I know it’s against the rules but I tend to lurk in comment sections on the internet. It’s bad practice. I never recommend it to anyone else. But, like a smoker who tells kids to never get hooked, here I am. On Facebook, on Instagram, articles… I haven’t got the patience to lurk too deep on Twitter–thank goodness. I’ve seen troublesome statements in comments sections but I’ve also heard them in real life and I’m going to tell you, now, what’s not okay about some things that aren’t okay.
I’m a fat person. This isn’t news to anyone at all and it’s how I identify. The word “fat” doesn’t bother me at all. No more than it would bother me if you were to describe me as tall(ish) or highly opinionated. I will say that not every fat person will appreciate this descriptor. Which you probably know. But to me, personally, it’s not offensive. It’s more offensive to me if you weave your words around to try to find a polite way to describe me as something that I’m not. My first boyfriend once described me as “overweight” and my emotional response was something along the lines of, “he really sees me!” It unlocked something inside of me that has gone completely unsaid until just now when I said it to you.
I don’t know if you’ve noticed this but when the subject of a fat person comes up, a lot of people will often times think that they’re being super kind and loving by saying, “Hey, just so long as you’re healthy.” And this gets under my skin so deep.
Just so long as you’re healthy—what? How are you going to finish that sentence? Just so long as you’re healthy it’s none of my business how you live your life? Just so long as you’re healthy you have permission to feel beautiful? Just so long as you’re healthy, you get to live without my comments on your weight?
But, okay then, so what if she’s not healthy? What if she has a chronic condition that you can’t see? What if she does have high blood pressure? What if she’s sick and doesn’t know it? What if she’s sick and does know it but hasn’t told you?
What if she’s not healthy? If she’s not healthy then it is your business how she lives her life? If she’s not healthy, then she doesn’t get your permission to feel beautiful? If she’s not healthy, then she does have to be subjected to your comments on her weight?
Healthy people, sick people, people who aren’t necessarily healthy but aren’t necessarily sick, they all get to live without comment. We all have a right to live without unsolicited judgment. We all have a right to live without unsolicited judgment. I promise you, I PROMISE YOU that no adult human needs your off-handed comment to know that health is important.
Plenty of adult humans do need to know that they don’t know what health looks like, though. I’m not going to get into my health history with you here but I can promise you that there are things going on with me that my weight won’t betray at face value. And back to the original point, even if you think you can tell a healthy person from an unhealthy person, then what? Then, that person has the right to live without your unsolicited comment. It is not as kind and polite as you think it is. Real people have bodies. Bodies with all manner of function and dysfunction.
And while we’re at it, real women, are a size 0. And a size 10, and a size 20, and even a size 30. Yeah. That exists and we’re all real women. Real women do not have curves. Real women have bodies. Some are straight and some are curvy and some are lumpy and some are missing limbs and some fit your internal definition of “normal” and “beautiful” and “healthy”.
But hear me when I say that I will never feel appreciated or valued or honored or seen if you tell me “real women have curves”. My empowerment does not come from dis-empowering anyone else.
And neither does yours. I promise you. It is a slavery.
I was listening to an interview with Ann Friedman wherein she said that she has a personal philosophy of making sure that she never comments on something about a person’s appearance unless it was something that person specifically chose on that specific day. For example, “Hey, cool hat!” is great because that person chose to rock a wide-brimmed, floppy, movie star hat this morning. “Cool tattoo!” might even be an okay thing to say if this tattoo is still wrapped up in Saran Wrap. “I have thoughts on how tall you are, how small you are, whether or not you’re light enough for me to pick you up…” never welcome. These are things that this person did not choose and who knows what sorts of feelings they’re having about them.
And maybe I am kind of making it sound, here, like you’re not allowed to say anything to anyone ever again. And, hell, maybe that’s a good place to start when it comes to seeing people past their bodies.
I know you’re a good person. I know you’re a kind person. I know you’re not an internet troll and I know that your heart is in a beautiful place. I’m hopeful that this insight comes across as something that is helpful to you.
If you’ve ever wondered how to talk to me or any other fat person you know, I hope that this piece strikes a chord and gives you permission to open up a dialogue in this safe space.
Can we keep this conversation going?
Your Fat Friend,