As you can probably tell, weight has been on my mind for the last couple of posts. Bloggers writing about fat people. Bullying of fat people. Ignorance about fat people. It has been on my mind a lot. But you know what? It is on my mind everyday.
Everyday I wake up and avoid mirrors. Everyday I put on clothes and it takes me a moment to find comfortable in them. Everyday I feel like – and usually am – the largest person in the room. Everyday I feel it.
It is easy to say the media perpetuates the issues. It is easy to blame it on the nameless, faceless media. But in truth the loathing is in us. It is in me. And it is in you.
Here are some of the many common misconceptions about fat people:
Fat = bad in this country
Fat = lazy
Fat = no self-control
Fat = stupid
Fat = undesirable
Fat = less than human
Don’t think you think that way? Well let’s take a look at this situation.
When I was a teenager I babysat once for the family in the neighborhood. I remember showing up the first time (I was maybe 13) and the kids were really young and the little one (maybe 3) said “Mommy she’s fat.” And Mommy said, embarrassed, “Oh honey that was not nice…we don’t call people names.” And then she went shopping.
At lunch she had left PB&J sandwiches for the kids. At 3 and 5 the kids each had half of a sandwich and applesauce and milk. Then there were some snacks for later. I made a whole sandwich and when I sat down to eat it, the 5 year old said “Mommy said we can’t have a whole sandwich because then we will get fat.” And I asked them if Mommy ate a whole sandwich and they said no. She eats a half like they do.
Kids are talkative and mimic behaviors. So when we went to the basement to play dress-up, one wanted to be Mommy and one wanted to be Daddy. So “Mommy” put on a dress and “Daddy” put on a jacket and a hat and they pretended to be going out for dinner. And “Mommy” asked “Daddy” if the dress made her look fat. And “Daddy” said no, of course not.
And I remember thinking, “Man, these kids talk about fat a lot”.
So Mommy gets home and she asks how the kids were and I said they were fine and as I was about to leave the 5 year old started telling her all the things we had done and she said “And Michelle ate a whole sandwich and I remember you said that was bad to eat a whole sandwich ’cause you will get fat but she is already fat and so I guess it doesn’t matter.”
I never was asked to babysit again.
See, we know it is not nice to call people names. But we teach kids how to judge other people in the little things we do and say each day. To be conscious of your weight, to make your kids conscious of their weight and health, is not a bad thing. But these kids had learned that fat = bad.
In South Pacific, there is this song called “You Have to Be Taught”. The song is about racism but it applies to any bias – you have to be taught to think that way. We are not born with those biases. We are taught them.
We say it is bad to talk about people, but really we wait until we think they are out of earshot and we say what was on our minds – or we do little things that show our bias. I was at church recently and had to use the elevator to go up one floor – you know why? I have a bad knee and I happen to be asthmatic. I can use the steps, but there are days when it is safer for me not to. So I choose the elevator – that is why we have it, right? So I am standing downstairs and waiting and this mom and her kids come up and she goes to take the stairs and her kids say “Let’s take the elevator” and without looking up, she says “No, you know what happens when you avoid exercise, you get f…” and then she saw me.
Yes, even at church.
Fat = bad.
But really, this post is not about fat. Funny right? Cause it is the only thing I have talked about. But imagine that instead of me this was about someone you loved. Instead of a friend it was your mom or your daughter or your son or your husband. Someone who you had a supreme vested interest in their happiness. You see personality and memories and affection and love. Everyone else sees…fat. Everytime you see someone who is fat – everytime you see someone who makes you uncomfortable – there is someone else who sees them and sees personality and memories and affection and love.
And you, nor anyone else, has the right to make them feel like less than by only seeing fat.
Fat people are people first and foremost. We learn to hate and be uncomfortable with fat. On ourselves and on other people. It is time that we stopped that.