Size is an idea.

Let’s talk about our bodies, shall we?

Last week I saw a post on Twitter bemoaning the fact that skinny girls are often told to “eat a sandwich,” which this woman finds insulting because no matter how many sandwiches she eats she can’t gain weight.  Several other thin commenters agreed with her, and some even had lovely ideas on how fat people could lose weight to be like them.  Now, my kneejerk reaction was that the sandwich comment is nothing compared to the stigma of being fat.  I know from personal experience, as I have been circling 200 pounds since eighth grade.  See, I was a 60-pound Kindergartener, so I don’t know any life in which I was not a bigger person, and I have dealt with my own insecurities about my weight over the years.  Still, I see the blatant prejudice of it all. 

People assume I am sweaty, smelly, etc.  I am of course none of those things, as weight does not belie bad hygiene.  They assume I am lazy, that I eat too much junk food.  Neither is true.  I take walks regularly, go to the gym, and follow a fairly healthy diet that I have to maintain for medical reasons.  I know people who have been denied jobs because they were too big, and the employer thought they wouldn’t perform well, as if playing Legos at a daycare has a weight requirement.  They assume we can’t be fashionable, and they’re mostly right as fashionable and affordable clothing does not come in plus size.  They assume we don’t have romantic partners, and often that can be the case as romantic discrimination against fat people is an actual thing.  And yet here I am, married for three years to a man who has no qualms with my size.  Even the compliments we get are sideways, my least favorite being “You have so much confidence.”  For what, exactly?  Am I “brave” because I wear a tank top on a summer day?   No, I’m just HOT…just like you.  Those are just a few examples of the common beliefs and misconceptions folks have about fat people.

So that’s why my immediate reaction was to hate on this girl for her ability to metabolize.  That’s really all it is; jealousy that her body processes better than mine.  So, I gave it a second thought, and realized she does have a valid argument.  My best friend in middle school was extremely skinny, and no matter how much she ate she never gained weight.  She was teased for it often, and I know it left emotional scars for her.  Now as an adult she is still slim, but has grown into her body and you can tell she is more comfortable with it now.  I’ve had other skinny friends be called anorexic, which is terrible in my opinion because anorexia and bulimia are serious problems.  You can’t just go around labeling people like that, just like you don’t get to label me lazy because I’m overweight.  The problem is that with thin people it’s words, with fat people it’s actions.

The first time I experienced weight discrimination, it was a small thing.  My mother took me to the doctor.  The only reason to go to the doctor at my tender age of 8 or 9 was to get the lollipop afterwards; all children know that.  My doctor was so proud of me for losing weight.  He kept going on about how great it was.  Then, at the end of the appointment, he gave me a sticker.  “Wouldn’t want to give you a lollipop.  Need to keep up the good work,” he said.

Like the lollipop would have killed me.

My mother took me out of there and directly to Parkside Candy for an ice cream sundae.  She never made me see that doctor again, and I realized then that there are subtle and upsetting ways in which other people judge your body.  Now one may argue that the doc had my best interests at heart, but again…like the lollipop would have killed me.  I budgeted for that lollipop.  It was the first piece of candy I would have in months, and him taking that simple joy from me because I was overweight was insulting. 

I think about how that might have gone for the skinny girl.  Maybe her doctor wanted her to gain weight.  Maybe she didn’t have to watch what she ate, and she could have candy whenever she wanted.  But maybe he would have made her feel bad about her size, too.  Maybe she wouldn’t be able to gain the weight no matter how many lollipops were consumed.  Maybe it would make her feel shitty, the way I had felt shitty, about something that wasn’t even really in my control.

I think that what we have here is a classic case of the grass being greener on the other side.  Skinny girl complains that people make fun of her for being too thin, fat girl automatically comes back with several instances of weight discrimination.  Fat girl complains that people stigmatize the overweight, and skinny girl comes out saying that maybe if you ate better and exercised more, you wouldn’t have that problem.  Well, guess what?  We’re all full of crap.  Everybody, and I mean everybody, hates their body at some point in their lives.  Some may take longer than others to come to terms with their figure, and that’s ok, but you are the only person who should be judging it, anyway.  It’s your body, your vessel, and you should be happy in the skin you’re in, everyone else be damned.

So yes, I will likely continue to have a knee-jerk reaction to skinny people complaining about their weight, because I don’t know what it’s like to be skinny, and they have no idea what it’s like to be fat.  If they did, I don’t think they would complain about things like this, but that’s just my opinion.  I will, however, try to keep in mind that no one deserves to be judged by their body, but instead by their character.  Your body is just a holder for your soul, and that’s where the real you lives.  You aren’t skinny, you aren’t fat.  You’re just you.

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