Everyone should be fat at least once in their life.
I say this with the same level of conviction that people who have worked in food service say, “Everyone should work in food service at some point in their lives”. Working in food service teaches you things, most importantly empathy. When you’ve been on the receiving end of a terrible customer, you try harder to never be that customer for someone else.
I say that the same philosophy can be applied to being fat.
Let me set a scene for you.
Two friends are getting ready. One, a size 6, rejects anything tight in her closet because it “makes her look fat” and finally settles on a breezy dress. The other, a size 16, is wearing her favorite skinny jeans and t-shirt combo with heels for the evening out.
This is not an uncommon scene in my life. I’m the size 16. At my heaviest, I was a 24.
We have a way of talking about weight in our society that is highly problematic. We all know this. The body positivity movement is gaining steam and I couldn’t be happier. Women everywhere, on all places of the body shape spectrum, are becoming more comfortable with embracing their real, realistic, bodies. Despite this, as a fat woman, I am frequently shocked by the things that people say to and around me, as if they are normal, decent things to say.
Forget the thinly veiled comments from people who “mean you the best”:
“You’re so beautiful… for a fat girl” “You used to be so attractive” “Should you be wearing that?” “Here is a nice one piece for you, it even has a skirt!” “We shouldn’t shop there, I don’t think you can wear their clothes” “So, are you depressed or something?”
Let’s focus on the things that people say about themselves:
While shopping: “God, I’m a 6! No one on tinder will want to sleep with me”
While trying on bathing suits: “Ugh, look at this” *pokes small amount of of belly fat* “That’s disgusting.”
What I don’t understand in these moments is the lack of understanding that comments follow the transitive property just as well as numbers do. If you, at a size 6, are un-fuckable, then what am I, as a size 16, to you? If your tiny layer of belly fat is disgusting, what is my stomach in your eyes?
As I experience these moments now, I remember my size 4 teenaged self making terrible comments about people who carried weight, and am thankful that through my own experiences I’ve now gained some empathy. I find my previous ignorance and judgements appalling.
I like to believe that my friends discuss their own standards for their own bodies in moments of introspection, without thinking about how their comments reflect on others in the room. I like to think that what they are really saying is “I am, personally, uncomfortable with changes in my body because I would like to look a certain way and this is not it”. Which is something I completely respect. The cornerstone of the body positivity movement is the belief that everyone has the right to look however they want to look, within the limitations of genetics.
But, in moments of frustration, I can’t help but think that people would phrase their comments differently if they had, you know, actually been fat for a while. If they had been forced to confront the stereotypes about fat people and derision for fatness from the other side. Their comments, as spoken, perpetuate the negative cultural views on fatness and alienate everyone who doesn’t look or behave a certain way. And, the most entertaining part of all of this is that my friends are great people who also support body positivity, even if their comments about their own bodies don’t always reflect that.
So, people who exist much closer to the cultural ideal for body type, please do humans a favor. You may not be fat at any point in your life, so, please, just take 5 minutes to pretend that you are. Hear your comments with the ears of someone who is twice your size, and consider how they make you feel. Then, please, keep those feelings in mind when you speak in the presence of others. Empathy and awareness can go a long way.
PS Friends: I’m fine. I know I’m fantastic. Your comments make me sad; I find it distressing that I feel better about my body at a 16 than most of my friends who are more stereotypically attractive. Besides, we both know that I’ve had better sex than you have, so consider us even.