It has been a long time between posts. I started being a boss at work – and all of my mental energy has been taken up by learning how to be a good one.
I’m still a work in progress FYI.
And just like I’m a learner boss I’m also a learner body-pos/ body-accepting/ body-neutral work in progress. Goddamn it if that isn’t a hard road paved with brilliant intentions and all of the damaging feelings of the past 40+ years of being fat in a shitty body culture.
I blame society for making an environment where us women are in some strange and unending competition with each other to be the most f%@kable. It really is straight up bullshit, but don’t we all just buy into it?
Having been the subject of sniggers, cruel jokes and randoms yelling at me from cars telling me that yes I am fat (as if that fact had somehow escaped me), I know a thing or too about living with stigma. When it happens, we put on brave faces, knowing that any sign of weakness is a window for more of the same. So we fiercely shout it down or ignore it, or swallow our hurt feelings somewhere deep until we can find a small, private space to let them out slowly.
This past year (has it been a year?) has also been filled with pop culture moments that speak to fat experience. Dietland, Tess on Cosmo, Roxane Gay, Rosie Waterland are shining lights, Insatiable and Heathers sour disappointments. Then that article in Huff Post that has spawned a hundred think-pieces, and suddenly fat is having its ‘trans-moment’.
Moments in pop culture – are just that – moments. Fat is one of the last bastions of discrimination (although Trump and to a less extreme extent our PM by default #ScoMo seem hell bent on bringing them all back). Fat brings out the parade of concern trolls ready to dish unqualified opinions on what fat people should or shouldn’t be doing with their bodies.
Trans and non-binary people suffer a similar flippancy of concern for them and their experiences, as well as unwelcome/ unqualified opinions on their bodies. Devoid of the glamour of celebrity, trans and non-binary people struggle to access health care, stable employment, access to amenity that most people take for granted, and are more likely to be subject to violence without any provocation. It sounds familiar.
I’m 100% aware that being fat, and also white-passing, straight and mostly cis-gendered with all the privileges of education and professional employment makes me very lucky indeed. But I also have days when it feels hopeless, and far too much daily micro-aggression disguised as false concern for one human to take. And I sometimes have to cry in my small, private moments.
Which brings me to the point.
The other day a colleague commented she’d been ‘eating like a pig’. This person is fairly petite, and I imagine has never been in anyway overweight. I commented that I ‘couldn’t see her trough anywhere’ and thought that she looked to be eating like a human from as much as I could tell. She then remarked she’d been eating lots of sugar lately and felt guilty about it. I offered to her an out – probably something she’d never considered… I said that I’d noticed she’d had a lot on that week and was likely reaching for short sugar fixes to keep up with everything she had to do and over a rapid timeframe.
She stopped, and thanked me for the perspective.
Later that week, the conversation around the office turned to weight. Again, relatively ‘normal’ people bemoaning their slight weight gain over winter. And that was my ‘fat-moment’.
How much do you weigh?
I asked. They flustered for an answer.
I’d say – looking at your build – between 80 and 85 kilos. Does that sound right?
I offered. Yes – their face said
Can you guess what I weigh? Go on – I don’t mind.
The fluster increases.
Actually it’s 118. Kilos. Around about – it fluctuates.
Oh. Um you have a big build, you’re tall…
No. I’m just fat. I’ve always been fat, and always will be fat. And I’m really okay with it.
The silence roared.
118 – like other numbers that measure and define our bodies are just that – measures. It’s a scale that captures some aspect of physicality at a point in time. Its meaning is only relative to the other data that surrounds it – how tall, what size, how much? Without context, data is meaningless.
So my weight is the least important piece of data about me, my life, my health and what’s important – so why give it so much power?
I remember talking with another person in my world who identifies as non-binary; preferring the pronoun ‘them’. They shared with me that they put all of the most sensitive parts of their life ‘out there’ to take the power of other people’s judgements out of the equation entirely. It’s an approach I admire and have taken some time to act on.
So here it is internet – 118. Like it matters anyway.