pregnant, but even if she had a 30 lb tumor in her uterus, no one would ever know, because she was fat and should lose weight. She knew there were people out there disgusted by her, who dreamed about punching her in the face and breaking her bones. She had even met a few of those people in her life. She was a non person to them, a person so disgusting they set up websites designed to hunting her, where they could engage in their violent fantasies about how they could take her apart. She knew that some people felt that she was so disgusting, she might as well be a person walking around with open weeping wounds full of maggots. That was what she felt like on the inside, some days.

Her friends, maybe, were used to her. They knew she was a fat person. They didn't want to be a fat person, but they had no problem if she was fat. There but for the grace of God go I, some of them may have thought. Some of them probably didn't think much about her fat at all, but deep down they were relieved that they were legitimate--legal citizens with jobs, homes, cars and marriages and the ability to look normal. They didn't have a disfiguring illness, they didn't have to use a wheelchair or a walker, they weren't gay, they weren't felons, they weren't refugees with barely a shirt on their back, they weren't mentally ill--at least other than taking a few anti-depressants perhaps--they weren't ill with some disease that must have been caused by poor lifestyle choices, they didn't have life threatening allergies or other health issues that kept them at home, they weren't neurologically divergent and they weren't morbidly obese. Maybe they didn't want to be any of those things, maybe they were some of those things and felt it. Maybe they wouldn't have minded being some of those things as long as they were well regarded in society. But morbid obesity would not be their first choice. They wanted to be legitimate.

She did too, of course, it was her biggest struggle to smile and act normally, like she belonged in the world, like she was just another person. But she knew, of course, that anything could be turned into a moral issue, and she was white, physically and mentally whole, mostly, and financially well off. She wasn't homeless and she could get married. Some people may not think she should reproduce, or have access to healthcare, but some people thought that about everybody. She knew she was lucky. She just didn't know how to live like she was.
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This really hit home with me Amy. I know how that girl/woman feels. I wish I could write a big honest reply, but all I can manage is to nod my head along.

November 2010

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