Wednesday, June 07, 2017

This American Fat

I listened to The This American Life episode:Tell me I'm Fat with some trepidation. The introduction to the show sounded promising because it said we need to rethink the way we see being fat. Ya think? I starting rethinking the way I saw being fat decades ago but ... OK. I listen to This American Life a lot and have for years. I do because it's smart and usually has a different perspective. Full disclosure: I sent them a piece years ago. It may have even been about the way I experience being fat.  I have the rejection letter somewhere.
There were some great moments but after I listened I was overwhelmed with sorrow. A deep bone crushing sorrow. And. Of course. Rage. I started a post but couldn't even finish because ... why?
But then Margaret posted the show on Facebook. I yammered on in her comment box. A friend read it and I ended up yammering on in her ear. So. Clearly I have something to say. These are my thoughts.
The prologue was relatively solid in terms of ideas. I've been aware of Lindy West. She seems interesting. She sounds a lot like Marilyn Wann but no where near as radical. In the first act of the show She and Ira laugh it up about a time when she broke a chair and in that moment she still feels like someone who makes jokes so she can be an easy to get along with and not too demanding. She shouldn't have to worry about a chair. None of us should. When she's talking about Dan Savage it felt great because someone needs to bang back on that fat hating ass hat. And she did a great job. She talks about Seeing Leonard Nimoy's fat photo's, which are wonderful. Another disclosure: I saw him in a car in Boulder once. He smiled at me. Swoon. She does a great job in this section. She also says being fat is it's own punishment. It's something she wrote to Savage years ago but even now with her new woke perspective she doesn't seem to notice it. Am I nitpicking?
When responding to another post by Savage in which he responds to a Gay hating suggestion that Gay marriage isn't a good idea because they die younger ... (ridiculous) ... he says that then fat marriage isn't a good idea. In her response to him she says fat people are already ashamed. Um. Otherwise her response to him is great.
Then there is a bit of a great song by Sophie Tucker in the second act we get to Alma.
I can't really write much about this because it is just entirely heart breaking. And right after it, in a break, Ira is introducing an upcoming act and says...grab a Twinkie. Why?
It's an awkward quip at best. Alma works with him. The quip felt like a cover for (I hope) the sadness he might have been feeling after hearing the choices his coworker and (possibly) friend has made and continues to make. And it seems like everything comes down to the idea that size acceptance is about fat people being able to eat crap with impunity. I'm pretty sure eating a Twinkie is no proof of how much you've unseated the internalized oppression that fat people are relentlessly unseating. Not shame. Oppression.
Act three.  I love Roxane Gay. She is smart. She is fierce. She is nuanced. I don't really have a problem with the things she says. I feel them. They are personal. They are not rhetorical. They are complex. And they break my heart. They make me want to go into restaurants and hair salons and theaters and BREAK ALL THE FUCKING CHAIRS.
The forth act is about a Christian weight loss program, which is teeth gritting.
If you listen to the podcast there's one last bit from Lindy West. And it is very sweet and on point. The show is worth a listen. I imagine it will get a few people thinking.
The Take Away, another one of my favorite shows because it is generally smart, is doing a week long series on obesity. So far it's blather about why people are fat as if fat people are a construct of modernity. Lindy West will be doing a discussion at some point. Her intro talks about pizza being a feminist issue. Because .... why?
When ever I write one of these posts I get caught up in a long yammer about my ideas about food. I'm just not going to do that. But we have to stop conflating size acceptance with some loopy idea of permission to eat.
A friend of mine was told by her doctor that she is morbidly obese. She also says she has trouble finding clothes that fit some times. She is NOT FAT!!!! Not even a little bit. It infuriates me. When I'm telling her she's not fat I wonder if I should just let it go because the doctors and fashion industry clearly think she is. Maybe I should just welcome her to the community. The problem is that as long as someone her size is seen as fat I will not get good medical care. I will not have parity in public spaces. We have to be clear about what fat is. It is so much more than one size, or a group of sizes. It's an expression of diversity. It is so complex and so personal and our conversations are so frustrating. It isn't just about how much some one eats or how much they exercise or what their genetic background is or if they can buy a dress. It isn't about accepting the size of your ass. It's about not even having to do that work because the nonsense ideas about being fat have been knocked down. IN OUR HEARTS. IN OUR BONES.
Now that I've started I'm having trouble stopping. I could go and on and on. I have in the past. I got tired. I felt like I was saying the same thing over and over.
A friend of my mother's picked me up at the airport once. She told my mother that when she first saw me she didn't think much of me because of my size. But once I started talking she realized that I was so smart and interesting. Mom thought this was great because the friend had realized who I was despite my fatness. I thought the woman needed to ask herself why she was so hateful and literally narrow minded.
I wanna break all the fucking chairs.



3 comments:

April said...

Someone recently shared a new update to the average US women's size. Apparently it's a 16 or 18 and has been for awhile. I'm not sure how they arrived at that. Those sizes are outside straight size lines, I think? Does that make the majority of women fat by a fashion standard? I've had trouble getting appropriate healthcare at that size, but didn't have a hard time finding chairs. I think I was still technically "obese" by medical standards.

This American Life has been blatantly fat-hating in the past. I did not have high expectations for that show, but I guess telling sob stories about fat people suffering might make people act with more empathy? I don't know.

Tish said...

I've had so many people tell me they are considered morbidly obese. It's such a distortion. I'm apparently super obese. I wonder if there's a cape that comes with that.
I was a bit torn by the woe is me tone because there was a way in which it seemed to be shocking Ira. I'm not interested in empathy but maybe it's a first step?
Lindy West was the most feisty but needs a bit more self reflection if she's going to "lead".

Willie Burer said...

You are smart. You are nuanced. You are interesting. You are funny. You are a wonderful writer! Thanks for waking me up, once again.