Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Yes, you DID!

Sorry about the long gap between posts. I was out of the country for a couple of weeks and am still in a bit of a recovery mode.

I had a strange moment when I returned to work. Well, maybe "strange" is an odd way to put it. To the average person who isn't invested in the concept of Fat Acceptance and thinks it's front page crazy bonkers, the moment wouldn't be strange at all. In fact, it'd be a moment that they would crave experiencing, and it was something I used to crave myself.

As I got myself arranged in my cubicle, a co-worker approached to ask me about my trip. The thing that she got most excited about was that it appeared to her that I'd lost weight.

"You've lost weight," she said, her eyes all a-glowy.
"Oh, well, I don't know," I answered, shrugging.
"Yes, you DID, you've lost weight!"
"Okay," I replied, because that's pretty much all I could think to say.

When I was still going through the diet-lose-regain festival of life, I wanted nothing more than someone to notice that I'd lost weight. I wished I could walk around with a sign saying "WORKING ON IT!" so that society would know that I was being a good fat girl and doing my darnedest to lose the unsightly pounds. I stopped dieting a few years ago because it never worked and I was a failure. It took a while for the light bulb to fire up in my synapses and inform me that I wasn't the failure, it was the simple fucking fact that 95 percent of diets do not work full stop. My carcass had found the point it was hanging at, and I could either continue to lose and regain the same 60 pounds I'd been losing and regaining since I was in high school, making myself a complete mental disaster, or work and rock what I got.

It's not unusual for co-workers to spy me in my terribly fashionable gym outfit of yoga pants and smartassy tee shirts from ThinkGeek.com, and the default question always is, "OH! Are you on a diet??" Sometimes, I still feel kind of bad that my answer is no, because they're so damn excited by the concept. Dieting is a bonding activity for many. When you're not joining in the bonding, it's hard for many to absorb that concept, particularly when you look like me. I'm not someone that you look at and say "she just needs to lose a couple"--I could quite easily be used on a poster warning the world about the evils of Teh Fats. The notion that I, someone who should (for the LOVE of GOD and ALL THAT IS HOLY) be dieting is *not* dieting...cue heads tilting like Nipper the RCA dog hearing His Master's Voice.

The heads get even more tilty when I don't flip out with joy when I'm informed that I've lost weight. My standard reply is usually a very cheerful "okay!" It's just bizarre to me that so much attention would be paid to my, or anyone else's body. There was a period of time where a co-worker paid a lot of attention to what I would eat for lunch. I like salads. I like vegetables. I like slapping them together and involving a tasty dressing. If I was having a salad-esque item on a day, he'd appear and say a variation of "Oh my GOD, a salad?!?" But he wasn't saying it to try and punctuate the idea of "yeah, fattie, eat that salad"--he absolutely loathed anything that wasn't fried, smothered, and fried some more, so someone devouring green things voluntarily was baffling to him. I knew where he was coming from, so I wasn't particularly offended or annoyed.

I had another co-worker, however, who felt it was necessary to let me know I needed to "get my health under control". A male whose cubicle was in front of mine, he would often opine about various subjects including my state of health and how it was time to get it under control. It never struck him as being obnoxious or violently impolite to inform me how to live my life--after all, he was thin and clearly an expert on health. It's not an unusual attitude for people to take when trying to wrangle fat people. We're informed from a very early age that there is something very very wrong with us and that we're out of control. Therefore, we are to be quite grateful when someone who is thin and "healthy" takes time out of their busy schedule to let us know just what's wrong with us and how to fix it.

I'm not grateful anymore. On a regular day, I'm just kind of amused, and on a bad day, I'm ready to spit some nails. It is disturbing to think about how much money is made off of all of us, fat or thin, based on the idea that it's normal and expected to hate our bodies and search endlessly for some sort of fix, some sort of cure. It is disturbing how pervasive the message is, for all of us, that we are not good enough, and how often that message is delivered to us by people we admire, people we're related to, people we love. Most of the time, it's not being delivered to be unkind. It's simply the default position that is pushed at us over lifetimes by media, by society, by any number of factors. So much so that when we do receive a compliment regarding our appearances, we knee-jerk reject it because it's simply not possible that something involving our bodies is okay, is pretty or handsome, is sexy. And if one's particular aesthetic taste leans toward something that isn't considered conventional by societal standards, it's dismissed as odd and freakish. Hating yourself and considering it par for the course isn't a healthy state to be in, my friends.

If you're a person who immediately provides reasons why someone's batshit crazy for thinking you are attractive or liking the way you've done your hair or the outfit you're wearing or something you've said or thought, I invite you to try an experiment for...let's say, a week. Instead of giving the someone a laundry list of reasons why he/she is out of his/her gourd for finding the cut of your jib fetching, try whipping out a "thank you", even if you're still thinking the person is loco. On the flip, do the same for someone else and if they start to give you the reasons why you're wrong, head them off at the pass and let them know your compliments aren't negotiable.
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