Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Weighty Matters

I am fat.  There I said it.  And no, I'm not talking about baby weight.  I'm talking about the 40+ lbs before baby weight that I can't seem to get rid of.

I wasn't always fat.  All my childhood years, I was healthy - never once did I weigh in out of the "normal" weight range.  And in high school, when my baby fat finally fell away, I was even considered thin and weighed in below the normal weight range.

Then, sometime in my twenties, genetics pulled the air brake on my metabolism.  Of course, I'm not just blaming genetics, I know my bad habits have a lot to do with it.

And yes, I tried every diet/exercise/pill under the sun, blah, blah, blah.  Whining about my insecurities and genetic deficits isn't what this post is about.

What I want to discuss is my experience with weight discrimination -a very real phenomenon.

How often do you make assumptions based on looks?  Are you even aware that you do?

Take a look at this picture

Not me - taken off the Internet.
Let's do a little exercise and vocalize our assumptions.

What do you think, when you see this person?  And be honest.

Do you think maybe she is uneducated?  Maybe even poor?

Do you think she's lazy?  Or that if she "just tried a little harder" she could be thin?

Do you think she "can't tell herself no" or has impulse control problems?  Or, perhaps, you assume she has health issues.

Maybe you think if she "dressed more attractively for her shape" she'd be more attractive?

Would you be surprised if you saw her with a thinner man?

Now look at this picture.

She's beautiful, talented and famous. She has everything money can buy - personal trainers, chefs, seamstresses BUT she's still overweight.

You might think better of her than you did the average jane in the previous picture - but can you identify why?

What would you think if you saw her with a thinner man?  Would you, no matter how briefly, assume he was in it for the money?

Finally, look at this picture.

She's beautiful, talented, famous, and thin.  Your eyes are probably unconsciously drawn to this picture as opposed to the previous two because it is "beautiful."

I don't believe most people consciously make hurtful assumptions.  First impressions and assumptions are a part of human nature. It's how we size up situations and make decisions.  But when it translates into judgmental behavior and nasty statements, well, then it goes too far.

Having been on both ends of this spectrum, I can tell you it's a very strange sensation to go from easily being noticed to being an invisible unimportant nonentity.

Once upon a time, I had no problems getting helped in a store or restaurant, but now?  Now, sometimes I have to ask at least 3 times before I can get the most begrudging amount of help.

And clothes shopping?  Ugh.  I dread shopping.  There are only two stores that carry my size in the store (several retailers offer "extended" sizes online) and I'm only a 18.  The cute little trends and styles you see in the magazines, don't assume they come in "plus size".  Don't even bother tying to find plus size maternity.  It doesn't exist.  It's hard to look put together and on trend when the only things available in your size are t-shirts, mu mus and elastic waisted stretchy pants.

And not looking put together?  That just perpetuates the whole lazy/impulsive stereotype.

Perhaps, my most humiliating "weight" moment came a few years back while shopping for my wedding dress.  My bestie and I went into a well known local bridal boutique.  After looking around for awhile, I asked if I could try on a few different dresses in my size.  I was told they didn't carry my size in store, but could order it.  I said, "Oh, I don't want to buy an expensive dress without trying it on but thanks anyway."  She then went on to offer, "Well, your friend could try it on for you since we carry her size in store."

I could have died, I was so embarrassed.  Too humiliated to contradict the sales lady, I sat through watching my bestie try on dresses that I should have been able too.

Overweight and pregnant?  I've found the doctors to be the most judgmental of all.  In fact, after my last disastrous delivery, my previous OB said, "You don't need to get pregnant again.  If you do, I won't be your doctor, I'll just refer you out.  The only thing I want to see you again for is tying your tubes."

Ima let that soak in for a minute.  How would you take take that?  Would you be insulted?

Now, how would you take that if you knew right before that statement, there was discussion about my weight?

Overweight and need a job?  I've applied for more jobs than I can count the last couple of years because income from tutoring is so unreliable. With three kids, I crave a little more security than tutoring can provide.  I got all the way through the interview process at one private academy only to find out, I lost to someone I know.  Who I know I am more qualified than, I have more experience than and I have better connections than.  Only difference?  She is young, thin, and beautiful.

When I pressed my interviewer why I didn't get chosen (at the time I didn't assume weight was the culprit. I was hoping I could find out how to prepare so I would have a shot at next opening they had.), I was told that they were a small academy and didn't want their insurance premiums to increase and I would be a risk.  It didn't matter to them that I didn't need their insurance as I already had it through The Firefighter's job.   My weight was still considered a risk.  How would that make you feel to be called "fat" in not so many words by a potential employer?

Overweight and bartending?  Let's face it, sex sells.  I sometimes make less than my thinner counterparts but I'm not so sure it has to do with my weight so much as my reluctance to let my boobs earn my tips.  And I've found good service and interesting conversation can make me as much or more than them in tips.

Overweight and in a relationship with someone thinner?  Oh, the judgement there.  The Firefighter's station is in a ritzy, wealthy part of town where appearances are the be all end all of existence.  Recently, I brought the kids to visit him and I'm standing next to him all handsome in his uniform, at work, looking all muscular and sexy, and I hear some random person walking past the station say, "Ugh.  How did she catch him?"  Nevermind, I'm pregnant with his third kid.  How would that make you feel?

Of course, this stuff doesn't happen every day.  I'm not a narcissist and I don't assume everyone I meet is thinking about or even noticing my weight.  Nor do I spend endless amounts of time thinking about and lamenting my weight.  In fact, I usually don't think about it at all.

But If this is how it is for me, I don't even want to know how brutal it could be for morbidly obese persons.

So it begs the question, why do we, as a society, judge weight so harshly?

Is it from experiences?

Or Is it because of what the media portrays as "ideal"?

Why is the "worth" of a person so tied up in what they look like?

How do we rise above and stop the judgement?

Should all us fat people, get naked and run around Capitol Hill - shouting, "look at us, we are people too?"  Should we take the power away from the media by turning off our TV's and by not buying magazines covered with "beautiful people."  Should we empower our children by teaching them the "f" word is a bad word?  Instead, teach them that all people have worth and something beautiful to contribute - no matter if they are big, small, white, black or purple?  

I don't have the answer.  I wish I did.  But I do have faith that humanity will rise up and do the right thing so that my children never have to deal with the same thing.

Wishing everyone a thoughtful Tuesday!!


  1. EXCELLENT post. I can relate to much of what you wrote.

    I might have to consider a similar post of my own (with backlink, of course).

    Thanks for sharing your experiences with us.

  2. I wouldn't put a lot of faith in humanity, and if it's not weight, it'll be something else.
    If you look back over all time, there has always been different fads, fashions, and concepts of beauty. At one time men wore skirts and long hair, or wigs and hose, women didn't wear pants, larger women were considered more sexy.
    There's the Tribe with Giraffe women that wear the gold rings around their necks, and the chinese foot binding thing.
    The list could go and on.

    And there's always, always been harsh judgements towards those that aren't considered The Ideal of the time.

    I know you already are, but the best thing to do is teach them that as long as they are as good of a person as they can be - caring, considerate, compassionate - then nothing else really matters. If someone that doesn't even know them makes judgements based on how they look, rather than how they are, then that's that persons' own faulty personality.

    I don't think you can just teach it, you have to live it, too. Telling your girls they are beautiful, and to hell with whoever don't think so, but feeling self concious or bad when some idiot judges you about your weight is contradictory. They'll know, whether they know it conciously or not.

    I get a lot of judgement because I'm not a good-looking person. I'm ugly, but that doesn't make me an ugly person, but people - strangers - seem to think so. But I figure if someone doesn't like me because of the way I look, without bothering to get to know me, then they weren't knowing anyhow.

    I credit my Grannie for that attitude. She told me once, "If somebody don't like the way I look, they don't have to look at me." That stuck with me my whole life, even though it took me a long time to realize it, or what it really meant. As a kid, you know, I took it literally. But as I got older I realized it meant a lot more. Like, I am more than my looks, and those that judge me by my looks don't belong in my life anyway.

    (I hope any of that made sense. I'm not very good at elucidation, either.)

    1. I get it! It makes sense! Can't just talk the talk, gotta walk the walk. If they don't like it they can go f*(& a monkey :) Good point.

  3. Like the other two ladies who replied, I relate too. There is nothing like having someone comment on your size, without thought of the content of your life; your personhood. I can especially relate to the cockeyed looks or comments I get when someone compares me and/or my size to my husband. As if he is doing me a big favor by being married to me, since I is so fat. As if all I am is a fat bitch who should be grateful anyone would bother to have sex with me, let alone marry. And fat equals ugly and lazy and bitch, and what all other negative connotations I attach to it (I am convinced this is all in my mind, anyway). Forget that I am the glue to my household, or that I unconditionally love this man, that I have stuck by him through various illnesses, serious issues, and a plethora of other "life on life's terms" kind of stuff. Not that he wants nor needs for anything (barring that fucking boat he keeps talking about, and a pilot's license). Because that shit doesn't matter when your wife is a fat ass, RIGHT? Maybe he should be burying his head, or working on those walking papers, because it's just too much trouble to be married to a fat ass.
    You know as well as I do, people who think along those lines are very limited in their thinking. Limited in the quantity of people they have interacted with on an intimate basis (I don't mean did the big trick with). Limited by life experience and a level of maturity to think beyond the pretty flickering pictures they see on TeeVee. Limited to low expectations in themselves and others. Limited in their exposure to reality. Those are NOT people who I take the mask off for; not the ones that I let in. And you know what? FUCK those people. It's more important to me to concentrate on what my husband thinks of what I say and do, what my child sees me say and do, how I care for people who bless me with their love and affection. Everyone else can suck it.
    But surely a large (no pun intended) part of the problem is ME, that when I met Kenny 7 years ago, I weighed a whopping 135 pounds, and now (let's just say) I don't. Most people in my life now don't know that I went from 220 pounds two years after having my son, to 140 pounds when I divorced my son's dad, by electing to not eat. My own issues with my body, how to eat, and how to properly care for myself were reprehensible, and needed to be addressed, but that's not my point. The point is, I have bought into the idea, and so have many countless other people: stupid and intelligent, compassionate and idiotic, regardless of class or station - bought into the idea of how a woman should look to be considered attractive and (even worse) WORTHY. It starts with Barbie and Disney when she's a baby, and it never fucking lets up. But that really means the problem is Hollyweird and Madison Avenue.
    I see your stick-to-it-iveness in many levels of your life that you have shared with me. This is one of those things that wee little people like us have to conquer within ourselves. I am fortunate in that I have been able to identify behaviors and food triggers and a lack in activity that, once addressed, has helped me lose some weight. But in regard to how these images effect my mind, when I look at photos, or in the mirror, I am even today, surprised and disappointed that I am not wearing a size 5, with flawless skin and big hair and a tan (jesus, that has never been me)- so it seems that the "programming" in my head is what needs to be altered. So I have to start there, with what I can do. You do it, too, by picking and choosing what you expose your girls too. Do what you can, with what you have to do with. They will recognize the difference as they begin to see the world and all it's illusions for what it really is.