In all fairness, I have a confession to make: I’ve only tasted Krispy Kremes twice in my life and I’m glad they’re not readily available in my remote area because they’re delicious and if I had access I’d probably be tempted. So why do I call this my ‘Krispy Kreme Confessions”? Because people take one look at me and assume that’s all I eat. I am a fat American. It’s something I’m not proud of. But it’s something I’m not ashamed of either and that’s where I run afoul of a lot of people.
American women get a lot of mixed messages – one says to be less critical of ourselves – the message that says the exterior is far less important than the person that lies within. The other message is the really loud one – the one that says our self worth relies heavily on how we look and what we drive and what we own and where we live. It’s the one that’s commercialized in the media and print ads and on television and all other forms of media. It’s also the one that’s expressed loudly in social media.
Colin Lively, hairdresser to the stars, globetrotter and a dear, dear friend, posted an innocuous comment on Facebook that said simply, “70% of Americans are overweight”. I wrote as simply below, “I’m one of them.” What followed was the most nasty barrage from a man I’d never met about how I was a psychotic fat cow with deep-seated psychological issues and I should just go stuff my face to make myself feel better… and die. I pointed out that he didn’t know me and it was a pity he based the worth of a human on the outer shell without ever bothering to learn about the person who resided within the less than perfect shell. Ordinarily, I take a more acerbic tack and start throwing punches, but I sincerely felt sorry for this guy. I learned later he was a former fatty who had lost all his extra weight and was a gym addict. No matter how polite I tried to be, the insults came fast and furious until I found it ultimately more satisfying to simply block him rather that swim in his toxic cesspool. In the end, I didn’t feel bad for me – I felt bad for him. I suspected the loathing he was expressing had everything to do with him and nothing to do with me. Within five minutes of that exchange, someone took offense to a humorous Tweet I’d posted and the “heifer, pig and bovine” slurs ensued. I was less patient with her and upon pointing out that I could go on a diet and she would still be a hateful, disgusting cunt, imagine my surprise when she slithered under the rock from which she had emerged. I’m an expert in silencing my foes in 140 characters or less.
I well understand that being heavy isn’t good for me. I’ve had a complete physical within the last six months and my doctor seemed frustrated that I don’t have high blood pressure, diabetes, cholesterol issues or suffer from bad joints. He was actually angry with me that I’m not suffering due to my weight. You can imagine I pretty much nailed him between the eyes for that one, asking what kind of man of the healing arts wishes disease on his patients. It took more than 140 characters, but I got an apology from my doctor along with a lecture on nutrition. Thank goodness for that, because I had no idea you were supposed to eat fruits and vegetables and avoid refined sugar and carbs. You’d have thought he might have figured out during the exam I hadn’t been in a coma. Being a doctor, one might have wondered why he never checked to see if there was an underlying problem for the weight issues that have plagued me from birth. And yes, I’m shopping for a new doctor.
But the constant question asked of me is why I don’t just “do something about it”. That is a complicated answer, my friends. Thin people have no concept of weight struggles. Those who have overcome weight issues feel morally superior and look down upon me. No one sees what I eat or knows what I struggle with, so the ultimate answer has to be, “What’s it to you?” How does my weight affect your everyday life? Why does my appearance bother you so much? I get a range of answers that all seem to boil down to how much I personally cost the American people every year – a complaint upon which I call utter and complete horse shit. Aside from the common cold, I haven’t been sick a day in my life. At 55, I have every single organ with which I was born. Never been hospitalized. And then they whine about their insurance rates. I also call bullshit on that. I’ve never filed an insurance claim. Not a single one. Being a healthy person with a $2,000 deductible, I’ve never racked up enough in medical bills to file a claim. If you think you pay too much in premiums, take it up with your friends who think a single payer system is “socialism” instead of common sense. Vote for change at the ballot box instead of blaming me because I’m not the reason you pay high premiums.
I’ll tell you why it bothers them so much – because it doesn’t bother me and I live in a country where we have to have someone to hate and I make a convenient target. It’s so easy to label me as weak-willed and lazy because it makes other people feel superior. Imagine their frustration when I’m not buying what they’re selling. I have a pretty realistic view of myself. I know my strengths and weaknesses. I can work as hard as any man all day on the farm and put in another eight hours at a job, keep a house, pay my bills and continue my volunteer work and never miss a step. There are people who rely on me and I won’t be slowed down by people who are so bored with their existence, they think I should care what they think of me and in America, you’re supposed to care deeply about what other people think of you.
I care about what substantive people think. I care about people who spend more time lifting one another up rather than concerning myself with people who wish to tear me down. I know I can’t truly love someone else in ways that matter if I can’t love myself and as I said, there are people who rely on me. I have a responsibility to be okay with me so I can be okay with others, even people who don’t look like me or share my background. I don’t have much tolerance for people who express bigoted views against people based on the color of their skin or their ethnicity or their sexual orientation because none of those things have the power to have a negative impact on my life. If they believe those things have a negative impact on theirs, then the problem doesn’t lie with any of those groups I named… It lies with the person who has a problem with it. We live in a big, complex world with real problems that require great minds to solve them. I listen to those great minds and have a pretty good fix on things that matter. If my physical appearance so disgusts you that you feel the need to take me to task for it when it has virtually no impact on your life, maybe you should get one… a life, I mean.
I get that there are certain societal rules to which I’m supposed to conform, but there are times when rules were made to be broken and this is one of them. I think if more women could learn to simply accept themselves as the wise and loving souls we are, we could conquer so many of the problems that face our gender, our country and our world. We have a moral imperative to stop accepting the rules placed on us by our history of Patriarchal dominance. Ladies, we’ve been playing by the rules of those who rigged the system to their benefit. I choose not to accept their premise – namely that because I’m not a physically perfect specimen that I’m somehow “damaged goods”.
I’ve been fortunate to have a good and kind man at my side. He sees the person within. Not long after I met him, he noticed I rarely ate anything in front of him and when I did, it wasn’t much.
“Do you think your weight bothers me? Do you think I’ll love you more if you weigh less?”
“Your weight doesn’t bother me one bit. Eat.”
That was the sum total of his observations about my weight and we had that conversation 17 years ago. I’m an Atheist and he’s a devout Christian. I’m all for gay youth in the Boy Scouts and he’s not so sure – one of the few things about which we disagree politically. He’s a Depression era kid and I’m a Baby Boomer. We work shoulder to shoulder volunteering at Lion’s Club events because his grandfather was blinded in an accident and giving eyesight to others is a cause near and dear to his heart. Feeding hungry Americans is where my heart lies and he helps me collect and distribute food to needy families. Delivering Thanksgiving baskets to people who had nothing the first year we met was an eye-opener to him and I remember seeing him wipe the tears away when he met a sick woman with three small children huddling around a small stove for warmth in a old decrepit house and the genuine appreciation she had when she took the basket of food. He doesn’t know I know he went back at Christmas time with a truckload full of gifts for her children because she sent me the thank you note. I knew he’d be embarrassed by my knowing because he’s a simple man who believes that when you give quietly it’s genuine and I didn’t want to steal his blessing. In some ways we’re so different but in the ways that matter to the soul, he is truly my better angel. I feel so fortunate to have found him because I don’t think they make men like him much anymore. When I told him I was writing this piece, he just smiled. He won’t read this, in fact, he’s never read a word I’ve written… because he can’t. The love of my life, who farms and managed to do very nicely for himself in this life financially, can’t read. His youth was spent farming the nearly impossible land they owned in the Ozarks. The survival of his family was more important than an education. Fortunately, his adulthood was spent during a time when you didn’t need a degree to do hard manufacturing work and make a comfortable living. But just because he can’t read doesn’t mean he doesn’t understand a lot about life and love. He gets the irony of a man who can’t read being in love with a writer. Which brings me back to self-acceptance. Big Daddy’s learned to be okay with the fact that he can’t read. He knows I would gladly teach him, but feels at his age, if he needs to know something, he can watch the news or I will read to him. He’s a man who works from sun up to sundown and reading lessons don’t fit in with his schedule of baling hay and feeding cows and repairing fences this time of year. I don’t view his inability to read as some sort of weak-willed or lazy defect in his character and he doesn’t view my weight that way either. We’re two hard-working souls who love ourselves, one another and try to make the lives of others not quite so hard.
If that’s a ‘defect’, then I’ve learned to live with it. And I know a lot of others who should try it. None of us are perfect. Given enough time with anyone it wouldn’t take much to figure out their short-comings. I’ve met a lot of mean-spirited and stupid people in my lifetime. Makes me want to ask them…
Why don’t you just “do something” about it?
Carol Baker is a fat freelance political writer and her fat ass is a frequent contributor to Here Women Talk.
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