Yesterday when being shuttled home from the dealership where my car was being serviced, the talkative driver referenced my weight with a look and a comment while telling a story about an eating contest. He said, “And we were like you and me,” nodding toward my lap, “him a big guy who drives big ol’ Buicks, and me,” he said, nodding down toward himself.
I was raised to be polite, so I didn’t ask, “What exactly are you saying?” Plus, I was thinking, well, he’s right…I AM big. Bigger.
Recently a friend brought my attention to the This American Life episode called Tell Me I’m Fat. One of the things I treasure about our friendship is the trust that allows us to talk about the No-Nos of life, like our honest feelings about the bodies we inhabit.
I reacted to the title, Tell Me I’m Fat, with shame and horror–more judgment! Do I not judge myself enough when I eat anything outside the realm of leafy greens?
Several women were interviewed on the show, sharing their views about their own bodies and struggles. Some, like Lindy West, author of Shrill: Notes From a Loud Woman, felt that words like “overweight” suggest a lack of acceptance. That overweight means there’s one Right weight, and her weight is simply Wrong. She’s accepted that the body she inhabits is Fat–let’s just embrace it, and move on and enjoy our lives.
Another, Elna Baker, talked about the journey that began with wondering if her inability to get a boyfriend or a job was due to her weight. On losing the weight she realized that, yes, it had all been about her weight. That her current boyfriend would not have been attracted to her before. That people treated her differently, other thin people she encountered in public looked her up and down and then nodded, leaving her to wonder, was there some sort of thin people code she’d previously been oblivious to?
The subject of obesity as a moral issue is also discussed–are we weak or stupid or sinful because of our poundage? Another interviewee, Roxane Gay, author of Bad Feminist, says in her book,
Sometimes a bold, sort of callous person will ask me how I got so fat. They want to know the why. “You’re so smart,” they say, as if stupidity is the only explanation for obesity. And of course, there’s that bit about having such a pretty face, what a shame it is to waste it. I never know what to tell these people.
Yesterday I wondered with my shuttle driver, how would he react if I said something along the lines of, “And it was like you and me–yunno, an idiot… then, me.”
But I don’t. I don’t want someone else to feel the way I have at the words of others. Once in a Starbucks a stranger approached me to say how he’d lost a lot of weight because he’d had diabetes, and I should do the same–all while he looked me up and down.
I want to be as kind to myself as I am to these misguided souls. I don’t beat THEM up, so why should I beat up myself?
What I will do for myself today: I will live out of the joy of the person I am, reminding myself that I’m so much more than my packaging. The gift of who I am is inside.
The BringYourOwnBeverage conversation: What do you judge the hardest about yourself?