I am 35 years old, 342 pounds, and I don’t know how to trust thin people.
I do not know how to trust thin people with my body. The closer to my body, the angrier so many of them become. Buses, trains, and theaters often bring muttered discontentment; airplanes bring full-throated complaints and even altercations. Those who don’t complain themselves still don’t intervene or check-in. Instead, they watch my body like television. I am not worthy of their defense. Still, should I refer to my own body as fat — a simple, descriptive fact — I’ll be met with “Sweetie, no! You’re not fat!” Thin people cannot trust me to name my own skin.
Even friends’ grasp on my body tightens from the tension of their hatred of bodies like mine. Bodies my size are often met with a casual “She shouldn’t be wearing that” and “At least you aren’t that fat,” cutting reminders that if we didn’t know each other, I’d be their pitiable example of a fat person. Even if we are friends, I do not know how to trust that thin people do not speak of me the same way when I leave the room.
I do not know how to trust thin people with my health. When faced with a fat person, nearly every thin person becomes a public health authority, a surgeon, a nurse insisting that they know the proper course of treatment for a body as deviant as mine. Some become theater directors, too, designing the hell house they imagine my life to be, each room a gruesome and gory consequence for the sin of my body. Some are eager to tell me how I will certainly lose a foot to diabetes. Others become grim reapers, seeming to relish foretelling the inevitable mourning of the family they are certain I will leave behind too soon.
When faced with a fat person, nearly every thin person becomes a public health authority.
If I tell them I do not wish to hear about my death, many will fall back on “but the science is clear” without knowing much at all about the murky waters of research about fat people or their ever-changing tides.
In a doctor’s office, things don’t get much better. Even the smallest maladies — an ear infection, a twisted ankle — are met with a prescription for weight loss. Even with professionals, my health is reliably eclipsed by the wide and soft shadow of my body. Often, nurses and techs take vitals and blood tests repeatedly, insisting that positive test results must be wrong. My health is inconceivable to them. Some doctors even refuse to touch me.
I do not know how to trust thin people with my heart. I do not know how to trust their attraction to me, even when they swear to it, even when they show me. I have heard too many stories of hogging, the competitive practice of thin men sleeping with the fattest women they can find. I have been a prank for thin people too many times to trust that I am more than a pastime or less than a punchline.
I have met too many feeders — thin dates who waited just long enough for me to like them before they disclosed their all-consuming fantasies of feeding a woman my size, watching my fat consume my body and then theirs. I have fallen for thin people whose love for me was overtaken by their embarrassment of being seen with me. I do not know how to soothe their shame for loving my body. I do not know how to fight against gravity.
I do not know how to trust thin people to stand up for me. I don’t even know how to trust them to see me.
I do not know how to trust thin people with these experiences. My experiences. I do not know how to trust that they will comfort me without seeing themselves in my aggressors, without feeling compelled to rationalize or defend the casual violence visited upon bodies like mine. I do not know how to trust that they will hear me, that they will remember who I am, that they will not shrink my experiences infinitely and minimize all of this until it’s something normal, acceptable, forgettable. I want to believe they will see their own role in the constant judgment and punishment of my body. But I cannot trust what I have never seen.
I do not know how to trust thin people to see both of our bodies clearly, to find and bridge the differences between us. Many of them don’t seem to see me. Instead, they look through me like a ghost, eyes only landing on me when they’re ready to tell me what I’ve done wrong, how I’ve been a careless steward of the body I live in. I don’t know how to trust thin people to see me as anything other than a failed version of themselves.
I know how to tell them their complaints about their own body paint me with the same unforgiving brush — if they “feel fat” at a size 10, then what am I at a 26? — but I don’t know how to get them to stop. I do not know how to trust that I’m not their nightmare when they constantly talk about how to avoid looking like me. I regularly request that they stop bending the light of their body through the prism of mine. But I do not know what it is like to make that request without being met with a steamroller of defensiveness.
I do not know how to trust thin people to grow or how to trust them with my dignity. I do not know how to believe they might recognize anti-fat bias in themselves or in the world around them. And I certainly don’t know how to trust that they will take steps to end that bias. I do not know how to trust thin people to stand up for me. I don’t even know how to trust them to see me.
I do not know how to trust thin people when they tell me with such certainty they are not biased, that they treat everyone equally regardless of their size, because that is so regularly followed by a painfully unsubtle request for a gym buddy or a lengthy lecture about how cute I’d be if I finally slimmed down.
I do not know how to trust thin people because of a lifetime of experiences that show me I will not be safe in their presence, I will not be respected, I will not be valued — I will only be shamed, pitied, or condescended to. Too often, my interactions with thin people are some twisted game of Russian roulette: five chambers full, one mercifully empty. I do not know how to trust thin people enough to hope that this next round might be empty. And I certainly do not know how to trust thin people to drop their weapons.
I don’t know how to trust thin people when thin people have yet to prove me wrong.