Earlier, an interesting tweet came through my Twitter stream: “If Chris Christie were a woman, would we be talking about weight?” This touched a nerve with me, so I clicked the link to the article, all the while thinking to myself that of course we would be talking about weight.
As it turned out, the article bested my thought. In short, the argument was that, no, we wouldn’t be talking about weight. Why? Because a fat woman would never have been elected governor, much less encouraged to run for President. I think that if Christie runs, his weight will inevitably be a passing topic of discussion. There will be physical comparisons made to William Howard Taft. Then everyone will go on his merry way.
Fat is not cause for rejection or alienation when it comes to men. Gender politics are interesting that way.
What makes me sad is that a woman can be one hundred percent evil or stupid, but if she’s attractive, personality is merely a side issue that can be ignored. Similar behavior in a heavier woman would cause her to be shunned. It’s a double standard that society will unfortunately likely maintain forever. Unless Renaissance figures come back into vogue.
Fat is Ugly
This all touches a nerve with me because I’ve struggled with my weight for my entire life. I’ve always been heavier, having inherited nearly every gene from my father’s side of the family. My dad is a big guy. His brothers are and were big guys. His father was a big guy, too. Fat is in my genes.
I used to come home crying because people called me fat at school. Somewhere around fourth or fifth grade, “fat” and “ugly” melted together and I developed horrible self-esteem issues that can still plague me today — even though I’m away from my peers who made fun of me in gym class. I’m away from the kids who called me names on the playground. I’m away from my students who drew cartoons of me eating everything in sight, which was particularly hurtful at a time when I was going to the gym 4-5 times a week and eating mostly only lean meats, vegetables and water, and still not losing weight, causing my doctors to scratch their heads.
“Go on this diet,” they’ve said. “Try this work out.” “Drink a glass of water first thing in the morning. Drink water all day.” “Walk more.” “Alternate cardio and lifting.” “Have your gallbladder out.” “Cut carbs.” “Don’t drink soda.”
I’ve done all of this. Multiple times (except for the gallbladder. You can only do that once).
But what society continues to tell me is that fat is ugly. You could be the nicest person. You could even be moderately good looking. But ask yourself how many times you’ve looked at a fat woman and said, “Wow. She’s really pretty.”
What’s worse, at least in my opinion, is when someone says, “She’d be so pretty if she just lost weight.”
It’s okay. You can peel my skin off and toss me into a salt storage facility. I don’t mind.
We often talk about the message that Barbies and the media send to young girls and how that affects them as teenagers. Most recently, I was appalled to see that Melissa McCarthy is photoshopped onto a slimmer body on the Bridesmaids main poster image. Melissa McCarthy is beautiful. She’s funny. She’s talented. Her character talks about overcoming such issues in the movie, and yet they still couldn’t just accept her for what she was in that picture, huh?
We don’t talk quite as much about how lasting those effects can be.
You want to know a secret? I can sometimes go days without looking at myself in a mirror because if I do, I start really hating myself. I don’t like most pictures of me either. Am I overly critical of myself? Certainly. I don’t believe that everyone thinks bad things about me every time they see me. But I do feel like the societal push is always there.
Just because some people take up more physical space doesn’t mean we’re somehow mutated forms of everyone else. I’ve often thought that one of the reasons I initially felt so comfortable online is that people couldn’t see me. I’m not as shy online because I don’t feel my physical appearance interfering with my brain. All they would know about me is that I was like them.
When all of my friends started getting “boyfriends” in elementary school, I wanted to fit in too. I was already self-conscious and trying desperately to pretend like I wasn’t. Instead, I got the old “We should just be friends. You’re really important to me as a friend” line. Lack of follow-through made those painfully transparent. I don’t like to assume the worst in people, but I don’t think I’d be far off if I guessed that the real reason was that I wasn’t skinny, and therefore, I wasn’t pretty. We live in a shallow world and we teach our children to be shallow at frighteningly early ages. One guy, in eighth grade, cited my fat as the reason why I was “repulsive.” I hated him for years. Only now do I actually kind of respect him for his honesty.
(What people really don’t like about me is how cynical and negative I can be. I understand that and try to keep it in check, but feel like it comes from an honest place. People have shown me their worst and I’m still waiting for them to show me their best.)
I know I’ve written about all of this before, but it’s something I’m constantly trying to understand. It’s something that quite honestly troubles me and holds me back on a daily basis.
But I’m not sure I’ll ever understand why a fat man’s weight might be noted, but he will never be criticized, picked apart, taunted, rejected, and alienated the way a fat woman is. He’ll never be called ugly because of his weight alone. Not even if he has the ugliest soul.
I am a lot of things…
I have often wondered what my life would have been like if I’d been a boy. I’m sure that men have their own set of self-image issues and I won’t pretend like they don’t. But as far as weight is concerned, it’s very different for them. Would I have struggled with this uphill battle every day like I have since the first time in kindergarten when someone looked at me and said, “Do you know you’re really fat?” Who knows.
Fat does not define me alone. The funny thing about people is that we’re incredibly complex and not a single one of us is perfect or close to it. A maddeningly large portion of society is, however, too myopic to realize that. They think instead that if you look perfect, you are perfect. Everything else is secondary.
Weight and depression are two things I have been dealing with for most of my life. Are they favorable? Are they unfavorable? They are what they are. They make me who I am. And who am I?
I’m introspective like whoa. I’m smart. I’m funny, sharp, and witty. I enjoy sarcasm and bantering back and forth with people who can keep up. I believe in getting things out and discussing them because sitting on problems only causes them to hatch and become more problems. I’m honest. I’m loyal. I’m really sensitive, but I appreciate tactful honesty. I like baseball. I still get excited about birthdays. Christmas Eve is my favorite day of the whole year. October is my favorite month. I like nerdy things, Puma shoes, and purple. My iTunes can shuffle from The Carpenters to Nine Inch Nails to Snoop Dogg like nothing. I act weird when I think someone is mad or annoyed at me (it makes me extra self-conscious). I love gray skies. I’ll never stop being obsessed with Dawson’s Creek. I might always have a huge crush on Jonathan Taylor Thomas. I never intend to hurt people though I know I sometimes do. I believe “please,” “thank you,” and “I’m sorry” aren’t used enough. My intuition is usually not far off. The dumbest things make me laugh. The smallest things mean more to me than most people will ever realize. When people point out my faults, they underestimate my ability to beat them to the punch because I’ve already got 95% of them figured out. Whether it’s good or bad for my self-esteem, my very best friends would have to be really shitty to me for a very long time before I would write them off for good.
I’m secretly the most optimistic pessimist you will ever meet.
(I really do want to see the good in people.)
I’m a work in progress. Just like you.