My heart sunk in such a familiar way when I first learned about Fat Chance. The TLC show explores the weight loss journeys of people looking to fall in love. “Why would someone love me, looking like this?” one contestant asks, staring at her soft body in a full-length mirror.
Wherever we go, someone is constantly asserting the life of loneliness, isolation and lovelessness to which fat people are doomed. It is heartbreaking and it is false. I think about the technicolor loves I have had; the partners who have loved and wanted me. I think about the fat people I have fallen for; the fat friends and family who are happily married, hooking up, falling in love, and calling affection into their lives.
Unlovable is ubiquitous and so deeply untrue. After all, if fat people were truly impossible to love, two thirds of the country would be condemned to a life of solitude and longing. But unlovable has gained so much momentum that it has taken on a life of its own, a self-fulfilling prophecy that it shapes the thinking of my friends and family, showing up jagged and sharp in their tender mouths.
Even friends who are critical about popular depictions of fat people have a hard time. When we talk about Fat Chance, their answers are startlingly similar. One after another, upon seeing the contestants: I mean, look at her, she’s not even that fat.
There it is, unlovable, its toothy serrated blade cutting as deep as ever.
I know that’s not what they intend to say. They mean the world has gone haywire if this woman is considered fat. They mean an impossible standard has been set if a handsome, broad-shouldered man feels like he’s too fat. They are startled, seeing bodies that look so much like theirs being discussed as irredeemably, unlovably fat.
It’s a common response to seeing fat shaming of all kinds. She’s not that fat. Because if she is, they might be, too. They are awakened to a new level of self-consciousness, wondering if maybe they should’ve felt even more ashamed all this time. In that moment, they disappear into themselves, consumed by a new depth of surprise and shame.
She’s not even that fat.
But I am always that fat. When strangers bring up cartoonish numbers — I mean, would being fat be…