In which I might get a bit rambly…

I’ve been kind of… “out of it”… mentally the last couple of days.  I’ve been reading, but I’m having a hard time really gathering my thoughts in a coherent manner.  I’m going to give it a shot, though.  But be warned: I might go off on a tangent.  It happens.

I keep going back and re-reading Kate’s latest thinky piece.  For a lot of reasons, really.

The biggest reason, probably, being that I have four children of my own.  And they do stuff like that.  I remember when The Little Helper was about 3 or 4, and I’d taken her to the supermarket with me.  We were in one aisle, and a large woman walked across the end of the aisle.  If I had to guess, I’d say she was probably about the age I am now (early 30’s) and roughly a size 26/28.  I’m not even going to try and guess how much she weighs, because as we well know, nobody knows what a certain weight looks like.  Suffice it to say that she was definitely larger than I was.  Anyway, The Little Helper sees her and yells – and I mean YELLS – “Mommy, that lady is FAT!!”  She said it so loudly that people in the other aisles came into ours to see who she was talking about.

Needless to say, I was mortified.  I told her “shh!  You shouldn’t talk about people like that!”

Now what I really wanted to say was that she shouldn’t be pointing out any specifics about anybody’s body – that’s just plain rude.  But like I said… she was only 3 or 4 at that point.  She wouldn’t have understood what I was talking about.

I sometimes wonder if I might have had something to do with her outburst, though.  I’d just had The Little Chatterbox not too long before hand, and I was desperate to lose weight.  (Never mind the fact that I actually weighed less at that point than I had when Hubby and I first married, I was just SOOO Fat.  [Excuse me while I go barf at myself.])  But I know that, at that point, I was very vocal about wanting to lose weight and how disgusting I was.  So sometimes I wonder if it wasn’t just a little kid making a (very loud) observation, but her clumsy way of saying “but Mommy, you’re so much smaller than she is”.  (That’s the kind of kid she is and always has been – she always wants to help people, whether that’s physical help or emotional.  Hence why she gets the nickname The Little Helper.)

But children are curious creatures – and they will point out any differences they see, usually without malicious intent.  I remember when my youngest cousin Eric was little – about 4 or 5, I’d say – and I had gone over to his house (I was there a LOT back then… a couple of times a week, easy).  I was about 12 or so at the time, and when I walked in, he looked up at me and said “You’ve got some BIG boobies!”  I was already a D cup at that point, so what he was saying was simply true.  D cup boobies on a 12 year old ARE big boobies!  My aunt and then-uncle (they divorced about 2 or 3 years later) gave him hell for saying it, and I’ll admit I was feeling really uncomfortable at the time.  But now?  I can look back on it and realize that he wasn’t trying to be naughty or anything… he just couldn’t help but notice how I was built (few people could) and remarked on it.

So on the subject of children remarking on the differences in people… be that fat or something else… I have to say that the way we REACT to those remarks has a lot more to do with teaching them whether they’re right or wrong.  If a little child comes up to me and says “you’re fat,” the way I react to it is going to tell her whether it’s an okay thing to say or not.  That’s part of where my re-educating my children comes in.  When they were younger and would say something like that, my response would usually be a resigned “yes, I know.”  But now that I’m trying to view fat in a different light, my responses are so much different.  We tend to talk a lot about physical differences in our family – partly because we have a blended family and we don’t all look alike.  (My oldest 2 both have brown hair and brown eyes while the rest of us have blond hair and blue eyes.)  So the subject comes up a little more often than it does in most families, I think.

But that’s where we first learn this whole fat=bad dichotomy.  From other people.  It’s not something we’re born with – it’s something we learn from listening to and watching other people.  Now in older children… yeah, I think the “we shouldn’t remark on other people’s bodies, PERIOD, because that’s just rude” talk needs to be had.  But when you’re talking about young children who are just expressing their curiosity about the world around them… then really, it’s your own reaction that’s the most telling.

But this quote:

actually acknowledging your body and inhabiting it, instead of keeping your mind — the good part of you — comfortably separate from its housing.)

really got to me.  Because that’s essentially what I did.  It was part of my Fantasy of Being Thin – this wasn’t the “real” me, because the “real” me was thin, sexy, and beautiful.  The “real me” was obscured by all of my fat.  Um… no.  The REAL me is and always has been RIGHT HERE.  She isn’t THIN, sexy, and beautiful… she’s FAT, sexy, and beautiful.  She already is almost everything I’ve ever wanted her to be.  And those things she hasn’t achieved yet… well, she’s only 32.  Chances are, she has a lot of time to grow and change.  But the more I really LIVE in my body (as opposed to EXISTING in it, like before), the more my perception of myself has changed.  Do you know… in the last 8 months (since I found the Fatosphere), my eyes have lost a good 30 or 40 pounds?  What do I mean by that?  Well, it’s like this: my BODY hasn’t changed much at all in those 8 months.  My hair is shorter and has been a couple of different colors since then, and I’ve developed some ROCKING thigh muscles, but my weight?  Hasn’t budged.  Nor did I expect it to.  But when I see myself, I see someone that looks a good 30 or 40 lbs. less than what I saw before October of last year.  I say this fairly often, but I really think it’s true: I think I have/had undiagnosed body dysmorphia.  Because when I saw someone who was easily 100+ heavier than me, or 10+ dress sizes larger than myself, I thought I looked like that.  My EYES were fatter than my body.  I have always seen myself as larger than I am.  Until recently, that is.

It’s like finding the Fatosphere and actively taking steps to try and accept (and eventually love) myself has pulled the wool from my eyes and I’m really and truly seeing myself for the first time.  What’s really there, not just what *I* think is there.

And honestly?  Trying to become more comfortable with the word “fat” and developing different ways of responding to that word has had a lot to do with that.  And since the topic seems to come up so often in my house, it’s actually helped to speed it along a little.  Each time the topic comes up, I take a few more steps down the road to full self-love.

A couple of the comments on Kate’s post really got to me though.  For example:

Not that anyone here has done it, but I do have to say that some folks who are on the smaller side of plus piss me off, because they talk about their experiences of “being fat” as if catcalls and a lack of dates is all that we have to go through. They talk about all the cute clothes that finally come in large sizes and don’t realize that even plus-size shops don’t carry things in my size (hint: if your clothing line stops at size 28, you’re still cutting off millions of potential customers.) When you’ve lived several years of your life not even being able to fit in restaurant booths or airplane seats, you start to realize that the “problems” of being a size 20 or so really aren’t problems at all, and you really start to wish that people that size would stfu about how bad they have it.

That one shocked the hell out of me.  Not that I’m trying to play “one-uppance” or anything… but it just really surprised me that someone larger than I would actually think those things.  And honestly?  She has a right to her feelings.  But for most of my life I have thought of myself as insanely huge (for the record, I’m a UK 20/US 16-18), so to read something like that is just like…. whoah.  It just never occurred to me that someone would think that I, at that size, wouldn’t know what it’s like to “really” be fat.  It’s a learning tool, though.  Now that I know that there are people out there that think that way, I can be a little more aware of my language and the effects of said language on people.

And I have to give props… A Sarah wrote a couple of very well-written responses from a parent’s perspective.  I couldn’t have said it much better than she did.

The whole “queer” and “Aspie” sidetrack made me cringe just a little bit.  One of the last responses on that said something to the effect of “THEY’RE allowed to use that word, but *I’M* not.”  Yup, pretty much my take on it, too.  If People With Unconventional Sexualities feel comfortable calling themselves “queer,” then good on them!  Seriously.  But I could never bring myself to use the word.  I guess it’s because I was growing up in the 80’s – and People With Unconventional Sexualities were just beginning to have the opportunities to reclaim the rights they deserved all along.  And “queer” was still seen as an insult then.  I couldn’t bring myself to say that word to someone without having flashbacks of when people would use it as a slur.  And I don’t want to be slurring anybody.  Ya know?  Like the n****r word.  NO WAY IN HELL am I ever going to use that word.  But if they want to use it?  Who the hell am I to tell them they can’t reclaim that word for themselves?

Okay, I think I’m done rambling for now.

… but you never know! 😛

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12 Responses

  1. I think the “queer” issue was mostly about using “queer” as a noun. I don’t think I know any queer folks who have a problem with straight folks using “queer” as a blanket term for non-straight, non-vanilla sexualities, but talking about “queers” makes people cringe. Is that weird? Maybe it is.

    Or actually, is it? I’ll call black folks black but I don’t call them “blacks.” There’s something very othering about it, I think.

  2. When I was growing up, there were two forms of sexuality: “straight” and “gay.” You were one or the other, period. That was the prevailing attitude until about maybe 10 or 15 years ago. And if you called someone “queer” it was considered an automatic insult. Straight old farts like me have a steep learning curve ahead of us when it comes to this stuff. I hope you can forgive my cloddishness.

  3. Oh, FJ, I totally understood where the conversation was going. I was just talking about my own visceral response to it.

    I totally agree with the “othering” aspect, though. And I’m one that doesn’t use the plural form of black, either. It’s black people. I never really thought of it until I saw those comments, but yeah… there’s just something wrong about using the plural form of the noun, even if I can’t quite pinpoint what it is.

  4. meowser, I totally get where you’re coming from. I’m only about 10 years younger than you (roughly), so I understand a LOT of what you say. (Oh, and a total head-nod on the either/or thing. “Bisexual” (or any of the other GLBT terms) wasn’t even a concept I’d ever heard of until I was well out of high school.)

    And it wasn’t cloddishness on your part. I want to make that perfectly clear. It’s just that I have a hard time separating what “queer” USED to mean to what most people see it as TODAY. So when I read your comment – even though I KNOW where you were coming from on that – it just caused an automatic cringe in me.

    I guess it might be part of my irrational fear of offending people. The thought that the language I use might offend someone seriously fills me with a special kind of dread. (Yes, I know, I have iss-yous. Got a tiss-you?) 😛

  5. “But when I see myself, I see someone that looks a good 30 or 40 lbs. less than what I saw before October of last year.”

    This line touched me today. I found FA quite by accident not very long ago, and since then I have noticed that I see my body a bit differently than I did before. I have been working out with a personal trainer for about a year and a half and my weight has not changed so I guess my brain thought my body hadn’t either, but now I can see that I am tighter, firmer if you will. Certainly stronger… And you made me remember something that I said out loud when I looked in the mirror after getting dressed for work this morning. I looked at my self and said “perfect”. I think that is the first time I ever said that about myself. And I didn’t even realize it until I read this blog and you jarred my memory, so, thank you for that…

  6. 😀 Hee! I’m so glad, Catgal!!!

  7. It made me feel better to read that you’re “only” size 16/18, which is about my size. I’ve gone from “normal” to “moderately overweight” in the past couple of years, and I got caught up in the fat acceptance movement before I really had a chance to start hating my body for being fat (I had plenty of other reasons to hate my body growing up, but being fat wasn’t a big one). I’ve experienced size discrimination, but not a lot compared to what larger men and women go through. So I’ve been feeling guilty lately about whether I have the “right” to be a part of the fat acceptance movement, and it made me feel better to know that there are other “not ‘really’ fat” fat acceptance advocates out there.

  8. Yeah. It was quite refreshing from the usual negative self talk that goes on in my head!

  9. there are other “not ‘really’ fat” fat acceptance advocates out there.

    You know, it seems strange reading that. But I guess I should face it: I’m not as fat as I think I am.

    You know… come to think of it… that’s probably why that one comment shocked me so much. I’ve never thought of myself as ‘not really fat’. But… I guess I am. :-/

  10. That comment about the ‘smaller end of plus size’ caught me out too. For most of my life I was a 16/18 UK size, and only in the last 2 years rocketed up to 22 UK size. I notice the things I can’t do, the rides I can’t go on etc etc. Of course things are worse in some ways for someone who is bigger than me, but things are always worse for someone else – people with less income, with bad relationships, with less access to food and healthcare and work….that’s the nature of the world.

    Bah.

  11. I think the whole “not really fat” thing depends a lot on context. To a lot of people “fat” is a bad word, so of course if I asked people outside of the fat acceptance movement if I was fat, they’d reassure me that no, I’m just “curvy,” etc. I haven’t faced much fat prejudice in terms of finding a boyfriend, getting a job, getting into a school, or things like that. But I’m still facing fat prejudice in terms of my health. I had lots of people (including myself) completely overlook the effects of stress on my “mysterious” onset of asthma symptoms (I was in an abusive relationship at the time, and the symptoms faded not long after I left) because I had gained weight, and obviously my asthma would go away if I just lost a few pounds. I’ve had a doctor assume that I must not be eating right and exercising because I’ve gained weight, tell me (without checking my blood sugar) that if I didn’t lose 50 lbs. I’d get diabetes because obviously my blood sugar was really, really high, and tell me that my pulmonologist is a bad doctor for not trying to scare me into dieting. This seems so insignificant compared to the stuff I read at First, Do No Harm, which really scares me–the fact that so many people have it worse. But it doesn’t mean that people like you and I have nothing to gain by supporting fat acceptance; in fact, we’d probably have a lot to lose by clinging to the idea that we’re “not really fat.”

    But where I feel guilty is when I interact with larger people who are outside of the fat acceptance movement. How do I have the “right” to tell people fatter than I am that they’re wrong to want to diet and lose weight, and that they need to start loving their bodies the way they are, when I really have no idea what they’re going through other than that it must be worse than me? Am I not the right “face” for the fat acceptance movement, to speak to those outside of it? Kind of the flipside of the comment Kate posted about today.

  12. Amy, it might help to think of it as, nobody’s wrong to want to lose weight. The pressure to do so from every corner is relentless, and the pressure intensifies greatly the more you weigh. I don’t blame anyone if they’re having trouble thumbing their nose at it all. It’s really only people like me, who know they will never be “normal” at any weight, who have no trouble casting off any illusions that a diet will solve everything.

    The angle I come from is, almost nobody goes permanently from very fat to thin by their own efforts. It’s even fairly rare to go permanently from very fat to only sort-of fat. The emphasis is on “permanently,” of course; lots of people get temporary results from diets (oops, excuse me, Clean Eating Healthy Food Eating For Life Plans), but almost everyone gains it all back, many gain back even more than they lost and “dieting up” multiple sizes is very, very common. So to those people, what I tend to say is, “Well, if you want to gain even more weight, by all means, keep on dieting. The fattest women I know have been at it since they were six.”

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