Wednesday, August 08, 2012


The a fore mentioned post is being postponed again.
This morning Pattie (hard to know how to link Pattie because she's all over the www) linked a post on Facebook and added a comment of her own.

Julia McCrossin writes an excellent and personal meditation about groups and belonging. Sociologists call what she describes "in group/out group" dynamics. We often try to figure out who we are as a group by defining who we are not. Unfortunately, this leads to exclusionary practices that leave those of us who live at intersections of group identities intensely alone at times. This post speaks to me profoundly because of late I've been feeling too disabled for the fat community and too fat for the disabled community. It is a lonely place to be.

Yeah. I feel that. I saw it before I felt it. I knew it was coming in my own life.
Some of my feeling of exclusion from the fat community are a result of personal relationships and more about me opting out. My internalizing of fat as an identity, a specifically political identity, was never really done in the context of a group. In fact most of the groups I've been a part of inhibited rather than assisted that process. Individual relationships have been useful but not the group and I would include NAAFA. At every NAAFA event I attended at least one person whispered something about all this acceptance stuff was OK but shouldn't we all just lose weight.
But the post and Pattie's comment brought back the feeling I had/have in fat community. I felt less than interesting. Or something like that.
A therapist I worked with for awhile told me a theory about groups. In any group there is an in, a middle and an out. So the in is maybe the smallest and filled with leaders and strong personalities. The middle is the majority of any group. And the out is filled with the people who have...issues. Perhaps this is simplified by Pattie's articulation of in group/out group. In fat community I felt in the margins. I have a bunch of theories about why and it might have been different if I'd been involved in NAAFA somewhere other that the Bay Area but I felt like I didn't ... fit.
I could probably go on and on about all that but I want to stay with the ideas in Pattie's comment. Internalizing being disabled is turning out to be a much harder task. I'm not OK with it. It's incredibly hard for me not feel responsible for my level of ability. Again, there are many moving parts to this. One of the things I've realized from being less able is how much being able defined my sense of value. I could work harder, sleep any where, walk any where. I both threw and dragged my body into experience. In my forties I noticed I was slowing down but in my fifties...oh lord. My body is so demanding now. And so slow. I'm one year away from sixty. It may get better but it may get worse. So I tell myself it's about age. I'm just getting older. And some of that is true. But I am also disabled. It's just so hard for me to drill into that.
I resist the articulation of fat as a separate thing. I'm not a person with extra weight. I'm a person who weighs what I weigh. I'm fat. And I own being the age I am. I don't feel any shame about it. But not being able to walk. I'm mad about it. I'm frustrated about it. I'm embarrassed. I feel like I messed up.
Here's the thing. I articulate my fat identity as understanding that my body is fat by nature. I might be more fat or less fat but I've never been and will never be thin. And how fat I am is a natural reflection of the whole of my life. How much I eat. How much I exercise. It's all a part of my life. I'm not failing at something when I weigh more, or less. I've heard so many people talk about the advantage of a serious illness being weight loss. It's so painfully obvious to me in those moments that being fat is not read as a body type but rather an error.
Now. Why? Can't I get. That. About being. Disabled.
The same ideas apply. Maybe if I lived in a country with socialized medicine I'd have had knee surgery. But I don't. Maybe it would have helped and maybe it wouldn't have helped as much as I imagine. I work on maintaining mobility. I take handfuls of herbs and vitamins. I swim and do yoga. I work on it. Maybe there's more I could do and I think it's good to be problem solving. But I don't think it's useful to be as negative about my ability level as I am.
Also. When I was around fat community I saw the bouncy, young and happy people pushed to the front and the older people in wheel chairs spoken about with respect but not called upon. I was younger then and more mobile but not that interested in happyhappyjoyjoy. I longed for deep conversations about consciousness raising.
Now. I had a rock and roll band. Fatshadow. And I sang a song. Fat Love. So I can bounce. I'm just not always in the mood.
Julia's post is wonderfully open hearted and full of interesting thinking. I'm not sure that I believe that we get absolute acceptance anywhere. Not even in one on one relationships. And I think that's OK. I think our differences are often what make our relationships interesting. But in a group, particularly a group organized around issues of civil rights, we need to work for inclusion, acceptance and really a celebration of each other.
I think Occupy does a fairly good job with this. M15 is pretty great. They attempt to focus on the work and problem solving. I think the insistence on remaining undefined and bottom up forges intentionality about inclusion. But. I'm sure there are issues.
I think that growing up fat is part of my issue. When you grow up fat you are told there's something wrong with your body and it's your fault. Oh maybe it's your Mom feeding you stuff but other kids get to eat. It's your fault because you're too lazy and you need to run around more. This was true when I was young and it's SO MUCH WORSE now. Now you're actually diseased. How do you develop trust and affection for your body when everyone (teachers, parents, doctors) feels they need to help you be something that you're not. If your not fat you can eat what ever you want. It might not be healthy but that's OK. As long as you're not fat. And when you're in a group you're called out and bullied and adults say, yeah that's bad but you need to not eat cookies.
All of the work I've done to understand my body and understand health and I am now faced with a new challenge. I'm disabled.
I was surprised at how much ire surfaced when I read Pattie's comment this morning. Ire and hurt. When I hear fat and community used together I sort of roll my eyes.
Too old. Too hobbled. Too serious. Too much.
Too too.
I've been working on this post all day. Struggling to establish structure and coherence. I think I'm still a little sick. Better though.                    


Anonymous said...

I don't have much of anything articulate and profound to add, other than the fact that this spoke directly to my experience. I am disabled, and young, and struggling. I am 29 years old and fat-mcfat-super fat. But I also have medical issues that are not caused by my fat. I struggle with the idea that my health is my fault. My mobility is my fault. If only I could just pull up my boot straps and get shit sorted, then I would be one of the happyjoyjoy fat people who can dance, run, lift weights etc. Not so. Even my therapist has told me that I need to accept that I CAN get better. I told him that I disagree, that I am struggling to accept that this is the way my body is and isn't likely to change. I am enrolled in a pain study, and they keep forcing literature at me that is all about "your thinking is what causes your pain." I'm about ready to drop out. I am exhausted by the struggle to keep up with the "personal responsibility" that society forces on those of us who are experiencing health issues. Why can't people see that the only reason I'm even half as functional as I am is because of the fucking hard work I do to get here.

Thank you for what you wrote.

Tish said...

Thank you for reading.
This reminds me of a time when I was in the hospital because I'd gotten an infection in my leg and needed intravenous IV. One nurse was changing where the needle was in my hand and said something about me having lots of adipose tissue. I laughed because it was such a medical way of saying - you're fat.

Then she asked if I was going to do anything about it.
I said, you don't me. You don't know if I've already lost a lot of weight or if there are reasons I shouldn't try. Your assumptions aren't healing. She finished what she was doing and left the room. After some time she came back in and apologized.
It infuriates me that we have to advocate, explain and defend when we are in any situation but most of all when we're trying to get health care.