I was talking with my friend Victory today online about various social things, and as is apparently legally required during interactions between females, the subject of exercising came up. Victory told me that she was going to go to the local Wellness Center, which she hates, because she’s getting “a little bit pudgy”.
My friend Victory is well within the normal social conventions of attractive- blonde-haired, blue-eyed, lovely symmetry and most importantly, skinny. I am more in-line with the social conventions for “ugly”. I dye my unruly mop of ash-blonde hair red, I have freckles (STILL) despite my best efforts of avoiding the sun like a vampire, and, most importantly, I am fat.* And when I hear my extremely skinny friends say she’s worried about getting fat (when the odds are that she could gorge like a glutton and still be as skinny as she is) it feels odd to be sure. It sounds like “I am terrified of becoming like you”.
I know, intellectually, that she’s not meaning it as a slur against me and my body. She doesn’t think of me as “fat” she thinks of me as “heavy-set”. When she thinks of the word “fat” she thinks: lazy, slovenly, stupid, slow, unattractive, unhealthy. The fact that “fat” does not in any way mean these things is not the point. She does not want the social pressure that goes along with being a persecuted group in society and she has an absolute right to be comfortable in her own body. I wish that her ability to be comfortable in her body came without the social pressures.
I’m picking on my friend Victory here because we had the conversation the most recent, but she isn’t by any stretch the only friend who says stuff like this. From my friend who works out because “It’s not fair for me to say “No fat chicks” if I’m not in top condition too”** to my other friend who used to be fat who is now skinny through a self-induced regiment that makes boot camp look like a day walk or my other friend who went and got a belly-band surgery. It is a weird cognitive dissonance for me- I know they think I’m either normal looking or downright attractive, but yet, one of my major physical features they find completely disgusting. Though rare in my social circle, when we have discussions of who is sexy in Hollywood, women who are much skinnier than I are castigated for being “sloppy” and “fat”.
Some days I wonder if I should bring it up, because discussions about one’s bodies are very personal. I meant what I said- people have a right to feel comfortable in their own skin and if that means that you absolutely cannot live with being a fat person to do what you can to get yourself down to whatever you possible can get yourself down to- either through learning to accept yourself or remake yourself*** But, I feel like all of this talk about how disgusting fat is kind of violates my right to feel comfortable in my own skin. I am not immune to culture- there are days that I absolutely hate what I look like and feel like I’m trapped in a tube of unbaked bread. But, I find when I haven’t been around a lot of visual media; days that I spend in-doors or out in the middle of nowhere with just books and radio and my husband for company, I find I actually enjoy my body quite a lot. It’s soft, it’s supple, it’s warm and perfect for snuggling. It’s sexy as hell with curves all over the place. It’s strong and it’s substantial. Some days I feel downright like a fertility goddess.****
Any other subject, I have no problem telling people off for. You think gay people are icky? That’s your problem, and something you should probably work on. You think rape jokes are funny? I have about 30 stock responses, all buzz-killing. You complain to me that women just don’t make sense, and why can’t they be more like you? I will not play the role of your token female- they make as much sense as a group as any other group of humans.
But I don’t know how to address discussions of fat that both go “You know, fat really isn’t that disgusting, and I wish you would quit acting like a major component of my body was something terrible (even though I know you’ve already done the requisite mental gymnastics to not include me in the group “fat”)” without also saying “You don’t have the right to feel towards your body however you want and do whatever you feel is necessary to be comfortable in your own skin”.
Final Note: I will delete any concern trolling that goes “But being fat is UNHEALTHY”. Bull-fucking-shit. You don’t like fat because of aesthetics, not because you give a shit if they’re healthy or not. You know what’s unhealthy? Not getting enough sleep. But, we still expect people to not get enough because of our work culture and no one wants to address that at all. But, enough makeup and you never notice the dark circles. If “health” was the issue at stake, me going “But my doctor says I’m perfectly healthy” would shut down any discussion of me needing to exercise or alter my diet. Others have already talked about this, I’ll leave it with them.
*My friends and family all hide that word in terms like “pudgy” “squishy” and “heavy-set” but I’m trying to de-stigmatize that word. “Fat” is a description, not an insult. The social norms say I’m not attractive. My social life says differently.
**Which is, I suppose, a baby step up from other acquaintances who look like slobs and still expect super models.
*** I’d go with the learning to accept yourself, though that’s harder. Remaking yourself hits a brick wall pretty quickly unless you have a LOT of time and money to burn.
****Minus the fertility. So, I guess “sex goddess”.