Monday, January 5, 2009

The Infernal Optimist.

“Starting Monday, I’ll be perfect.” – from ‘Starting Monday’, a play by Anne Commire

Happy New Year, to those of you who celebrate it. It’s a dreadful time of year if you’re a Fat Acceptance Funperson, since it’s difficult to escape the advertising pile-on courtesy of the weight loss industry – did you KNOW that if you eat “right” and exercise, YOU WILL LOSE WEIGHT (results may vary)??? If you never, ever, pinky-swear EVER eat another cheeseburger, donut, or anything involving fat, carbohydrates, sugar, or flavor, YOU WILL LOSE WEIGHT (results may vary)??? If you pay a company a large amount of money, YOU WILL LOSE WEIGHT (results not typical)! So whip out those checkbooks, chubsters, because 2009 is YOUR YEAR…TO COMPLETELY SUCK THE JOY OUT OF EATING! AGAIN!

That violently sarcastic aside out of the way, it’s also a dreadful time of year if you’re a cynic. So you can imagine the kind of brain-injuring facedesking I’ve been doing for the last few days. The approach of the New Year always brings out the “holy fucking SHIT, the second the time clicks over to 12:00:01 January 1, 2009, I am going to sprout wings, pixie dust is going to fall out of my ass, and I AM TURNING INTO A UNICORN!!!!” in people, and while I *did* turn into a unicorn, I remain extraordinarily cynical. I’m not one to see January 1 as a tabula rasa. And I tend to react poorly, if silently, to the optimists who are bound and determined to let the world know that January 1 IS a magical date and it’s a time for renewal and it’s a clean slate and you’re starting again so shut up and don’t raise that eyebrow at me, Cynical Susie, because you’ll see! I’m never 100 percent sure when an optimist throws variations of “you’ll see!!!” at me if it’s playful…or if it’s kind of threatening. It’s very easy to mentally substitute an optimist trilling “You’ll see!” all Glinda the Good Witch-style with the Wicked Witch of the West, shaking her fist and cackling, “You’ll see…how about a little fire, Scarecrow?!?!??!!”

I think part of my inability to join the Pixie Dust Club comes from being a part of a group of people who aren’t exactly legendary for getting a fair shake. Hell, go Googling for stories about fat and you’re going to see borderline vitriolic diatribes from the U.S., the U.K., and many points in between about how you, you obese beast you (or “obeast”, if you will), is responsible for a remarkable number of ills in the world and how you deserve to be shat upon from a great height to teach you lessons about “control” and living “right”. It’s rather hard for me (and keep in mind, I do only speak for myself on this here blog) to run out into Daley Plaza, joyfully twirl around in circles, and declare my love for life, the world and all of its inhabitants. (Imagine Ron Burgundy in “Anchorman” when he screams, “Veronica Corningstone and I had SEX and we are in LOVE!” and you’ll catch my vibe of just how I would do that twirling and declaring.) When you’re fat and you’re visible, the likelihood of you seeing the very worst in people is, unfortunately, high. I’ve been remarkably lucky compared to others, and when I read stories of how others have been treated in a society that loves to pride itself on being super-tolerant and so goshdurned welcoming (except when they’re not), it chews away at my soul and dials up the rage something fierce and I can’t play the Glad Game.

I’m a grownup, staring down the barrel at 37, I’ve got some coping tools to withstand the kind of nastiness other grownups are capable of throwing. If I was a fat kid or fat teen in today’s world, I don’t know that I’d be able to survive the sheer amount of “YOU ARE BAD” messages being sent each and every day. You’ve got five-year-old kids sweating over the sizes of their asses. As grownups, we know the crazy-making that dieting is, the ridiculous microscope we put on every single thing that goes into our mouths and how much exercising we do and whether that’s “good enough” and determining our worth simply through the number on the scale. Do you think saddling a child with that nonsense is “healthy”? Is it worth setting up more children for years upon years of self-hatred and torture in the name of “health” that is less about actual health and more about thinness?

I’d love it if the mainstream media and all their assorted screenworthy doctors would simply admit that so much of the demand for “health” among the world’s citizens was less about actual health and more about aesthetics. Let’s stop bullshitting ourselves. How many posts on any given message board, be it about dieting or something completely related, has anything to do with “health” and everything to do with “I want to fit into a size __”? Much like 12:00:01 on January 1 turns us into beautiful unicorns with pixie dust flittering out of our bungs, being a size ___ is the benchmark for so many of us where our lives will truly begin, where the true us will finally emerge, and our lives will be truly worth living.

It all causes me recall tales from my fat youth (no, my youth was not electric, it was fat): one of my friends smoked up to me and informed me that her mother had spotted me at some sort of school function (perhaps the school talent show, maybe me playing in orchestra as I was a first chair violist, THANK YOU VERY MUCH). The mother asked my friend, “does she (meaning me) have any friends?” My friend, bless her heart, said in that inimitable kid way, “MO-THER!!! Of COURSE she has friends!! I’M her friend!” Things like that were benchmarks for me. Whenever someone took a shot at me because I was fat, I refused to retreat to the corner and shut down because the fat kid should shut up and disappear. When I was singing a solo in the variety show in high school and had to haul ass out of the theater and boogie down the hallway in order to get backstage and two lunkheaded teen boys yelled “FREAK!” at me as I passed, I only sang louder, I only made myself more visible. Perhaps my innate defiance, despite so many really shitty times (many in the past year alone, go fuck yourself 2008), could pass as optimism. But my brand of “optimism” requires one to see the world as a place that is great for some people and crap for others, and no amount of life is a cabaret-ing can alter the inequities of the world and this society we’re in without a radical attitude change from pretty much everybody. Empty words peeled off a poster hanging in a third grade classroom or in an office (you know the ones – like the orange tabby hanging off a branch and the caption, “Hang on! Friday’s coming!”) are as empty as the dreaded calories in something that isn’t on your “good” foods list. Chances are that cynical person you know that rolls his/her eyes whenever you bust out singing "Don't Rain on My Parade" has got plenty good reason for that eye-roll. If you're going to demand we turn our frowns upside down, we demand you take a pause from chipper cause to try and understand why our eyeballs are stuck in the sarcastic position.


Anonymous said...

I want to be a unicorn. Why didn't I turn into a unicorn?

... On the other hand, I like having opposable thumbs.

Andrea said...

Your blog helps me keep my sanity. Thank you!