I am proud to be fat. I am proud that I don’t let being fat mean anything negative for me anymore. I was dancing at the New Years party I went to this year, and while I was dancing, I was thinking about how great it felt to feel at peace with my body, to not wish it were different. I can’t say that I’ll never wish it were different, but I really don’t think I will ever wish it with desperation, with the belief that the size of my body means EVERYTHING. I will never again translate the size of my body into anything unrelated to body size. I was able to fully enjoy this New Years party without a sense of there being anything lacking about me, and that was something I’d never felt before, except occasionally at my thinnest. At my thinnest, it was about being fairly confident that I was successfully fitting social standards in such a way that my presence would not be questioned. But now it is about saying that I will not let social norms affect me in that way ever again. They may still affect my life in ways that are out of my control, but knowing that fat hate is completely culturally fabricated has allowed me to remove myself from the shaming system and to be able to look at things more objectively. In some ways, this eye-opening is horrifying (because now I see signs of diet culture everywhere, in places I didn’t even notice them before, and because now that I know the fruitlessness of it it all seems sadder), but this almost omniscient view is much more peaceful.
Two incidents from the night that I can reflect on with new clarity:
1. The party was at a friend’s house, and so we were dancing in the living room, with couches lining the edges of the room. At one point while I was dancing, I felt my butt being grabbed, and turned around to see who was grabbing it. It was one friend sitting on the couch, and it appeared that she and another friend were admiring the curves of my butt. This unsolicited compliment was unexpected and gave me something to think about–not because I have bad feelings towards my butt (I actually hardly ever think about that part of my body, and I don’t remember ever thinking negatively about it), but because of who gave the compliment. Both of these couch-sitting girls are thin, with bodies that are idealized by our culture (the one is thin with big breasts and the other is boyishly thin). Both of them have expressed their desires of not getting fat. And yet here they both were, complimenting the butt of their solidly fat friend. They simultaneously are disgusted by fat and are oblivious to the fact that there are aspects of a specific fat person that they admire. I guarantee that they resolve this conflict by not thinking of me as fat. It makes me want to shout “that’s the butt of a fat girl that you’re admiring!”, but this never feels like the right thing to say (after all, it’s not like they transitioned directly from “we hate fat” to “we love your butt”…it’s just that I know their thoughts about fat from countless small comments spread out over time). I would like to challenge them, but I don’t know how.
2. What type of girl a certain guy I know is attracted to came up in conversation (because I was saying how he wasn’t interested in a particular girl who was interested in him, and that he’d said it was because he wasn’t attracted to her) with the boyishly thin girl from the previous story, and I said that generally he went for curvy girls. She then said “I wish I had curves”–not because she is interested in this guy, just because that’s what she wishes, I guess. I responded with “there are benefits to all shapes”, and that’s really how I feel. I have curves and I really don’t wish I didn’t have them. I have a certain shape, and it’s great for certain things, and a boyish shape would be great for others, but I don’t have to have EVERYTHING. It was interesting to me that this conversation really showed me how satisfied I am with myself, and how little satisfied my friend seems to be with herself, despite having a much more socially acceptable body than I have. Or maybe she is satisfied, but just feels like it’s the appropriate thing to say in conversation. I am not interested in wishing I were different, nor in having conversations in which we enviously point out each other’s physical qualities we want for ourselves. Compliments are one thing, but I find that compliments often come in that “I wish I had your ___” format that promotes dissatisfaction with one’s own body as a prerequisite for admiring something in some one else.
It feels great to be able to think critically and less emotionally about conversations regarding bodies. I felt a little alone over New Years in some ways (I was staying with friends who I don’t see all the time, and there was much more subtle diet talk than I was happy with, although probably relatively little compared to some groups of people), but I also felt that culturally negative messages can’t affect me emotionally anymore in the ways they have done in the past. I would love to be able to state my feelings about diet talk, but I don’t know how to bring it up. Most of the time, people are just saying quick comments that they assume are accepted truths in our culture, not starting up an anti-fat rant. Yet as a previously disordered eater, it often seems completely offensive that people just assume everyone wants to lose weight, that everyone gets mad when their pants fit tighter, that everyone doesn’t want to eat “too much”, and that everyone agrees that certain foods are indisputably sinful. If anyone reads this, ideas of how to bring up my stance on dieting and my thoughts on how offensive casual comments can be are welcome!