I’m fat. I’m really very fat. Fatso, Chubbo, Blimp. I’m large, over-size, ginormous. Fatty fat fat fat. Fat fat fat fat fat fat fat.
And that’s not something we’re really allowed to say about ourselves, is it? How does a normal, everyday, nice person respond to someone saying ‘I’m fat.’ You could say ‘oh, you’re not so fat.’ (Not very plausibly, in my case). You could say ‘you are such a wonderful person, it doesn’t matter.’ (Which means it really does matter.) Or you can respond with an awkward silence and change of subject: “Uhhhh . . . Check it out! A unicorn!”
It’s like people with odd names. Say you meet someone, and they say “My name is Ephraim Pimplesnot.” They know they’ve got an odd name. They know their name gives people the giggles. There’s essentially not a single witticism people could say about their name they haven’t heard. I had a friend whose name was Betsy Ross. Think she didn’t get pretty sick of flag jokes? (She was desperate for a married name upgrade, then met my friend Robert Fetzer. Now she’s Betsy Fetzer.) Same with me. I have a mirror. I don’t look in my mirror and see a skinny guy. I see a fat guy. I see a whole lot of me.
What I need are some snappy comebacks. Think of Cyrano de Bergerac. Guy says ‘you have a big nose: Cyrano gets one of the great speeches in theatre history in reply. Talk about snappy comebacks! That’s what I need: “Fat! Is that all? You could go ‘Biblical: Is Jonah still in there? Zoological: ‘The African elephant is distinguished from the Asian by. . . .’ Aquatic: ‘oh, the huge manatees!'” And so on. But I can’t think that fast. Plus nobody does that. Nobody really says ‘gosh, you’re fat.’ People are generally polite, and generally kind. Still, owning your fatness is not really socially acceptable.
Kids, sometimes, tell the truth. Our neighbor kid came over selling some school thing and looked at our living room, which happens to have very high ceilings. He looks at the ceilings, looks at me, and then says “I know why you need so big a room. You’re a monster!” That was hilarious.
I should lose weight, of course. Obesity isn’t healthy–it would be better if I lost a few (hundred) pounds. I know that.
But losing weight is hard. It’s really really really really really really really really hard. I’ve tried, many times. Many many many many many many times. And that’s generally true of most big people. I’ve tried diets, lots of them. I exercise. But my disease makes exercise problematic, for a variety of reasons, and also complicates what I can eat. And while I haven’t necessarily given up, it’s also not a particular priority.
Besides, I don’t want to lose weight because I’m fat, I want to lose weight because I’m obese. That’s a pretty important distinction for me. Obesity has to do with the health implications of overweightness. Fat is a cultural construct, body image–our society constructs ‘beautiful’ as ‘skinny’. But lots of fat people are very healthy and lots of skinny people really aren’t. I’m obese, which is not very healthy, but I’m also fat, which is just descriptive. It’s the fatness issue that makes people embarrassed and uncomfortable–admitting to fatness is socially awkward. If you’re pushy about it–“I’m fat! Deal with it!” you can come across as a jerk.
But here’s what I reject–the idea that fat people are fat because they feel bad about themselves. I do not feel bad about myself. I really am quite comfortable with who I am, and with how much of me there is. I like joking about it. I like it when friends and family joke about it. I do not wander about in the pits of despair.
I have a wonderful wife who I adore and who loves me for who I am. I have wonderful children, smart and funny and good, who like me and who feed me cookies. I have friends, I have talents, I have professional standing, and when I was well enough to act, there were parts I was right for. What I do not have, and will not allow, is self-pity.
So fat lib rules! Chubbos of the world: unite! Just the way our gay friends appropriated the put-down word ‘queer’, I’m appropriating fat! I’m fat, and I’m here. (No, it needs a rhyme). I’m fat, and a brat! I’m fat and not a prat! (Ouch.) I’m fat and I’m smart and I like myself just fine.
(The slogan needs work, I think.)