They shoot fat people, don’t they? (3/11/2015)

It must be open season on people who are overweight.

Last week, a lady named Katie Hopkins publically called Kelly Clarkson fat.

I had never heard of this Hopkins person before, but after Googling, I found out she is a British journalist whose claim to fame is making offensive comments about other celebrities.

One site called her a “professional troll,” and another hailed her the “Most Hated Woman in Britain” – titles earned by her comments like saying Kelly Clarkson must have ate her backup singers, and that with an 8-month old baby, that wasn’t baby weight but “carrot cake weight.”

Kelly handled the situation with her typical spunk, saying the reason the woman was so hateful was because she didn’t know Clarkson.

“I’m awesome!” Clarkson said in an interview, responding to the comments. “It doesn’t bother me. It’s a free world. Say what you will. I’ve just never cared what people think. It’s more if I’m happy and I’m confident and feeling good, that’s always been my thing. And more so now, since having a family-I don’t seek out any other acceptance.”

Her response was a lot classier than mine would have been.

When our looks are attacked, our typical response is to retaliate with something more vitriolic and hateful towards the accuser than what was slung at us.

Someone calls us fat, we sling back they are ugly.

The body-shaming doesn’t just apply to women, either.

A man, known as #DancingMan was made fun of for dancing.

Why? Because he was overweight.

He was having a good time, dancing, enjoying his life and some bullies made fun of him to the point he stopped.

Thankfully, a group of women saw it and are putting together a huge party so the man can come dance as much as he wants, free from shame.

It’s sad that the only progress we’ve made in the last 20 plus years is that fat-shaming now includes men.

My first exposure to it in the media was the episode of “Designing Women.”

“They Shoot Fat Women, Don’t They?,” when Suzanne went to her high school reunion and was mocked for being heavier than she was before.

She tells her sister, Julia, if you are fat, it’s like you don’t matter anymore, especially if you are a female. People are sympathetic towards everything else -unless you are fat, and then you are supposed to be ashamed.

I completely relate because after Granny died, I was depressed.

Horribly depressed – I never thought the old gal would die and when she did, none of us expected it.

We had at least two or three good fights left in us that needed to be had. But we didn’t.

And like Granny, I wasn’t going to talk about it or cry over it. No, I ate.

I ate stuff that I was severely allergic to, not supposed to have, and things that hurt me. But biscuits with butter and jelly reminded me of her – they weren’t as good as hers, but they reminded me of her.

The smell of them baking to a golden brown made me flash back to sitting in the kitchen with her, or her making biscuits on Sunday after church to go with her fried chicken.

I smeared my emotions with plenty of raspberry jelly and choked them down.

And immediately realized people treated me differently.

I was fluffy, a little bit chubby. I wasn’t as thin as I had been a year ago.

I felt horrible, not just physically, but mentally and emotionally as well.

People were judging me, and delighting, I am sure, in the fact I was a chubbykin.

I don’t want to go anywhere or see anyone – because I am that ashamed.

“People don’t care if you’ve gained weight or not. People don’t care about that. You’re being silly,” Lamar, my bone-thin cyclist husband will tell me.

No, I am not.

As long as there are people who think it’s OK to tweet, comment and bash about a person’s weight, people care.

Maybe care is not the right word.

Maybe it should be a word that doesn’t imply any sort of compassion, because that is not the motive.

I worked with a gorgeous woman once – she still is.

She was not skinny, but she never claimed to be and it didn’t matter.

She was larger than life, had one of the most loving hearts in the world, and was really, stunningly gorgeous with her blonde hair and huge brown eyes.

We were at work one day and a lady approached her and said: “Oh…girl. You’ve done and gone and gained all that weight back you lost. What were you thinking?”

My friend looked up and replied: “I may be fat but I can lose weight; you can’t lose ugly.”

Her response – while given in the heat of the moment – made me wonder.

Why do our looks have to have that influence, that control over us? Aren’t we more than our outer appearance?

What if, instead of seeing someone for their weight, the way they look, we saw their spirits and saw them for their contributions in the world? Wouldn’t that make the world a better place? And not just for women, but men as well.

If we stopped focusing on those petty, catty, superficial issues, I bet a lot of things would miraculously change, too.

You have such a pretty face (6/18/2014)

I heard someone make a comment the other day, a comment that made me cringe inwardly and outwardly as an involuntarily response.

“You have such a pretty face.”

Six words. Just six words meant to be a compliment. But the undercurrent of those words belies something very unflattering.

Those words meant who ever received them was fat, chubby, needed to lose some weight.

I had heard those painful words far too many times to count in my life.

When I had grown beyond the ‘cute’ level of chubby as a child, I would hear people comment behind my back that I used to be cute.

I actually went out with a guy in high school once who said this very comment to me. His actual words were: “You know you’d be really pretty if you dropped about 10 pounds.”

I felt like I had been slapped. “What if I lost more than that?”

“You’d be almost perfect then.”

I fought back angry tears. This guy was sorely lacking in both the personality and the looks departments, so I wasn’t quite sure where he got off saying anything about me being a little bit chubby.

“You are absolutely right; I would be perfect. So what I am going to lose is you.”

Even though the guy was an uncouth imbecile, his words stung bitterly. As someone who battled eating disorders, hearing something like that could ignite a relapse.

I have heard people use this phrase in an almost contentious way. It is always said with the unspoken “but” hovering in space afterwards that means, “So why don’t you lose weight so people will look at you differently?”

It means: “Why do you keep eating when you know how heavy you are?”

It means: “Do you not have a mirror to see yourself?”

It means: “Why did you let yourself go like this?”

It means: “How can you expect anyone to love you at this weight?”

It means: “I find you disgusting and gross.”

All the implications are full of judgment and negative evaluation.

I don’t know one female who has heard that phrase and not understood the secret meaning.

“Don’t you dare – I will stab you – tell me I still have a pretty face,” a friend said in greeting.

She had gained a few pounds and understood, the first thing women friends do is look to see if their other girlfriends have gained any weight.

We gauge our standing, our desirability, pretty much everything in our lives based on what we weigh and what our jeans size is. We even may take a secret delight in realizing we are not the chubbiest one any more. It was like a Darwinesque process where the thinnest not only survive, but move up the evolutionary chain.

I was, as usual, commenting on my weight as we sat at lunch one day. Lamar has learned to play deaf mute when I start saying anything in the proximity of weight. He excused himself to go to the restroom and I continued my monologue about my weight with Cole, who nibbled his fries.

“Mama, can I tell you what I think the problem is?” he asked quietly.

“Sure,” I replied, thinking he was going to tell me the current tightness in my jeans had to do with the cheesecake I had ordered for dessert.

“You are talking negatively about yourself. That is wrong. You should not do that. You are saying you are fat – that’s all I hear. How fat you think you are and it hurts my feelings because you are my mama,” he said, sincerity woven in his words.

“You always tell me to speak kindly and positively about myself; you don’t do that with yourself.”

No, I didn’t.

My child was only 9, but he had probably heard me fat-shaming myself since he was born.

That’s what women are supposed to do, isn’t it? We can’t get together without the conversation turning to how we hate our bodies within minutes. We are supposed to never be happy with what we weigh, how we look and are supposed to feel some sort of guilt as if we should have a ginormous disclaimer on our foreheads, reading: “I am greatly sorry, I am not perfect, I am not a sample size 2, I have curvy hips, a big rear and my stomach wasn’t flat before childbirth, so don’t know why you expect it to be now.”

Of course, that would never fit on our foreheads unless they were of billboard proportions, but surely we could put it on our ample posteriors. Or maybe just a T-shirt, in small words underneath, the words: “But I have such a pretty face.”

My child was right. I told him so. This did not assuage his discontent at my personal attack on myself.

“I don’t know why you worry about these things, Mama. You are married, have a family – why do you care what you weigh?”

“It has nothing to do with being married, Cole. It has to do with me. Can you understand that? It’s all internal. It’s all my issues. And just because I am married, that doesn’t mean I should just let myself go.” (Oh, all those undercurrents of judgment were so deeply ingrained in me.)

“What if your wife gained a bunch of weight after y’all got married? How would you feel?”

He sipped his lemonade, considering his response.

“You mean my wife, right? When I am grown and married?” I nodded. “If she gains weight that is perfectly fine with me. I don’t care what she would weigh or any of that stuff. As long as she loves me, loves our family, that’s all that matters to me. It’s all that should really matter any way.”

“As long as she has a pretty face, right?” I said, partly in jest.

“No, sweet girl,” he began, “that’s all that should matter at all – is what’s inside.”

Maybe one day, the fat shaming, the guilt, all the negative body imaging we do, will end.

Maybe it will be in my son’s generation, a revolution started by a child tired of hearing his mother’s weight complaints. And maybe just one day, the phrase “you have such a pretty face” will be replaced with “you are gorgeous” -free of judgment, condemnation and nothing negative implied.