Sunday, October 11, 2009

Not so much fluffy as just plain fat.

I would like to be able to whip out a merry tra-la-la kind of post, but I’ve got things gnawing at me like they tend to do. They’re just small things, the kind of innocuous, little things that I tend to write about – you could call it my “small stuff-ing it”, I suppose. I’ve noticed that more often than not, it’s the small stuff that gets stuck and chews and grates on me, while bigger stuff seems eminently easier to handle, easier to process. And when I say it gnaws and chews and grates, it’s more that they’re things that make me clench my fists and swear quite vigorously and write e-mails that have many words in capital letters...and then I’m playing Peggle and being entranced by rainbows and unicorns (literally).

But goddamn, it pisses me off when I’m watching a favorite show or reading a blog or something from someone I enjoy and they whip out a fucking fat joke or go on a bitch about fat people.

Case in point, “Dirty Jobs” on Discovery. Hoo boy, do I enjoy that show a bunch. I enjoy Mike Rowe. I enjoy his humor (mostly) and how he doesn’t treat the folks he’s working alongside like they’re dummies or somehow “beneath” because they’re doing jobs that others would say they’re simply too “good” to do. I enjoy Mike Rowe when he’s shirtless. But I did not enjoy it on this week’s episode when Mike trotted out the old har-dee-har-har, “dating a fat girl is like riding a moped – it’s a lot of fun, but you don’t want anyone to see you doing it”. Oh dear, what a...kneeslapper? See, when I was younger, I did what a lot of fat people tend to do – we do the whole “oh, I’m going to insult myself first before anyone else does” when we’re in social situations. We launch the volley of fat jokes and self-deprecating remarks just so you can be assured that:

a) we know we’re fat
b) we know you’re disgusted by us
c) we’ll do our darnedest to entertain you so you don’t rip on us too hard once this social interaction has come to a close

And, in grand fat tradition, if someone makes some sort of fat joke, it behooves us to find it just as funny as everyone else because – all together now – ”I DON’T MEAN YOU”. (I wish I could insert a grand, operatic “TA DA!!!!!!” right now.) I swear to Christ, that’s one of those phrases, along with “you have such a pretty face” and “I only like you as a friend” that if I had a buck for every time I’ve heard it, I would be writing this from my ultra-cool underground lair that would be heated appropriately because HI SUBURBAN CHICAGO, I AM NOT READY FOR THE CRAZYCOLD YET. Uh, sorry, I digress, mainly because I’ve had to stop and blow warm air on my hands.

They don’t mean you, they don’t mean us, because we’re their friends, their sidekicks, their loyal pals, the ones who listen to all their bullshit and then flee the moment we might want to have a moment to discuss what’s going on in our lives. Okay, I might be spinning things a bit bitterly. And I should say to all of my friends who read this, I...uh, don’t mean you. But you feel me, readers. Because I would venture to say more of us than not have had that awkward moment where someone we’d tag as being a dear friend or a beloved family member spews out a fat joke or rattles off some sort of casual fat loathing/expression of disgust for fat people and we either half-heartedly chuckle or just stare in horror at them. And when it comes on the heels of maybe feeling like said friend or family member might not be quite so reciprocatey when it comes in the General Support Department...I’ve felt a lot of feelings in my life (that may be the most awful sentence I’ve ever typed, but roll with me), but few things feel worse than when someone you trust basically lets you know they think you’re a horrific piece of shit, someone – hell, something - worth only mockery and derision.

“But Jane,” you might say, “they’re not talking about you, remember? They don’t mean you!” The problem with the whole “I don’t mean you” thing is that it’s an excuse – it’s an excuse along the lines of “but one of my best friends is ____!” It’s not necessarily a conscious decision on the speaker’s part – I’d wager that if Friend Z tells a fat joke, zie’s not thinking in zie’s head, “I am going to tell a fat joke just so I can make Jane feel like shit and THEN I’m totes going to tell her that I don’t mean her!”. Mike Rowe didn’t bust out the “fat girl/moped” gag thinking about the fat women he might piss off. If he has fat women that are close to him in his life, I suspect “I don’t mean you” would come flying out of his mouth at the speed of sound if he dropped that joke and got a less-than-enthusiastic response. But what the ultimate problem is is that at the end of the day, kids, you do mean us. We fats that you insist you adore, etc. are part of that pulsating, terrifying amalgamation of deadly obesity that you’re told almost every single day is responsible for just about every ill in the world, that you mock, that you hate, that anger you for existing. So when you break out the hilarious fat gags or you’re propped up on your soapbox about that lazy lardass you saw at the grocery store whose cart was filled with nothing but what you would consider “junk food”, the message you’re sending to your fat friends is, essentially, “ew on you”.

Yes, my astonishingly deep summation is “ew on you”. I can’t spin gold 100 percent of the time.

As for the instinctive response of the fat person to sputter out a collection of self-deprecating, self-insulting fat jokes, it’s amazing to me how it makes me have such a visceral reaction, particularly when it comes out of nowhere. I used to be the Queen of the self-deprecation action, but now that I don’t think it’s particularly cricket to hate myself or for anyone else to hate me or for anyone to hate themselves, it puts me right over the edge when I see it*. I challenge those of us amongst us who still fall into that reflexive position to take a 24-hour (or however long you wish) break from doing it. Just give it a whirl, even if someone serves up a “perfect” opportunity for you.

*You may be at a different point in your FA journey than me, so do take what I talk about with whatever size grain of salt you wish. Hell, as big as a salt lick for a deer if need be. Your trip will take as much time as it takes.


Kristin said...

Word. When I was in high school I would make a point to make fun of other fat people because GOD FORBID anyone would make fun of ME. I figured if I was in on the joke they would never call ME fat. I threw people under the bus because I was so afraid of being laughed at like I was in Elementary School. I wanted these people to like me SO BAD but I knew they'd never like me as a person because duh, I was fat therefore unlikable! As long as I could direct their derision elsewhere I was safe. Every time I think on it now I feel so ashamed of myself and my behavior it literally makes me sick.

Jane said...

The logic for me always was, "I can make fun of them if they're fatter than me". In retrospect, it's so completely awful, awful, awful, but that's how my brain worked.

Tanz said...

You've hit a sore nail on the head for me here.

As a teen/younger woman I used to strive to be the first to dig at myself with a fat joke; my reasoning was hey, they're all going to do it anyway, and I'd rather they laugh with me than at me.

Nowadays I have few fat hating friends and I can call out the ones who do slip. My main problem is the inlaws. I have been fat the whole time hubby has known me, and I've grown to obese in that time. he loves me and adores me, as I do him. But his family... both of his sisters are very skinny, and one in particular makes snarky remarks to other people (never me) about how much they're eating and how much of a pig they are. These people, being family, are usually thin themselves or average size. it really makes my blood boil because I am standing there thinking "what must she think of me?"

And then there's MIL and FIL who just treat my weight like the elephant in the room; no-one ever even alludes to it. I just want to scream "Yeah, I'm fat!!" at them sometimes - I think I'd prefer insults to silence.

Ali said...

There is so much truth to everything you have said. I used to do it to myself to try and show others that I know that I'm fat...but at least I had a sense of humor. I think in a way it was an effort to try to control what was said about me so I didn't have to hear other people say hurtful things.

TuffyRox said...

Wow, you're awesome! I'm newish to the 'sphere and really enjoy your writing.

I guess I never got the idea to put myself down so nobody else would. Instead I projected an "easily wounded" kind of attitude and my friends generally knew what not to say around me. It made me an easier target for people who didn't care if they hurt my feelings, though. These days I'm trying to be more open with people about my weight, but not in a self-deprecating way, and also not taking any @#$% from people who are just mean or thoughtless.

Jen said...

Yeah. What you said.
Sorry for sounding like an idiot. It's been a very long, exhausting weekend but I had to tell you I agree and couldn't think of a better way.

Dollarhite said...

Fuck Mike Rowe for making you feel bad and insecure. I've got a "Dirty Job" for that fucker that involves my taint and a half a pint of honey.

It's a scientifically proven fact that guys that get off on fat girl/moped jokes have extremely small weiners. I read that somewhere or I wrote it down and read it. Either way, I ain't here to blow smoke or curry favor, just saying you shouldn't feel bad, because, frankly Jane, you're fucking awesome.

Unblinking I said...

I'm not far enough on my FA journey. I am ALWAYS the first to crack a self-deprecating comment about my weight. I never even really thought about it.

Challenge accepted, madam. 24 hours - nary a single comment about my weight as anything but positive.

Thank you for letting a little light creep in.

Anonymous said...

@Unblinking - you and me both.

Jane, I accept the challenge. (Cue uplifting musical montage of my life.) As always, you take my shaky ideals and bolster them with your intelligence and wit. I posted your 'This is why you're fat...' link on my FB and converted a few friends.

Completely off-topic, are you following the Lucinda Rosenfeld Double-X advice column hoo-ha? It's been well covered by Jez and Salon and Newsweek, but if you missed it, it's a shitstorm I think you would be interested in, one for the Advice Columnist Shows Her Ass file.

CarrieP said...

"Fuck Mike Rowe for making you feel bad and insecure. I've got a "Dirty Job" for that fucker that involves my taint and a half a pint of honey."

This comment just made my entire day.

Fantastic post, btw.

Anonymous said...

Finally. I found someone else that saw the same thing I did. I love Mike Rowe, think he's extremely witty, good looking and I could listen to his voice all day long. However, that joke was the first time I was taken aback by him.

I've watched "Dirty Jobs" for a few years now. I think it's safe to say that the majority of the women he's worked by are not small by any standards. They're the average working woman that doesn't have the time or the money to stand up to the social standard of what a woman should look like.

I used to listen to Adam Corola when he was on Love Line. Yes he was crass, and oftentimes longwinded. However, once one waded through his tyrants he threw out what one would consider a words of wisdom. I don't remember the exact quote, however he said with all the disabilites out there, ie: mental retardation, paralysis, amputation. That being fat is still ok to poke fun at. He wasn't meaning that it was ok to do, just that society as a whole still thinks it's ok to humiliate a heavy person. And he's right. Someone makes a fat joke, there's not the hush of a crowd, it's a snickering that lingers. Lately, I've been seeing more and more comments made on tv about "fat women" and honestly, I wonder why we're suddenly getting picked on.

O.C. said...

I saw the same episode, and that joke has really ruined "Dirty Jobs" for me. I still watch sometimes, when I channel surf past it, but I can't help but think that there's a guy who thinks of me as the butt of a joke. Which doesn't make watching the show much fun for me anymore.

I wonder, when someone like Rowe makes a joke like that, who does he think will hear it? Does he think his audience is made up of only thin people? C'mon, it's a clever, kinda nerdy show. It attracts a clever, kinda nerdy audience. And we clever nerds tend to be a little funny looking one way or another, and often fat. Don't you think that probably at least half of the women who watch that show are fat? So he's just chosen to tell a cheap joke without regard for how it will alienate a significant portion of his audience. This is not a good business practice.