japonisme: When you're fat....

28 October 2010

When you're fat....

you think about fat all the time. I wonder if it's the same if you're gay, or if you're black -- do you think about that thing about you that you know others see about you first, that thing about you that makes you different, that makes you, it's clear, stand out?

Slowly, crepuscularly slowly, it is being accepted that perhaps your gayness is something you've inherited; perhaps it isn't a choice after all, perhaps, in fact, you're not deviant, just different.

And it goes without saying that skin-color is not a choice, but don't a lot of people feel that "they" don't have to act "that way"?

I have two primary doctors, my GP and my cardiologist; both are tall and thin, i'd describe him as lanky, her as sleek. He, the cardiologist, is white, be-speckled, she is long-haired and so pretty that you know being a model would have been an option. She is also black.

Neither are, as far as i know, gay.

It's clear both have made decisions about their lives-- perhaps difficult ones. That both are full-time physicians, full-time parents, spiritually involved, illustrates this.

Though both may do some forms of physical-fitness regimen, that's not why they're tall and thin; they were born that way. Just like the black guy and the gay one: this is the way they are.

And so am I. Despite all evidence to the contrary, and it is all to the contrary, short and fat is a natural state of being, a way one is born; i asked my GP if she could be shaped like me even if she did choose to be and of course the answer was no.

I also asked her, according to her experience, if i could choose to be like her (the thin part, not the tall and black, of course). If ability to change is borne out by statistics (as has been used as an argument in the nature of gayness), the answer has to be a loudly resounding , "No!"

Her experiences predict the same as that of the many published reports: only 5%, at most, of people who attempt to lose weight permanently are successful. My cardiologist reported a higher number, 20%, which he believed was due to greater motivation; still, in that case, four out of five patients failed.

Being fat, then, is being a failure; when what you inescapably are is seen as changeable, like the belief that prayer can "heal" homosexuality, those who believe that assume you have failed (unless you are too lazy even to have tried).

Is it any wonder that it is so easy to fall into the trap where self-esteem's only source is the report from the scale?

The assumption about fat people, by thin people and fat people alike, is that they should, and can, be thin. I suddenly realized this year that i had spent a fair part of every day for nearly 60 years thinking i should be "repairing" something about myself, that i was, intrinsically, in the wrong. At all times.

And quickly added to this: that the same was probably true for almost every other woman alive; tell me this isn't oppression? Tell me that anyone who assumes i am lazy, un-intelligent, un-motivated, boring, slovenly, or worthless, because i am fat, isn't oppressing me? I live in a society in which the assumption is ubiquitously that fat is sin, not characteristic.

*I cringe when i hear Oprah berate herself for gaining back some weight; is it even possible, in this society, to define one's lifestyle not as 'letting herself go' but rather 'letting herself be"?

Does fat come with health consequences? Of course! Diabetes, heart disease, and more. But, and i know I'm not original in stating this, but the stress of living all the days of one's life seeing oneself, and being seen by others, as a sinner is not healthy either. I'm not debating that there is a relationship; I'm arguing that the relationship is inherited, not made. If someone is fat, start early with diabetes and cholesterol treatment. Don't ask your patient, your friend, your child, to do something they cannot do, and then judge them for not doing it.

You wouldn't do that if the subject were sexual preference. I know you well enough to know you would not. And if you did, it would say more about you than about your lesbian friend.

My tall, thin, beautiful doctor had never had anyone tell her that they had been beating their head against a wall for 60 years. That when you're online you don't reveal you're fat because that might just invalidate everything you say to just too many people. That people have told you they would love to be friends with you but they just didn't like fat people. That neighbors don't look at you when you meet in the street. And that these things had been happening for 60 years. And you've blamed yourself.

Tyra Banks dressed herself up in a fat-suit; she looked like she weighed over 300 pounds despite being as tall as she is. "The people that were staring and laughing in my face -- that shocked me the most," Banks said. "As soon as I entered the store -- when I went shopping -- I immediately heard snickers. Immediately! I just was appalled and hurt! There's no excuse for rudeness. There's no excuse for ugliness. And there's no excuse for nastiness and that's what I experienced,"

"It seemed like the last form of open discrimination that's okay, and I deci- ded to put on a 350-pound suit myself and live that life for a day and see what happens. And it was one of the most heartbreaking days of my life."

it is true that body shape and size, like race, sexual preference, mental illness, and more traits they're learning every day, are inherited, not chosen, and thus no more than these other traits should it be judged.

lily pond (lotusgreen)

*she has since retracted those statements

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Anonymous evan said...

It isn't the bodies, so much as how we're taught to perceive them, & as much as how we're taught to respond. And so much comes down to who & what our teachers are- Parents, actual teachers, & also advertisements, jokes we hear, what we read, even doctors telling you to lose a few pounds (meaning 15, in my case). It's also a matter I think of maturity, & whether or not we're 14 & hanging out with the pack of wolves (we become, in packs) that we call our friends, & who their teachers were...

28 October, 2010 21:48  
Blogger Gerrie said...

apparently acceptance is one of our commissions most difficult to practice. wonderfull paintings.
thanks, gerrie

28 October, 2010 23:55  
Blogger lotusgreen said...

thanks for another interesting comment, evan. i am not altogether convinced that there are no biologicsl reasons for the aversion -- problems with fertility being one of them.

but obviously, as that song from south pacific says, you've got to be taught how to hate:


29 October, 2010 13:11  
Blogger lotusgreen said...

beautifully put, gerrie. thanks.

29 October, 2010 13:39  
Blogger Ulla said...

Wow! What a wonderfull and heart-opening post! Bravo!!! I adore your honesty and courage to say what others have been so afraid of for so long. Hollywood, I think, is to blame as well - promoting stick-thin and glamorous, forgetting that most of society is the exact opposite.
Hugs and kisses

30 October, 2010 08:50  
Blogger lotusgreen said...

thanks, ulla! you're right, of course. your enthusiasm is terrific.

30 October, 2010 13:32  
Anonymous Algesiras said...

It's... weird because now I imagine you almost like the beautiful women wearing red in the paintings you used for this post: beautiful, proud, bringing all the colors the world need with your words.
Awesome post. Thank you.

01 November, 2010 16:39  
Blogger lotusgreen said...

algesiras -- what a broad smile you have spread across my face

i am their grandmother :^)

01 November, 2010 17:28  
Blogger Nancy Ewart said...

What a powerful, painful post. It's true that fat is now the "new black," that people treat fat people in ways that we used to treat minorities. But, however unfair it was to be treated unfairly as a minority, nobody ever said that you could somehow wish away being black or Latino or Asian the way that many think "us fatties" could stop being fat if we would...fill in the blank. I'm heavy and I've been fat but I remember reading a MD report on me which said that I was "clinically obese" when I weighed 150 pounds (I'm 5'4"). Unfortunately, unless you are tall and thin, most people look at you as fat; there's no difference in their minds between 150 and 200! Now, since I retired I've lost over 50 pounds and I'm under 200 for the first time in ages but I eat about 1/2 less than most people and walk every day just too keep from gaining the weight back. An extra piece of bread, a bit more rice or - heaven's forbid - a desert and five pounds come on and takes ages to come off. It's genetic, it's probably from my peasant heritage and I am sick and tired of people assuming that I eat like a pig and lay around all day, watching TV and eating chocolate. I also have cultivated an attitude of "won't accept your insults" but it's not easy. It's not easy being fat. We didn't ask to be fat in a society that worships thin. It's not easy being an intelligent, creative woman as you so obviously are. So, here's to the fatties of the world. We are programmed to survive the next famine. We provide the brains, creativity and fantasy for a heck of a lot that's out there. Here's to us fatties; without us, the world would be stuck in caves, eating meat from mastodons and crunching on raw grass.

03 November, 2010 18:30  
Blogger lotusgreen said...

well, bravo for that comment, nancy! you know it's probably genetic if your parents try to get you to take "diet pills" when you're 6.

yesterday, i went up to the folks who were working there, after i voted, and suggested they make a very easy change to the way the voting booths were set up to make it far easier for fat voters to navigate. they did it immediately and thanked me. i was pleased that i said fat instead of saving face for *them* by saying "people of size."

03 November, 2010 18:53  
Blogger Nancy Ewart said...

Oh Lord No - not the diet pills too. My mother put my sister on them when she was maybe 9 or 10 and her metabolism never recovered. I am a bit older when she started forcing them down my throat. However, I was away at summer camp or boarding school so my body had a chance to recover from the chemical onslaught. My mother has lived in cigarettes, coffee, pills and diuretics for 90 years and she's still focused on being thin, young and beautiful. The woman is not very bright but she's sure proud of looking young and thin (courtesy of at least 7 face lifts). No wonder we've got issues around body image. One time I asked her who was the most beautiful woman in the US in 1933? Or 1935 or 1945? She didn't have a clue but got royally pissed when I pointed out that Eleanor Roosevelt was remembered and honored and will be a long time after the skinny-mini twit of 1933 (or fill in the blank) has been relegated to the dust bin of time.

03 November, 2010 20:05  
Blogger lotusgreen said...

nancy, you fell for that one major fallacy: beauty and logic never fall into the same argument, let alone the same sentence.

i guess when one wishes to feel superior, over whomever, one grasps at whatever straw she can. that they wanted to feel superior over us, their daughters, was the tragedy -- and suprisingly, probably more for them than for us.

03 November, 2010 21:14  
Blogger Nancy Ewart said...

You are right about it being a tragedy for them more than us. My sister and I have moved on, built good lives for ourselves - myself as a writer/painter and my sister as a special needs teacher. She's got a good marriage and on her worst day, has more brains and genuine inner beauty than my mother ever did. We are doing what we need to do to take care of Mom in her old age but not with much love. Unfortunately, Mother destroyed any love we might have had years ago with her vicious behavior and selfish greed. She spent a fortune on herself with never a penny for the kids - and yet, expected us to give up our lives and come and wait on her hand and foot - NOT! She's alienated all her grandkids as well. She's almost a poster person for what you turn into when you value a certain type of shallow beauty over real values.
It's not easy being heavy in our society. I certainly know that but I would not trade my heft for her (or others like her) with their shallow, cruel hearts, however thin the body, for anything.

03 November, 2010 22:31  
Blogger lotusgreen said...

over the years i've come to believe that each of us is as happy as they can be.

04 November, 2010 08:21  
Blogger Nancy Ewart said...

Thanks for letting me hijack your journal; it's been a fantastic conversation on a difficult issue! I'm looking forward to your next post. Viva curves!

04 November, 2010 10:29  
Blogger lotusgreen said...

hijack implies coersion whereas for me, this has certainly been voluntary! thank you.

04 November, 2010 11:11  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

thank you so much for your elegant words, as a big girl myself, the absolute invalidation that occurs when you interact with the public is amazing, as fat you should bear shame and worse if you do not, ah that can be a sin even worse than being fat in the first place, thank you, for your truth

26 November, 2010 19:21  
Blogger lotusgreen said...

oh excellent point -- thanks for aadding it to our conversation-- and thanks for your kind words -- you've made my day

27 November, 2010 09:12  

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