Fat: The Worst Thing You Can Be
How a viral video proves it’s still cool to pick on the chubby kid
Being fat sucks. I don’t say this to garner sympathy, but simply to make that clear for anyone who has never been fat. It sucks. You’re less likely to get a job, pictures can send you into a panic, you’re overly conscious about eating in public, chairs are frequently uncomfortable, and finding clothing is like an epic quest. It is not easy. And you know what makes it even more wretched on top of everything else? Assholes. And apparently, as I’ve realized online this week, the world is truly awash with assholes.
I’m referring of course to this now infamous video of plus size model, Natalie Hage, who called out the man sitting next to her on a flight for making fun of her weight. Let me start by saying that I understand why it’s tough to be the one stuck next to a larger person on a flight. I’ve also been smaller, and I empathize with the internal sigh you have when the hefty man sits down next to you on the 4 hour flight to Vegas. However, trust me, having been on both sides of that situation, it sucks WAY more for the fat individual. They know what you’re thinking. They feel awful. They will spend the whole flight trying to hold their body in as much as possible, foregoing any activity that might take away from their 4 hour quest to not touch you. For this reason, I now spring for an extra seat. In my opinion, she probably should’ve done this as well. That said, I don’t have to. I can put down both armrests. I can buckle my seatbelt. Per airline rules, I am in no way obligated to spring for the extra seat and neither was she. And trust me, buying the extra seat comes with plenty of judgment and shame as well when you have to tell every person that passes you that, no, they can’t sit there.
But my main point is not to address the initial incident. My main frustration has been with the virulent attacks I’ve seen on this woman in the comments section. Usually the comment section is pretty balanced: there are equal numbers of haters and defenders. The first ten comments present differing opinions and people argue the issue. While those arguments are often uncivil, at least there’s not a consensus of hatred. This time? This time it seems to be a nearly unanimous conclusion that this fat ass bitch doesn’t deserve to suck down oxygen. It’s appalling. It has taught me that in our culture perhaps the only kind of hatred that will still face almost no public resistance is hatred of obese people.
“She’s glorifying being fat”
Being a plus size model is not saying, “Yay! Everyone be fat!” The fact remains that many people, in fact most people, in America are overweight. And we also need to buy clothing because if we were walking around nude, I can only imagine how “traumatized” and “disgusted” you’d be. So when I need to buy size 22 pants online, I need to see what they look like. That’s pretty simple. Putting them on a size 4 model isn’t exactly going to be helpful to me when it comes to making a decision, so SOMEONE who looks remotely like me has to try them on and stand in front of a camera. What else do you propose companies do? Should she have to model while also holding a sign that says, “But just to clarify, you’re a disgusting public health hazard”? Should she have to be photographed inside a Denny’s crying with no makeup on while three assholes point at her and laugh? News flash: I don’t feel glorious buying the size 22 pants as is. Her looking remotely decent in them doesn’t glorify my weight or make me feel like I should gain 45 more pounds. It just makes me go, “yeah I guess those pants could work.” It’s very simple. Fat people need clothing, clothing stores need models, therefore we need plus sized models.
“It’s none of her business what he’s typing on his phone”
I mean, in theory, I GUESS, but if she can easily see it, then it’s not like he’s making much of an effort to hide it. It’s not like she grabbed the phone from his pocket and read through his texts. He’s in public. The shit you do in public is PUBLIC. If you took your pants off in the middle of a mall food court, you wouldn’t have much right to yell “stop looking at me, you pervert!” to the poor kid working behind the counter at Sbarro. You did something rude and hateful in full view of the captive audience next to you. Just man up and apologize. Better yet? Find something more worthwhile to text your friend about. And have some basic empathy for the human on your right. Good grief.
“She couldn’t possibly work out 5 times a week”
Well thank you, Doctor Facebook. Actually, she may. You have no idea what workouts she does. Maybe she works out just enough to maintain her current weight and still eat what she wants. Maybe she just started working out in the past few months. Maybe she used to be 100lbs heavier and she’s working hard to lose the weight but because things like weight loss take time, she couldn’t instantly drop 200lbs. Maybe she just had a baby. Maybe she has a hormone imbalance. Are most people who are her size healthy? No. I’m her size. I’m not healthy. But one of the saddest things about being overweight IS working out. You are shamed if you wear workout clothing. You feel embarrassed going to the gym or sweating too much or breathing too loudly. You worry about the health risks of exercise at your size. You also worry that you’ll bust your ass and even when you’ve lost 75lbs, some asshole will still snicker at you because you’ll still be fat. And yet, if you DON’T work out, it will just get worse and worse. I do believe that she works out five times a week. More importantly though, I believe that she shouldn’t have to in order to not be treated like human garbage. I believe that she should be worthy of basic respect whether or not she does. And I believe that she should never be in a situation where she has to reveal her exercise habits to a complete stranger because when you think about it, that’s weird as hell.
“It shouldn’t be okay to be fat”
Okay, a couple problems here. First, very few obese people think their life style is healthy. Many try to improve their health. The weight loss industry in America is huge business. Furthermore, random assholes sighing at you, watching you eat, or slamming you online aren’t doing it to try to improve your health. You don’t give a shit about me. You’re not worried about me or hoping you push me to lose weight. Also, your crappy attitude is far more likely to push an obese person AWAY from healthy activities because the weight loss journey will force them to expose themselves to more scrutiny as they go into Weight Watchers meetings or pant through a light jog at the gym. Doing those things requires confidence and putting people down doesn’t exactly build up their self esteem, which is imperative in enabling people to undertake the challenge of weight loss. Stop acting like your bullying jokes are cleverly concealed concern. That’s ridiculous. And if you really ARE concerned about the growing national obesity rate, as you probably should be, Natalie Hage isn’t the person to whom you should be directing your rage. She isn’t making people obese. Instead, attack the fast food industry. Attack our school lunch requirements. Set up cooking classes in your community or volunteer to help run community workout classes. Talk to your local government about abolishing food deserts and bring healthy snacks to office parties. Fight for better healthcare in this country. Organize walks with your friends or coworkers. Do something positive and productive if you really care so much (but my guess is you don’t).
One day, I hope to lose weight. I do. Being heavier makes daily living harder and threatens my life in the long term. But in the meantime, and even if I am never able to lose the 120lbs I’d like to lose, why is it okay to treat me like I’m not a human? Someone explain to me what you gain from scrutinizing a stranger’s body. We’re adults. We’re better than this and we have more important things to worry about. We need to learn empathy and respect. We need to demand these things from each other far more than we need to demand a specific BMI. If you laugh at fat people, it’s time to have a serious conversation with yourself about the people you harm and what your intention is. If you hear snide comments and say nothing to shut them down, you need to find your voice. And if you’re fat, know that you’re just as deserving of respect as everyone else. Natalie Hage stood up to a bully and was bullied relentless for doing it. That’s juvenile. Let’s do better next time and finally graduate from middle school as a society.