on size and cruelty
i am 35 years old, 5'4" tall, and somewhere between 190 and 205. that’s a dress size between 12 and 16/L to XL to 1X, depending on the maker. i have a compressed disc in the small of my back and am about 3/4 of the way through rehabilitation for a small but annoying tear in a tendon in my right ankle.
why did i tell you all this?
because i am a human being. i have a body, and that body has dimensions that for whatever silly reason rest outside societal definitions of acceptable. i am sick to damn death of how people are treated based on their bodies. i am tired of the “free speech” absolutists getting snippy when their unfunny fat “jokes” get pushback. i’m sick of women in particular (though it’s not just women) getting thousands of conflicting messages about what their bodies need to be to be worthy of human respect.*
*side note: people who are too thin get body judgments too. they’re usually accused of being on drugs or having an eating disorder, which a) stop making jokes out of diseases and b) it’s weird to fetishize something - being thin - that you also denigrate. but i don’t know anything about this life. the few times in my life i’ve been thin, i guess i wasn’t thin enough to cross the unacceptability line. so i speak here about fatness, because it’s what i know.
i am what roxane gay smartly calls “lane bryant fat,” meaning that while people without sense would look at my 33.5 BMI (eyeroll) and scream OMG YOU ARE GOING TO DIE AND KILL US ALL TOO BECAUSE FAT PEOPLE ARE CONTAGIOUS AND EWWWWWWWWW!!!!!!, i am nowhere near of the size that leads to you being shot for newscast B-roll footage from the neck down and accused of all manner of crimes against the state. people get personally insulted at the very idea that someone should be afforded human respect regardless of how big they are. i get bad treatment and pitying/mocking looks sometimes too, but it’s NOTHING compared to what other people get.
our culture is so rooted in the concept of wanton systemic cruelty that it’s hard to see how we’ll ever get untangled. and it’s again one of those issues that people try to play down by insisting that individual interactions will fix the problem. nope. just like individual cops buying ice creams for little black children will not universally save black lives, you not making fat jokes will not universally end the open-season cruelty freely and gleefully unleashed on fat people everywhere.
the older i get, the more frustrated and saddened i am by how nakedly cruel people are, for no good reason at all. instead of dealing with their own lives or taking refuge in some outlet for their sadness, people turn outwards for something to hurt or kill. and it’s a sliding scale: sometimes some mild snark on a topic for validation of how smart you are, other times a full on “someday you will ache like i ache” injury crusade.
back to the whole let people be thing, but: for god’s sake, leave people alone. personal health is just that - personal. someone’s size may or may not affect their health detrimentally. it ain’t your business. this isn’t being anti-vaxx, which indisputably kills innocent people who have nothing to do with your ignorance. if i’m a size 16, that doesn’t have a single drop of impact on your life. if i’m a size 2, that doesn’t either. if i’m a size 26, or more, guess what: still doesn’t impact you. not a bit. so stop it. leave people alone.
advocating for human respect for everyone should really be the least controversial thing ever, by the way. do you know how much time would be freed up for people to do other stuff if they just let go of all the time they spend denigrating the bodies of others? but people cling SO HARD to the right to be cruel. and yes, you have the right to be cruel if you want; i can’t bring the powers of the state against you, nor would i want to, because that’s kind of what trump et al want. but as you have the right to be cruel, i have exactly the same amount of right to call you on your cruelty. that’s how “free speech” works, friends. so expect me to do so.
i’m probably going to be a bigger person forever. i’m already 35, and even if i decided to give my life to the gods of unrealistic beauty standards and reshape my entire existence to try to reach that brittle apparition of “worth,” i would most likely never get there. that’s not how aging works. and you know what? i am not going to. i am sick of the poison of body image issues seeping into my blood. i will do the things i want to do to make myself comfortable in my own skin: nothing less, nothing more. i answer to myself on this one, not anyone else. and one body at a time, we will recapture the narrative. not in favor of “curvy bodies,” or “self-love,” or whatever cute label gets grafted onto it. no.
the charge is simple: we will exist, and you will deal with it gracefully. bodies belong to the humans who inhabit them, not to anyone else. and if you don’t like it, that is on you, not on me or anyone else. period, full stop.